At two sparsely attended Portland rallies this afternoon, Portlanders called on Americans to stand up to white supremacists in the hours after a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Va., during a weekend of hate-filled rallies.
About 30 people joined the leaders of the NAACP Portland at the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. near the Oregon Convention Center. Later, the Queer Liberation Front gathered 60 people at Portland City Hall.
"People wonder today: What would I have done during the civil rights movement?" NAACP Portland President Jo Ann Hardesty told the eastside crowd. "Here's a secret. We are in the midst of a civil rights movement….White supremacy is real in this country."
"There are those that want to take us back to the old days," Hardesty said. "They want to take us back to the days where you could lynch people and that was at the town square. And people brought their families and picnic lunches. But we will not go back."
Later on the west side, protestor Lynn Ford said she hoped a downtown march would stand against racist violence.
"We have a long history of racism," Ford said. "When I was growing up, every adult male I knew had fought fascism. And I think that's the mindset we'll need to face them."
The response in Portland to Nazi salutes and right-wing violence was slight—but more than the White House could manage.
On Friday night in Charlottesville, Va., a crowd, mostly of white men, strode across the campus of the University of Virginia, carrying tiki torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.” On Saturday, thousands of far-right demonstrators gathered to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Clashes between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators ultimately led law-enforcement to shut down the rally. But the violence did not stop.
A Dodge Charger plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing at least one and injuring at least 19 others. Police later arrested 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio.
Politicians across the political spectrum condemned the white supremacists, with a notable exception.
Donald Trump held a press conference where he condemned "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides." He refused to answer a question about whether he accepted the support of white nationalists.
Portland has faced its own confrontations with the far right. Jeremy Christian, a participant at "free speech" protest this spring that frightened a racially diverse East Portland neighborhood, fatally stabbed two men on a MAX train in May. Since then, the city has been the staging ground for three more rallies by "alt-right" brawlers, who have traded punches and pepper spray with antifascist protesters.
This afternoon, Oregon's elected officials condemned the actions of white supremacists in Virginia. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden called today's killing "domestic terrorism." Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also weighed in.
"All are created equal," Wheeler tweeted earlier today. "The events in Virginia should serve to unite all Americans against hate, bigotry, and white supremacy."