Portland's Weekend of Marching Against Donald Trump Ends in a Silent Vigil

"People are really stressed out and fearful about what’s coming.”

Vigil in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Jan. 22, 2017. (Piper McDaniel)

A weekend of passionate protest ended with silence.

Four religious groups—including one Muslim and one Jewish organization—held a vigil in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Sunday night, holding battery-operated tea lights in 30 minutes of quiet.

The event was held in solidarity with people threatened by the policies of President Donald Trump, who has called for mass deportations of Mexicans and a registry of Muslim citizens.

"Some people think silence is not appropriate because it means inaction," says Dr. Hector Lopez, event organizer and founder of the Interfaith Council of Greater Portland. "This an interstitial moment before action. A time to reflect on the challenge we have been given in 2017."

The vigil followed an eventful weekend of protests.

On Saturday, as many as 100,000 people donned pink knitted hats on the Portland Waterfront and joined the Women's March on Portland—becoming part of one of the largest and most peaceful street demonstrations in American history.

But the night before, Portland police had deployed tear gas on hundreds of demonstrators in Pioneer Courthouse Square, in a crackdown that appeared to be a preemptive strike by new Mayor Ted Wheeler to avoid a repeat of November's occasionally chaotic marches.

Related: Portland police deploy stun grenades and pepper spray on anti-Trump protesters.

Tonight's vigil was organized by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the Muslim Educational Trust, the Interfaith Council of Portland, and Congregation Beth Israel. It marked the first time representatives of these different faiths have come together.

"There's a sense we're in a different era," said Rabbi Michael Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel, "right now is an important time to keep impetus behind our efforts of solidarity."

Inside Congregation Beth Israel, attendants were led in a recitation. "We practice silent prayer and meditation in the public square," they said, "in solidarity with all those who stand to be silenced by the rise of bigotry, racism, and xenophobia that continue to dominate our national political landscape. Today we hope for a better future for all of us."

Vigil in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Jan. 22, 2017. (Piper McDaniel)

Once participants stepped outside the synagogue, silence reigned. They held battery operated tea lights, and signs of support. They kept to the sidewalk and waited for traffic lights at crosswalks. They filled entire blocks, not speaking, while passers-by looked on curiously.

Related: "No hate, no fear," declares huge crowd at Women's March on Portland.

In the square, they were silent for 30 minutes, then sang "This Little Light of Mine."

"Actions like this are constructive," said participant Pete Seda. "it's a show of love."

Seda is a contractor who moved to Portland from Tehran in 1976 and raised a family here in the U.S. He's a Muslim. "I know a lot of people who are worried, sisters who took off their hijabs. People are really stressed out and fearful about what's coming."

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