Right-Wing Group Plans "Free Speech" March In Wake Of East Portland Parade Cancellation

Republicans and left-wing protest group both disavow connections to outside groups threatening violence.

Grant Chisholm, a street preacher and member of the "Bible Believers," gestures at protesters inside Portland International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017. (Andrew Krogman)

82nd Avenue Parade of Roses organizers announced Tuesday they were canceling the April 29 event because they feared violent clashes between competing political groups.

Now it seems East Portland may get the clashes without the parade.

The Vancouver-based "Patriot Prayer" group led by YouTube vlogger Joey Gibson, who planned to confront Portland anti-fascists at the parade, is now staging his own "March for Free Speech" in Montavilla City Park on Northeast 80th Avenue on Saturday.

The parade cancellation has already drawn national media attention. The Atlantic, for instance, took the opportunity to condemn anti-fascist groups in broad strokes, saying leftist "activists" got the parade shut down.

But it remains unclear who exactly sent the threatening emails to parade organizers.

Direct Action Alliance organizer Jacob Bureros says his group did not send the email and feels unfairly tarred because it was mentioned in the email. While DAA did plan to surround a local Multnomah County Republican Party group marching in the parade, he says, they were not planning to drag people out of the crowd or engage in any violence.

"It was really unfortunate that this all happened," Bureros says. "Our organization never wrote any threatening letter, even though we were cited in that letter. What my organization planned to do was defend the community. We intended to create a barrier between the community and the hate group."

Bureros is referring to the small but confrontational "Bible Believers" group, which, he says, had planned to march with the Multnomah County Republicans in the parade.

Bureros says DAA was concerned about the Bible Believers because they'd harassed congregants at an immigrant church in Southeast Portland and one of them, Allen Wesley Pucket, was filmed assaulting people at the April 15 riots in Berkeley (where Gibson, the Vancouver YouTuber, also traveled to mix it up with masked leftists).

"What's wrong is we had to be the ones to stand up to it. No one else said, 'Hey, it's probably not the best idea to let this hate group march with the Republican Party and cause all this hullaballoo within this community that they were intimidating," Bureros says.

Multnomah County Republican Party chairman James Buchal says he certainly did not invite the Bible Believers to the parade.

"I don't even know who they are. I went and looked. There's somebody who got beat up at the airport and has been screaming at people that they're going to hell," Buchal says. "I can't vet 'em all. I will tell you, if any of them pulls out a swastika or starts yelling at kids from behind our banner, we're going to get rid of him pronto. What [else] are we supposed to do?"

Buchal, the local Republican leader, lays most of the blame for the parade fiasco at the steps of City Hall, which he says "didn't do enough to prevent organized gangs of criminal thugs from running rampant in the City."

WW previously reported that the Portland Police Bureau told parade organizers they lacked the resources to provide additional security, although Mayor Ted Wheeler's office has yet to confirm exactly what police said regarding parade security.

Wheeler's spokesman Michael Cox said Wheeler would prefer that the parade go forward but, at this point, it seems that won't happen.

Cox says the city's goal is now to "make sure that we have processes in place to elevate these concerns to the highest levels before these final decisions are made in the future"—for the city found out about the cancelation only shortly before it was announced.

Commissioner Nick Fish was the city's liaison to Venture Portland, the umbrella organization for the 82nd Avenue Business Association, which was organizing the parade with the blessing of the Portland Rose Festival. He met with Wheeler yesterday afternoon and says the mayor "shared my disappointment with the whole process and the decision [to cancel] and what brought about the decision."

"When we were brought into it, the organizers were concerned about the safety of participants," Fish says. "There were threats against businesses along the route."

"The part of this that drives me crazy is the working families in East Portland that enjoy this parade aren't going to," Fish says. "You have adults behaving like children. That's a damn shame."

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