Christian Worship Event Held on Portland Waterfront Didn’t Receive Permit From The City

Police Bureau spokesman Lt. Greg Pashley said resources were unavailable because of a homicide in Southeast Portland and a robbery in Old Town.

tiny toese Tusitala "Tiny" Toese provided security for a waterfront worship event in Portland. (Justin Yau)

The worship concert held at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Aug. 8 that eventually descended into nighttime violence between left-wing and right-wing protesters did not obtain a permit from the city.

That’s according to the two bureaus who would be responsible for approving such permits, Portland Parks & Recreation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “That size and scope of event indeed would have required a permit to be sanctioned,” parks spokesman Mark Ross tells WW. “They never applied for a permit.”

The concert was led by evangelical Christian singer Sean Feucht, who held a similar, unmasked concert last year during the pandemic—also not permitted, say city officials.

The event didn’t obtain a permit last year, either: “There was no permit sought nor issued for last year’s event,” Ross said, adding that “You may want to ask police about protocols they have regarding large groups of people in public. Portland Parks & Recreation does not remove people from public spaces.”

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Lt. Greg Pashley said the bureau “may have authority to enforce non-permitted events” but that “I am not aware that the Police Bureau has ever done that.”

Pashley said resources were unavailable because of a homicide in Southeast and a robbery in Old Town: “There were not resources to address many other things going on during a period of hours, including whether or not an event had been permitted.”

When asked if the police bureau would impose any penalty on the event organizers, Pashley replied, “I don’t know.”

For hours on Sunday, hundreds of people—mostly white, many of them young—swayed, cried, prayed and laughed as Feucht sang worship songs while strumming his guitar.

Some of the men who volunteered as security guards for Sunday’s concert then roamed the streets downtown, engaging in a running battle of mace, fireworks and pepper balls with leftist foes.

After much of the clash died down, a member of the right-wing group strolled the streets with what police later said was an airsoft rifle. The man pointed it at two different people who were following him, one of them WW correspondent Justin Yau.

On Sunday night, Feucht shared a picture of himself and roughly 35 men, some clad in bulletproof vests and others in plain garb, on Aug. 8 and wrote, “THANK YOU to our security team (half pictured) tonight in Portland These are all ex-military, ex-police, private security & most importantly LOVERS OF JESUS & freedom. If you mess with them or our 1st amendment right to worship God—you’ll meet Jesus one way or another.”

A six-minute video produced by Feucht’s team about the Portland event shows hundreds of people crying, bowing their heads, throwing their faces up to the sky, holding each other while tears stream down their faces, and singing along to worship songs. The video—which includes drone shots—is accompanied by suspenseful and driving music.

People kneel on the ground, shaking and sobbing. A speaker at the event boasts that over 40 people volunteered as security guards for the event as he yells into the microphone: “Tonight, I want you to know fear is right around this place. But can I tell you something, Portland? Not only do we have over 40 security guards, not only do we have these other amazing people that came to protect us, but the angels of the Lord are surrounding us.”

A young white man in a bucket hat tells the camera about two minutes into the video, “I had a compressed disc in my back, and they prayed for me. It took a few times, but God is good, and he is faithful, and he healed me.”

Two times in the well-edited video, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, a known Proud Boy, was shown at the event. One shot shows Toese in a body vest, throwing up is hands in a cheer, slightly apart from the crowd.

Feucht did not respond to questions from WW about obtaining a permit, how he got connected to the security guards and if knew Toese was a Proud Boy.

In social media posts after the event, Feucht chastised a group of left-wing agitators who he identified as Antifa for trying to disrupt a much smaller prayer event the day before his, which was also at the Waterfront Park.

In video of that confrontation, people clad in black confront the few people at the event and knock over music equipment.

Feucht wrote Monday morning in a Twitter post: “Members of Antifa showed up in Portland last night to threaten, harass, bully and intimidate us. A mom and her baby were tear gassed. Antifa stood 10 feet from me as we lifted our voices in praise, but we didn’t back down. We kept worshipping and God moved powerfully!”

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