PORTLAND — Hundreds of people gathered on downtown Portland’s waterfront Friday evening in a show of solidarity with Charlottesville, Va.
Violence engulfed the Eastern college town last week when white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters in the streets over the removal of a Confederate statue.
The Portland demonstration, billed as a “nonviolent rally and march,” started as people took turns at a microphone set up at the Salmon Street Springs fountain while rush-hour traffic poured over bridges in the background.
“This is beautiful,” said Portland’s Resistance organizer Gregory McKelvey, surveying the crowd stretching along the Willamette River.
Some people carried American flags. Others carried signs. Among them: “Be excellent to each other.” “This veteran stands against hate.” “A senior citizen not silent!”
The horror of the Charlottesville violence and scenes of neo-Nazis and white supremacists taking over the Virginia’s city’s streets propelled some people here to attend their first demonstration ever or first one in a while.
Jose Arancibia of Portland said he came to champion “love over hate.”
Brian Woodward of Beaverton came to show support for anti-facist activists. “I’m cutting these guys all the slack in the world,” he said.
The crowd held a moment of silence for people who have died because of racism.
The list started with Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago who was lynched during a visit to Mississippi in 1955. He had been accused of whistling in a grocery store at a white woman.
It continued with Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville when 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
It included Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, two men killed in Portland in May when witnesses said they stood up to a man who launched into a racist harangue directed at two girls, including one wearing a hijab, on a MAX train.
In contrast to other Portland’s Resistance protests, police were keeping a low-profile this time. The mood appeared mostly mellow as two officers watched nearby and some black-clad demonstrators with their faces covered hung back. Children played in the fountain as the crowd geared up to march.
City sprinklers came on about two hours into the rally, sending people on the lawn running for cover. The planned march began shortly after that along Naito Parkway to chants of “black lives matter,” then snaked further into the downtown core as people yelled: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.”
The crowd briefly halted cars, buses and MAX trains along the way, but drivers generally seemed to accept the delays without rancor. One motorist raised a fist out of her car window and chanted along.
Estimates put the crowd at about 800.
Yen Hoang, Kim Jones and Johnah Garcia, all students from the Pacific Northwest College of Arts, joined the demonstration to denounce hate and white supremacy, they said.
“If we don’t do anything it’s just going to get worse,” said Jones, who recently moved to Portland from Santa Fe. “I want to be on the right side of history.”