Driver detained near Sunday rally could face charges

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

Published:

 

A man detained and released by police after allegedly nearly driving over counterprotesters at a rally in Vancouver on Sunday may yet face charges, according to the Vancouver Police Department.

Vancouver police officers present at the rally Sunday are forwarding their reports to prosecutors, Vancouver Police Lt. Kathy McNicholas said. She said the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will make the decision on whether to file charges.

The man, whose name was not released, was driving a black, lifted Chevrolet Silverado with two American flags flying from its hood along Columbia Street near the Vancouver Convention Center following a rally thrown Sunday by local conservative activist Joey Gibson at the Vancouver waterfront.

At about 4 p.m., protesters started kicking the truck, and at one point some in the crowd tossed rocks and water bottles at the pickup.

The driver reversed, prompting the crowd around the pickup to scatter. He then pulled past three vehicles waiting in front of him and accelerated through the Washington Street light at Sixth Street. He was later stopped and detained by police but was not arrested.

The man told officers he was in fear of being harmed, according McNicholas. She said officers on scene couldn’t develop sufficient probable cause for an arrest.

Vancouver police said officers arrested two other people during the rally: Shawna L. Gonzalez, 34, was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment for allegedly throwing chunks of wood at a crowd; and Nicholas Partin, aka Alanna Partin, 36, of Portland, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Police said Sunday evening that no injuries had been reported.

The rally, set up through Gibson of Vancouver and his Patriot Prayer group, was originally planned to take place in Portland. However, Gibson announced on Facebook on Saturday that the rally would move to Vancouver.

Gibson said the move was meant to help split and disorganize antifa, or anti-fascist, protesters, and allow for a smaller, more intimate venue.

Counterprotesters and rallygoers started converging on the waterfront around 1:30 p.m. The former first gathered in Esther Short Park, while the latter slowly filled the stands around the Vancouver Landing amphitheater, 110 Columbia St.

The Peaceful Vancouver Freedom March, as dubbed by the organizers, largely consisted of speeches from Gibson and others to the amphitheater crowd, which numbered about 100 people.

Police officers, many in riot gear, created a neutral zone between the rally and counterprotesters. Several times, counterprotesters accosted rallygoers as they arrived, hurling invectives and sometimes spraying silly string. They sprinkled at least one person with glitter.

Most interaction devolved to shouting matches across the gradually growing demarcation area officers created between the two camps.

The rally wrapped up around 4 p.m., and police kept the bulk of the two groups separated as rallygoers left.

After the rally, some of the crowd moved toward Esther Short Park and downtown, leading to the alleged incident involving the Silverado driver.

Activists online have identified the driver. The Columbian is opting to hold off on naming him pending formal identification by police.

The Vancouver police said officers are reviewing video and images from the day in an attempt to identify individuals who may have been involved in criminal activity, for possible criminal charges.

The police asked any victims who have not made a report to come forward, and for anyone with helpful information, video or photo evidence of potential crimes to call the police.

The police asked tipsters to not share information through its social media accounts, and to instead call the department’s tip line at 360-487-7399 so an officer can follow up to retrieve any videos or photos.

Another group of men driving down Columbia Street sprayed pepper spray at protesters in the street, and counterprotesters lobbed rocks at their truck, Willamette Week reported.

Gibson’s rallies consistently draw people from the far right. While he has publicly denounced racism and extremism, the rallies have led to counterprotests and occasional clashes.

Earlier Sunday afternoon, in Portland, police arrested seven people during protests and a march, held at Terry Schrunk Plaza, Waterfront Park and the surrounding area in downtown.

News outlets reported 20 or so Patriot Prayer-organized marchers came to Portland, while there were hundreds of counterprotesters.

The Portland police said officers seized some improvised weapons and that people threw rocks, irritant smoke bombs and other objects.