PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke emotionally about the victims killed in Friday’s deadly MAX stabbing during a press conference Monday, while also urging the federal government to revoke a permit for an upcoming pro-Trump event in Portland.
Wheeler said he’s urging the federal government to immediately revoke the permit for the “alt-right” event, and to not issue a permit for another event on June 10.
“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is very real and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate what is already a difficult situation,” Wheeler said at the press conference. “I’m appealing to the organizers of the alt-right events to cancel the events that they’ve scheduled. I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland at this difficult time.”
When asked what concerned him about the upcoming protest, Wheeler said it was the idea participants were “coming to peddle a message of hatred and bigotry.”
“I’m reminded constantly that they have First Amendment right to speak, but my pushback on that is that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment,” the mayor said. “It’s never a good time to come to Portland, Oregon to spread your hate and your vitriol, but especially not right now.”
The ACLU of Oregon responded to Wheeler’s request by stating, “The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of demonstrators.”
Later Monday evening, event organizer Joey Gibson went live on Facebook to explain why Mayor Wheeler could not convince him to cancel the rally.
“If I cancel this rally and we don’t have a permit, you’re talking about hundreds of people just showing up in the park with no leadership, no voice of reason,” he said. “If anyone has a racist sign or anything, they will be gone. If anyone screams anything racist, they will be gone. But if they pull our permit, we won’t have that right.”
Gibson said his rally would not involve any kind of hate speech. He said he has nothing to do with Jeremy Christian, the man responsible for Friday’s stabbing.
“I will make sure that I speak and say my piece because what I say goes against everything Jeremy Christian would have said,” Gibson said on Facebook.
Mayor Wheeler said he was on Delta’s inaugural flight from PDX to Heathrow Airport when news of the deadly MAX train stabbing came in. Within seconds, he said, he knew he had to arrange to get on the next flight back to Portland.
Since then, Wheeler said he has offered his “unconditional assistance and support” to each of the victims and their families.
“Our community remains in shock and mourning, but we’re also tremendously grateful to our heroes and their families for their selflessness and heroism,” he said. “I want future generations to remember what happened here and why, so that it might serve to both eradicate hatred and inspire future generations to stand up for the right values, like Rick, Taliesin and Micah did last week.”
When the time is right, Wheeler said he would like to work with the victims’ families to create a permanent memorial “to honor their sacrifice”.
“The names of those 3 men… they’ll be up with the greats,” he said. “Their sacrifice is supreme and I do not want future generations to forget that.”
While Wheeler said he was appreciative of President Donald Trump’s thoughts and prayers, he said we need more from our elected officials in times like these.
“We need action and we need leadership,” he said. “We need the people in Washington D.C. and the people here in Oregon and the people at the local level to step up and show through action that they condemn bigotry and hatred and xenophobia and violence.”
The mayor said divisiveness, hatred and bigotry seem to be “crossing our country like a wave,” and that “it has gone too far.”
“These 3 guys stood up on a train in Portland, Oregon and pushed back against the wave,” he said. “What I would tell them is, thank you for your courage. And now it’s up to us… they took the action, they took the bigger risk, they made the bigger sacrifice. Now we have to stand up and back them, and we will.”