Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, is using the tragic killing of two men as a rationale to stop a “Trump Free Speech Rally” planned for next weekend.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, faces two counts of felony aggravated murder and other charges after he allegedly stabbed to death two men who tried to intervene when Christian was harassing two young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab. A third man was injured.
Christian has a history of erratic behavior and a long criminal record, including being convicted and jailed after he held up employees at a convenience store with a gun in 2002, CBS News reported on Tuesday.
In 2010, he was charged with theft and felon in possession of a firearm, according to The Oregonian.
But Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, is creating a connection between the tragic event that led to the deaths of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53, and pro-Trump events, including one that Christian tried to attend last month — though organizers say they rejected him and video exists of demonstrators kicking him out. Christian’s post-election Facebook posts reveal that he supported Bernie Sanders and hated voters who backed both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“Wheeler has asked the federal government to revoke a permit for what he described as an alt-right demonstration planned Sunday at Terry Schrunk Plaza across from City Hall,” The Oregonian reported on Monday.
Mayor Ted Wheeler's office is hoping to convene a meeting of local, state, and federal law enforcement tomorrow, to prep for coming rallies.
— Dirk VanderHart (@dirquez) May 29, 2017
“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation,” Wheeler wrote on Facebook. “I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland.”
The June 4 rally is being organized by Patriot Prayer, which posted a video about it on its Facebook page.
“There’s going to be a huge police presence June 4 so you’ve got to let police do their job,” organizer Joey Gibson said the video, adding that the deaths are being exploited by those who oppose Trump and his supporters.
“They’re using the deaths of these two people and Jeremy Christian — they’re using it to get Portland all rowdy about our June 4th rally,” Gibson said. “And it’s absolutely disgusting and very sad.”
In the video, Gibson said it is a lie that Christian was “close” to Patriot Prayer, and spreading that lie could cause violence at the upcoming rally.
In fact, Gibson said, demonizing those who attend the rally promotes Christian’s ideology of division and hatred.
“What you are doing is exactly what Jeremy Christian was all about,” Gibson said in the video.
“Do not bring any weapons,” Gibson said. “Just bring your courage, bring your strength, bring your honesty, bring your love.”
Gibson ends the video asking people to pray for everyone, from the protesters to the families who lost loved ones and even the perpetrator.
“Pray for Jeremy Christian, for crying out loud — his insanity,” Gibson said.
President Donald Trump condemned the stabbings, writing on Twitter on Monday:
The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.
— President Trump (@POTUS) May 29, 2017
Mayor Wheeler said that, while he appreciated Trump’s words, more action is needed.
“I hope we rise to the memory of these two gentlemen who lost their lives,” the mayor told reporters. “Let’s do them honor by standing with them and carrying on their legacy of standing up to hate and bigotry and violence.”
“Wheeler’s call for the rally to be canceled comes amid a wider debate in the U.S. about the First Amendment, often in liberal cities like Portland and Berkeley, California, and on college campuses, where violent protests between far-right and far-left protesters have derailed appearances by contentious figures,” CBS reported.