14 arrested after protests in Portland
By Paul Vercammen, Bill Kirkos, Traci Tamura and Emanuella Grinberg
PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- At least 14 people were arrested on Sunday amid competing protests in Portland, Oregon, over a tangled web of emotions to arise from a deadly commuter train stabbing in May.
Hundreds of supporters of US President Donald Trump converged on Terry D. Schrunk Plaza for an event billed as a "Trump Free Speech" rally. They were slightly outnumbered by a mixed assemblage of counterprotesters across the street who viewed the free speech rally as an implicit endorsement of racism given its close timing to the racially charged stabbing.
The groups were separated by a wall of officers, heavily armed and wearing protective body armor, from local and federal police agencies.
What began as a tense exchange of name-calling and profane insults took a turn when counterdemonstrators began throwing glass bottles, bricks and balloons of "foul-smelling liquid" at officers, Portland Police said. Officers used pepper spray to push back the counterdemonstrators and closed the park where they had gathered, threatening to arrest anyone who remained.
Portland Police could not confirm which side those arrested belonged to. CNN crews on the scene observed that most of the arrests were concentrated in the area of counterdemonstrators.
The rallies come in the wake of the stabbing deaths of Ricky Best, 53, and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 23, as they tried to defend two Muslim women from what police described as a barrage of hate speech.
Suspect Jeremy Joseph Christian raised the free speech issue in his arraignment Tuesday
"Get out if you don't like free speech!" he shouted as he entered the courtroom. "You call it terrorism; I call it patriotism. Die."
Concerns raised early on:
Tensions continue to build in Portland as the incident has turned the city into the latest battleground over free speech and race relations in the Trump era.
"We hope and pray that both sides try to keep in mind that in the big picture it might be easy to forget with all the emotions running high that we all have the same basic needs," Portland resident Margie Fletcher told CNN.
Her son, Micah, was wounded as he and the others tried to intervene in what Portland police called "hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions" directed at two women on the train.
Christian faces charges including two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, two counts of second-degree intimidation and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, police say.
Signs of animosity among the groups holding rallies began to emerge last week in online forums. The tensions put police on high alert and prompted the mayor to call on the federal government to revoke the event organized by a group called Patriot Prayer. Terry D. Schrunk Plaza is federal property where guns are barred.
"I'm a strong supporter of the First Amendment no matter what the views are that are being expressed," Mayor Ted Wheeler told HLN on Friday, "but given the timing of this rally, I believed we had a case to make about the threats to public safety."
Federal officials declined the request, saying there was no legal basis to revoke the permit.
CNN's Paul Vercammen, Bill Kirkos and Traci Tamura reported from Portland. Emanuella Grinberg, Steve Almasy and Nicole Chavez wrote in Atlanta. CNN's Jake Carpenter contributed to this report.