The mayor of Portland, Ore., is calling on the federal government to help him stop what he describes as two upcoming “alt-right” demonstrations as his city continues to reel from last week’s deadly train stabbings.
“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,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday while urging the organizers to cancel the events scheduled for June 4 and June 10.
“My main concern is that they are coming to peddle a message of hatred and of bigotry,” Wheeler said. “They have a First Amendment right to speak, but my pushback on that is that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The American Civil Liberties Union immediately rejected that stance, saying, “The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period.”
Wheeler’s appeal came just three days after two men were killed and another was wounded while trying to intervene when a man — later identified as Jeremy Christian — began hurling epithets at two young women, including one wearing a hijab, on a light-rail train.
Joey Gibson, organizer of the June 4 rally, told CNN that the mayor “is using this as an opportunity to use these two dead people to silence us.”
Gibson acknowledged that Christian, the suspect in Friday’s slayings attended one of his rallies last month, but said that he was wielding “a bat yelling and screaming, cussing at people, using derogatory names.”
“Jeremy Christian has nothing to do with us,” Gibson said. “He hated us; he threatened me. We did everything we could to kick him out. We didn’t want him with us.”
Gibson also said that even if he agreed to cancel the rally, “hundreds” of people would still show up, “with no leadership, no voice of reason.”
Christian is due to be arraigned Tuesday on multiple felony charges, including two counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted murder.
Meanwhile, new details of Friday’s train attack have emerged.
In an interview with KPTV, Destinee Mangum, one of two teens who were the apparent targets of Christian’s anti-Muslim slurs, thanked the men who intervened on their behalf.
“I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me,” Mangum said. “Because they didn’t even know me, and they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look.”
Mangum, 16, was riding the train with her friend, who was wearing a hijab, when Christian focused his slurs at them.
“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here — to get out of his country,” Mangum said. “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves.”
Rick Best, a 53-year-old U.S. Army veteran and city of Portland employee, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, were fatally stabbed while trying to deescalate the situation, officials said. A third stabbing victim — 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher — was transported to a Portland hospital, where he was listed in serious condition Saturday.
Christian was arrested shortly after he exited the train.
Slideshow: Fatal stabbing on Portland, Ore., train
A fellow passenger told the Oregonian that Christian began shouting racial and anti-Muslim epithets as soon as he boarded.
“He was screaming that he was a taxpayer, that colored people were ruining the city, and he had First Amendment rights,” Rachel Macy told the paper. “I didn’t want to look. I was too afraid. It felt really tense. I’m a woman of color. I didn’t want him to notice me.”
Macy said that she tried to help Namkai Meche, who was covered in blood and holding his neck.
“I’m going to die,” he said, according to Macy. “I looked at him and said, ‘We can handle this. Lay down.’”
“I just kept telling him, ‘You’re not alone. We’re here,’” she added.
As Namkai Meche was carried away on a stretcher, she said, he wanted her to relay a message: “Tell everyone on this train I love them.”
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