One person was shot and killed in Portland, Oregon, as a large caravan of President Donald Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed in the streets of the city that has become a flashpoint in the national unrest since George Floyd was killed.
It wasn’t clear if the shooting late Saturday was linked to fights that broke out as a caravan of about 600 vehicles was confronted by counterdemonstrators in the city’s downtown.
Police said the caravan had left the area around 8:30 pm, and officers heard gunshots around 15 minutes later. Officers arrived at the shooting scene “within a minute,” police said, but the man who was shot did not survive.
An Associated Press freelance photographer heard three gunshots and then saw police medics attending to the victim, who appeared to be a white man.
The freelancer said the man was wearing a hat bearing the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group whose members have frequently clashed with protesters in Portland in the past.
Police said the man was shot in the chest. He was not immediately identified. It’s unclear who shot him.
Homicide detectives were looking for more evidence, acknowledging that several images and videos had been posted on social media.
“It is important for detectives get a full and accurate picture of what happened before, during, and after the shooting,” a police statement said. “If anyone was a witness, has video, or has information about the homicide, they’re asked to contact the primary detectives.”
“This violence is completely unacceptable and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible,” Chief Chuck Lovell said.
Portland has been the site of nightly protests for more than three months since the police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis. Many of them end in vandalism and violence, and hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested by local and federal law enforcement since late May.
In the two hours following the shooting, protesters gathered downtown and there was sporadic fighting and vandalism, police said.
Ten people were arrested, police said.
The caravan had arrived downtown just as a planned protest was getting underway.
The chaotic scene came two days after Trump invoked Portland as a liberal city overrun with violence in a speech at the Republican National Convention as part of his “law and order” re-election campaign theme. The caravan marked the third Saturday in a row that Trump supporters have rallied in the city.
On Sunday, Trump issued a flurry of tweets and retweets, including several that blamed Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for the death and one in which the president appeared to be encouraging his supporters to move into Portland.
“GREAT PATRIOTS!” Trump wrote as he shared video of his supporters driving into Portland to confront the protesters.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf blamed local officials for failing “to protect their communities”.
“I’m asking Portland officials, so that’s the mayor, that’s the governor and that’s local law enforcement, to do their job to address any violent activity that is occurring in their streets,” Wolf told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Wolf said the federal government was prepared to send agents to Portland and other cities to protect federal buildings and assist police.
When federal agents increased their presence in downtown Portland in July, the city saw some of the largest protests of the summer, with thousands of people turning out nightly.
The crowds dissipated after the agents withdrew and State Police agreed to protect federal buildings for a two-week period.
Trump and other speakers at last week’s Republican convention evoked a violent, dystopian future if Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden wins in November and pointed to Portland as a cautionary tale for what would be in store for Americans.
The pro-Trump rally’s organiser, who recently coordinated a similar caravan in Boise, Idaho, said in a video posted Saturday on Twitter that attendees should only carry concealed weapons and the route was being kept secret for safety reasons.
The caravan had gathered earlier in the day at a suburban mall and drove as a group to the heart of Portland. As they arrived in the city, protesters tried to stop them by standing in the street and blocking bridges.
Video from the scene showed sporadic fighting, as well as Trump supporters firing paintball pellets at opponents and using bear spray as counterprotesters threw things at the Trump caravan.
The Black Lives Matter demonstrations usually target police buildings and federal buildings. Some protesters have called for reductions in police budgets while the city’s mayor and some in the Black community have decried the violence. — AP