Students, Toddlers, 'Raging Grannies' Protest Right-Wing Patriot Prayer Rally
As some protestors and police clashed at opposite ends of metal barriers meant to separate a dozen Patriot Prayer demonstrators and hundreds of counter-protestors, Jennifer Bass and Vanessa Ambriz-Mendoza stood under a shaded tree carrying signs that read "equality."
Bass and Ambriz-Mendoza were at their very first protest. They're both 18-year-old freshmen at Pacific University and they weren't old enough to vote in the November 2016 election. But, they said, they wanted to practice civic engagement, and they wanted to do it peacefully.
"This election was the first one that for me I really understood fully," said Bass. "It opened my eyes to a world that I didn’t really know existed, and I think it’s important to express that this isn’t the world that I hope to live in."
It was news about the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that drove them to protest. They said they want to live in a community that accepts everyone, a message mirrored by a largely peaceful protest with some hiccups between demonstrators and police.
Protestors shouted into the center of a field at Waterfront Park where Patriot Prayer demonstrators waved American flags. Joey Gibson, the Vancouver, Washington-based leader of the group, had originally planned to hold a larger rally in Portland. He announced a last-minute change of plans in a Facebook post Saturday, saying the rally was moved to Vancouver.
In Portland, protesters sprayed Silly String at officers who were picking up the barriers that demonstrators had pushed over. Police in riot gear lined up, serving as a human barrier.
They clashed again as protesters chased the group of Patriot Prayer members through downtown. Protesters shouted at police asking, "Who do you serve?" Some criticized Portland officers for the way they handled the arrest of one young woman. As of Sunday, Portland Police arrested seven people.
Protesters representing a range of ages – from toddlers to the "Portland Raging Grannies" – began marching toward Terry Schrunk Plaza for a peaceful gathering. Nick Wolfgang carried his toddler son, Rand, on his shoulders as they marched through the streets. Close by was his wife, Rachel, and young daughter, Amara. It was his children's first protest.
"We think it's important for them to get involved and understand that social justice is important, and that people are different and that's important and that's okay and it's worth fighting for that," said Wolfgang.
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility was represented at the rally, attempting to highlight the intersections between hate crimes, hate rhetoric and public health.
"If you are of a minority sexual orientation and you are a refugee and an immigrant or undocumented individual, your public health concerns and your access to public health are going to be much lower, and that's really where we see the interconnectivity," said Akash Singh, a volunteer with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility who works in public health.
Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting