A day of clashes between a pro-Trump caravan and protesters turned violent on Saturday, culminating in the shooting death of a man in the streets of Portland.
President Donald Trump supporters had gathered in a Portland suburb in an apparent show of force and an attempt to counter the Black Lives Matter protests that have been ongoing in Oregon’s biggest city for months.
The pro-Trump vehicle rally began near Clackamas, southeast of the city center. The caravan, made up of hundreds of cars and trucks, initially planned to circle the highways. But some of its members split off and headed into downtown, Mike Baker, a correspondent for the New York Times, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning.
In downtown Portland, clashes quickly occurred between the caravan members and counterprotesters.
“We saw fistfights on the streets, in some cases; people in the backs of pickup trucks shooting paintballs into the crowd; other people throwing things back onto the trucks where the pro-Trump supporters were there, driving around,” Baker said.
Justin Dunlap, an independent journalist who was on the ground in Portland on Saturday, told NBC News that the “Trump car caravan was causing trouble” and that he heard reports they were pepper-spraying people. He said the scene was “super heavy.”
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Portland police described the caravan as a “political rally” and confirmed reports of clashes between Trump supporters and counterprotesters. “Officers have intervened and in some cases made arrests,” the city police wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Ultimately, the day ended with shots fired and the death of one person.
Dunlap said he saw the victim facing two people when he heard the shots. He did not see the gun being fired because mace was sprayed at the same time, and it remains unclear if or how the shooting was connected to the protests.
The victim turned “took a few steps, then fell face-down,” said Dunlap, 44, adding that the two people facing him ran from the scene.
A picture from the scene published by Getty Images showed the man wearing a hat with a Patriot Prayer logo, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a far-right organization. The group has previously rallied in Portland.
In a Sunday afternoon press conference, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called for an end to the clashes.
“All of us must take a stance against violence, it doesn’t matter who are you or what your politics are we have to all stop the violence,” the mayor said, who blamed Trump in part for the violence.
“Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence? It is you,” Wheeler said, addressing Trump directly.
The comments come after Trump criticized the mayor and praised the caravan on Sunday morning, calling its members “GREAT PATRIOTS” on Twitter.
The president has often called for a return to “law and order” in Portland, which has seen ongoing Black Lives Matter protests since May.
“The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing,” he wrote on Twitter.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown slammed Trump on Sunday, blaming him for the violence in a statement.
“President Trump has encouraged division and stoked violence. It happened in Charlottesville. It happened in Kenosha. And now, unfortunately, it is happening in Portland, Oregon,” the governor, who condemned violence from “all ends of the political spectrum,” said.
Democratic party presidential nominee Joe Biden echoed Brown’s sentiments.
“I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same,” Biden said. “It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy.”