Portland’s mayor is at odds with the ACLU over his request that the federal government revoke a permit for Sunday’s scheduled “Trump Free Speech Rally Portland” on federal land, citing Friday’s deadly stabbings on a city train after good Samaritans tried to stop the killer from harassing Muslim and African-American teen girls.
Portland police said a man on the MAX train Friday at the Hollywood Transit Station was “yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions” when people “attempted to intervene with the suspect and calm him down.” Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, Ore., and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Southeast Portland were stabbed to death. Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, of Southeast Portland was in the hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
Best, a 23-year Army veteran, worked as a technician for the city’s Bureau of Development Services and once ran for Clackamas County commissioner. Namkai-Meche had recently finished his economics degree and was working at a consulting firm. All three men were slashed in the throat.
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, of North Portland is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation in the second degree, and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Multnomah County Court. His criminal record includes robbery; police said he was not flagged as a gang member and does not have any known mental health history. The department said officers are reviewing “information publicly available about the suspect’s extremist ideology” including his trove of Facebook posts.
Destinee Mangum, 16, who is not Muslim, was on the train with her friend, who was wearing a hijab. “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 told KPTV. “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves.”
She said the girls tried to move away from Christian on the train, and he pursued. Then a stranger stepped in and told the assailant he couldn’t “disrespect these young ladies like that,” she said.
The frightened girls were going to get off at the next station, Destinee said, “and then we turned around while they were fighting and he just started stabbing people.”
“I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me,” she said. “Because they didn’t even know me and they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look.”
President Trump tweeted from his official White House account Monday, “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”
On his Facebook page, Mayor Ted Wheeler lauded the three men for standing up “against bigotry and hatred.”
“Our community remains in shock and mourning. But we are also tremendously grateful to our heroes and their families for their selflessness and heroism. They will serve to inspire us to be the loving, courageous people we are meant to be,” Wheeler said, adding he’s offering “unconditional assistance and support, day or night” to the victims’ families and to the two teens “who were terrorized and subjected to such hatred and bigotry.”
The mayor added that Portland “has NOT and will not issue any permits for the alt right events scheduled on June 4th or June 10th. The Federal government controls permitting for Shrunk Plaza, and it is my understanding that they have issued a permit for the event on June 4th.”
“I am calling on the federal government to IMMEDIATELY REVOKE the permit(s) they have issued for the June 4th event and to not issue a permit for June 10th. 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,” Wheeler added. “I am appealing to the organizers of the alt-right demonstrations to CANCEL the events they have scheduled on June 4th and June 10th. I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland. There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.” The June 10 event has been billed as a “March Against Sharia.”
He called on “every elected leader in Oregon, every legal agency, every level of law enforcement to stand with me in preventing another tragedy.”
Joey Gibson, the Vancouver-based organizer of the Trump Free Speech Rally Portland, said in a Facebook video message that the mayor “will not convince me to cancel the rally.”
“I have nothing to do with Jeremy Christian, and I will not stand down. I will make sure that I get up there, and I will make sure that I speak and say my piece,” Gibson said. “Because the things that I say, the things that I preach goes against everything that Jeremy Christian would have said.”
The ACLU weighed in on the side of the protesters.
“The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period,” the civil liberties group tweeted. “It may be tempting to shut down speech we disagree with, but once we allow the government to decide what we can say, see, or hear, or who we can gather with history shows us that the most marginalized will be disproportionately censored and punished for unpopular speech.”
“We are all free to reject and protest ideas we don’t agree with. That is a core, fundamental freedom of the United States,” the ACLU added. “If we allow the government to shut down speech for some, we all will pay the price down the line… If the government has concrete evidence of an imminent threat they can and should address it, without restricting 1A rights of all.”