On May 26th, 2017, two men were murdered in Portland, Oregon for standing up to a xenophobic man on a MAX light rail train. Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, began shouting racial slurs at two Muslim teenage girls on the train when Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland, and Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, decided to intervene. This cost them their lives. They were both stabbed to death by Christian for trying to stop his attack. “That’s what liberalism gets you,” Christian was recorded saying.
After the outcome of these tragic events, there has been a proliferation of protests in Portland. Specifically, protests have been springing up over free speech. The “Trump Free Speech” rally has been clashing with a number of counterprotesters who believe that the free speech protests are of poor timing given the recent attacks that began with a man shouting racially motivated insults.
“Get out if you don’t like free speech! You call it terrorism; I call it patriotism. Die,” Christian shouted when entering the courtroom for his arraignment on Tuesday, May 30th.
Justifying his attacks on the two Muslim teenagers as his right to exercise freedom of speech, it is clear how the “Trump Free Speech” rally that is currently being held in Portland is of poor taste in light of recent events.
Tensions have been building among opposing protesters to the point that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler even called upon the federal government to stop the free speech protesters. They declined, citing that there was no legal basis to revoke the permit granted to the group organizing the protest, Patriot Prayer. Instead, police have been heavily monitoring the areas where the protests have been occurring, specifically the Terry D. Schrunk Plaza in Downtown Portland. Protests have been bordering on violent from both sides, with 14 demonstrators having been arrested so far.
“I’m a strong supporter of the First Amendment no matter what the views are that are being expressed,” Wheeler said in a recent interview, “but given the timing of this rally, I believed we had a case to make about the threats to public safety.”
Racial tensions in Portland have greatly escalated due to Christian’s attack and also due to the responses of citizens within the city. Surely, protesting about the value of free speech days after such events would spark discontent among many. The “Trump Free Speech” rally was of poor timing, and the violent responses of many counterprotesters could have been expected. Hopefully the situation will deescalate to the point where the people of Portland can coexist peacefully without having barricades of police between them, and can work together to resolve differing views without resorting to violence.