One person was shot and killed late Saturday in Portland, Oregon, as a large caravan of Donald Trump supporters came into town and were seen on video firing paintballs and pepper spray at Black Lives Matter protesters before clashes erupted in the streets.
It wasn’t clear if the shooting was linked to fights that broke out as a procession of about 600 vehicles, many flying large “Trump 2020” flags, was confronted by protesters in the city’s downtown.
An Associated Press freelance photographer heard three gunshots and then observed police medics working on the body of the victim, who appeared to be a white man.
“Portland police officers heard sounds of gunfire from the area of Southeast 3rd Avenue and Southwest Alder Street,” Portland police said in a statement.
“They responded and located a victim with a gunshot wound to the chest. Medical responded and determined that the victim was deceased.”
According to police, the shooting happened at 8.46pm local time on Saturday. A video that appears to have captured the incident, shot from the other side of the street, shows a man wearing shorts approaching a car parking garage. Shots ring out and the man falls to the ground.
Later it was reported that the man had been wearing a Patriot Prayer hat bearing the logo of a local right-wing group.
Early Sunday, Trump retweeted video from a New York Times reporter on the scene that showed men in vehicles that were part of the procession with Trump signs and flags firing paintballs and pepper spray at protesters and journalists.
California Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass said on Sunday morning that Trump’s tweets and his plan to visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, as part of his “law and order” election agenda would achieve the opposite objective, intentionally.
“He is going to do everything to disrupt law and order,” she told Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union politics talk show on Sunday.
“You saw in Portland Trump supporters actively shooting paintballs at protesters. Trump encourages that,” she added.
Portland has been the site of nightly protests for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Hundreds have been arrested by local and federal law enforcement and, before the shooting, police made several arrests Saturday and advised residents to avoid downtown.
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.
The latest caravan convened after a group on Facebook had called on Trump supporters to convene in the city under the banner “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally in Portland”.
The caravan of Trump supporters had gathered earlier in the day at a nearby mall and drove as a group to the heart of Portland. As they arrived in the city, bearing large “Trump 2020” flags on the sides of their vehicles, protesters attempted to stop them by standing in the street and blocking bridges.
Videos from the scene showed sporadic fighting, as well as Trump supporters firing paintball pellets at opponents and using bear spray as counter-protesters threw things at the Trump caravan.
“There have been some instances of violence between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators,” Portland police said via Twitter. “Officers have intervened and in some cases made arrests.”
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, saying it’s counterproductive.
Early Saturday morning, fires set outside a police union building that is a frequent site for protests prompted police to declare a riot.
An accelerant was used to ignite a mattress and other debris that was laid against the door of the Portland Police Association building, police said in a statement. At least one dumpster had also been set on fire in the street nearby.
The commotion followed a sit-in in the lobby of the Portland mayor’s condominium building Friday night.