PORTLAND, Ore. – The leader of a peaceful anti-Trump protest group, 23-year-old law student Gregory McKelvey, reflected on the protests that turned violent Thursday night and what he plans for upcoming protests.
McKelvey leads the group Portland’s Resistance, which has raised $25,000 and counting to help repair damage caused by a small group of anarchists that joined thousands of protesters Thursday night.
Here’s what he had to say about last night’s peaceful protest and riot:
I think that we held a largely and completely peaceful protest and there were certain elements around the city that tried to do destructive and violent things. My group and my organization and myself do not support any sort of vandalism anywhere. I don’t think we’re going to combat Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and violence policies with hate and violence.
Martin Luther King said a riot is the language of the unheard. I think there’s a lot of people who feel unheard right now. They see the strength in our numbers and it gives people an opportunity to be heard. What I’m saying is if you want to be heard that way, please don’t join our movement. Go start your own thing. Because we’re about peace and love.
Who are these people then?
I don’t think it’s an organized effort. I think it’s just people who feel unheard and they went out last night and want to be heard. They feel like they can be heard through violence and destruction.
I want people to understand that’s not our movement. We’re going to be heard through peace and light in what’s going to be a dark Donald Trump presidency.
But when you take people on the streets, you create a situation where this can happen. Do you have a responsibility to stop people when this happens?
As soon as we saw there was violence, we said we’re going back to Pioneer. We recoalesced at Pioneer. People say “why don’t you stop what’s going on?” My direction is always if you see something going on you disagree with then remove yourself from them. I really want to keep people safe.
There’s only so much you can do once the protest is going. You can tell other people not to do that. The police could possibly interfere. But I’m not doing the job of the police. I’m doing the job of an activist and as an activist I’m going to continue to push for peaceful protests.
Will you stay off the streets tonight as police have asked?
We’re going to stay off the streets. We’re going to rally at City Hall at 5 p.m. We’re still going to rally. Some can call it a protest, some can call it a rally. We are going to rally at City Hall but we’re not going to march.
What’s the plan going into the weekend?
To organize. We need to organize our group much better. We need to talk about how we take this violent element to make sure they are not a part of our group whatsoever. We need strong leadership. This weekend, we’re going to take the time to build the energy that we’ve harnessed and take the leverage we’ve had from being in the streets to work towards actual change. We’re not just going to be a protest group. We’re going to be a political action group
No rallies this weekend?
I can’t promise you. We have to evolve. If we only protest, if we only block traffic, it’s all for naught and we’ve done a disservice to our movement. We need to actually organize to make sure we harness this anti-Trump energy into something positive in our city. I think we have an opportunity to be a beacon of light in what’s going to be a dark Donald Trump’s America.