PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said a scheduled rally organized by an alt-right group will go on this Sunday after he urged the federal government to revoke the event's permit earlier this week.
The U.S. General Services Administration said it had no basis to revoke the already approved permit because the applicant submitted the appropriate form and followed all rules and regulations in the application process.
Wheeler said local and federal law enforcement will be at the event to maintain order.
"We have reached out to to the organizers to call on them to exercise common sense and to help us keep the peace," Wheeler said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "I urge everyone participating to reject violence. Our city has seen enough."
Wheeler previously said he wanted the rally canceled, after a self-proclaimed white nationalist killed two men and injured another on a MAX train on May 26.
The "Trump Free Speech Rally" is scheduled for Sunday from 2-5 p.m. at Terry D. Schrunk Plaza. A second event was scheduled for June 10, but the "March Against Sharia" rally has been moved from Portland to Seattle on the same day.
Sunday's event has 344 people committed to attend and 677 people interested on the event's Facebook page.
Here is Wheeler's complete statement about Sunday's event:
"Portland has a proud history of protest. I am a firm supporter of the First Amendment, no matter the views expressed. I believe we had a case to make about the threats to public safety posed by this rally at this place and at this time. My job is to protect the safety of everyone... protesters, counter-protesters, and bystanders alike.
"There will be protests and counter-protests this weekend in Portland. We have reached out to the organizers to call upon them to exercise common sense and to help us keep the peace. There will be local and federal law enforcement on the ground to ensure everyone has the right to express their beliefs and to protect everyone's safety. I urge everyone participating to reject violence. Our city has seen enough."
Following Wheeler's initial statement on Monday, the organizer of Sunday's rally said if the permit was revoked, it could make the event more dangerous.
Joey Gibson, the organizer of the June 4 rally, had already received a permit for the event at Shrunk Plaza from the federal government, which controls the downtown park.
During a press conference Monday, Wheeler said the rallies had no place in Portland following the deaths of two men at the hands of Jeremy Christian, a self-proclaimed white nationalist who has attended alt-right rallies in the past, including one organized by Gibson.
"I’m reminded constantly that they have a First Amendment right to speak," Wheeler said during the press conference. "My pushback on that is hate speech is not protected under the U.S. Constitution."
Gibson, who runs the group Patriot Prayer, said he is a Libertarian and does not promote hate speech. But the two guests listed first on the event page, "Based Stickman" and "Based Spartan," are widely considered heroes of the alt-right movement.
“I promote freedom. I promote love and I promote bringing spirituality back into this country," Gibson said.
Gibson said if the permit was revoked, he wouldn't be able to kick people out if they cause problems.
Christian was kicked out of a prior Patriot Prayer demonstration, Gibson said.
“Jeremy Christian has nothing to do with us and nothing to do with our movement,” he said.
Gibson said no matter what happens, people will show up for the June 4 rally. He said some are even flying in from out of town.
The ACLU of Oregon on Monday said Wheeler's request was unconstitutional.
Despite the brutal nature of Christian's attack and the racist vitriol that preceded it, ACLU of Oregon director Mat dos Santos said that "government censorship is not the answer."
Our hearts are broken, but government censorship is not the answer. We must defend the constitution even when it is uncomfortable. https://t.co/7K33oLAbcZ— Mat dos Santos (@MatPDX) May 29, 2017
The ACLU of Oregon posted more on its Twitter page, saying "the government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period."
The organization said if there is evidence of an imminent threat, the government should address it without restricting First Amendment rights.
If the government has concrete evidence of an imminent threat they can and should address it, without restricting 1A rights of all. https://t.co/jfxgJyvCpi— ACLU of Oregon (@ACLU_OR) May 29, 2017
Portland GOP chair James Buchal had a different take. Buchal told The Guardian that militia groups such as the Three Percenters (some of whom were involved in the takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge last year) should be used as security at public events.
Wheeler called for the event cancelations Monday via his Facebook page.