By GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — One person was shot and killed late Saturday in Portland, Oregon, as a large caravan of President Donald Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed in the streets, police said.
It wasn’t clear if the shooting was linked to fights that broke out as a caravan of about 600 vehicles was confronted by counter-demonstrators in the city’s downtown.
Police said the caravan had left the area around 8:30 p.m., and officers heard gunshots at about 8:46 p.m., according to a statement. Officers arrived at the shooting scene “within a minute,” police said, but the man who was shot did not survive.
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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. The freelancer said the man was wearing a hat bearing the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group whose members have frequently clashed with protesters in Portland in the past.
Police said the man was shot in the chest. He was not immediately identified. It’s unclear who shot him.
Homicide detectives were looking for more evidence, acknowledging that several images and videos had been posted on social media.
“It is important for detectives get a full and accurate picture of what happened before, during, and after the shooting,” a police statement said. “If anyone was a witness, has video, or has information about the homicide, they’re asked to contact the primary detectives.”
“This violence is completely unacceptable and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible,” Chief Chuck Lovell said.
Portland has been the site of nightly protests for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Many of them end in vandalism and violence, and hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested by local and federal law enforcement since late May.
In the two hours following the shooting, protesters gathered downtown and there was sporadic fighting and vandalism, police stated. Some gave speeches in Lownsdale Square Park before the protest petered out. Ten people were arrested, police said.
The caravan had arrived downtown just as a protest planned for Saturday was getting underway. 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.
Trump and other speakers at last week’s convention evoked a violent, dystopian future if Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden wins in November and pointed to Portland as a cautionary tale for what would be in store for Americans.
The pro-Trump rally’s organizer, who recently coordinated a similar caravan in Boise, Idaho, said in a video posted on Twitter Saturday afternoon that attendees should only carry concealed weapons and the route was being kept secret for safety reasons.
The caravan had gathered earlier in the day at a suburban mall and drove as a group to the heart of Portland. As they arrived in the city, 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.
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.