Police say one man was shot dead late Saturday in the northwestern U.S. city of Portland, Oregon, as Black Lives Matter protesters and supporters of President Donald Trump clashed in the streets.
A rally supporting the U.S. leader drew hundreds of trucks full of supporters into the city, some of whom shot paintball guns from the beds of pickup trucks, while protesters on the street threw objects back at them.
A police statement said officers heard sounds of gunfire and “located a victim with a gunshot wound to the chest. Medical responded and determined that the victim was deceased.”
Early Sunday, Portland police chief Chuck Lovell said, “This violence is completely unacceptable, and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible.”
Witnesses said the white man who was killed was wearing a hat with the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a Portland-based, far-right group that has previously clashed with protesters.
Joey Gibson, the leader of the group based in Washington state, told The Associated Press that he knew the man who died.
“I can't say much right now. All I can do is verify that he was a good friend and a supporter of Patriot Prayer,” Gibson said of the shooting victim in a text exchange.
And police are asking anyone with information to come forward.
A top Trump administration official, acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf, on ABC’s “This Week” show blamed extended violence for 90 days in Portland on state and local officials for “not allowing law enforcement to do their jobs.”
“The violence needs to end,” Wolf said. He said the federal government continues to offer law enforcement assistance to Portland beyond previously sending in troops that subsequently were withdrawn.
“They continue to refuse federal assistance to bring this to an end,” Wolf said of Oregon and Portland officials. In Portland, he said “you see exactly how not to protect your city.”
“My message to anyone protesting: Please do that peacefully,” Wolf said.
Trump retweeted a video showing the caravan of his supporters driving into Portland, calling them “Great Patriots.” On CBS’s “Face the Nation” show, Wolf rejected a suggestion that by applauding the parade of vehicles, Trump heightened tensions.
“Absolutely not,” Wolf said.
There have been three months of nightly demonstrations in the city against racial injustice and police abuse of minorities following the May 25 death of a Black man, George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It was not immediately clear whether the Saturday night shooting incident was linked to clashes that broke out when protesters confronted a caravan of about 600 vehicles with Trump supporters in the city’s downtown area.
Police had made several arrests Saturday before the deadly shooting and advised residents to stay away from the downtown area.
Trump supporters have gathered in the city three Saturdays in a row. Protesters tried to stop the caravan by standing in the street and blocking bridges.
The shooting incident came two days after Trump mentioned Portland as a liberal city plagued by violence in his White House speech at the Republican National Convention as part of his law-and-order reelection campaign theme against his Democratic opponent in the November national election, former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted, ‘” LAW & ORDER!!!”
LAW & ORDER!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2020
At the Republican convention, Trump told voters they “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
But Biden told MSNBC last week that Trump views the street violence “as a political benefit to him. He’s rooting for more violence, not less.”
Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show, “Most of Donald Trump’s America is peaceful.” He echoed Trump’s claim that violence is occurring in “Democrat-led cities,” rejecting the premise that it was occurring on Trump’s watch as the national leader.
The Portland shooting was the latest incident stemming from racial unrest in the United States.
In the Midwestern city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, a policeman a week ago shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in the back while trying to arrest him in a domestic dispute, spawning several nights of protests, in one of which two people were shot dead and another wounded.
A day later, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old resident in the nearby state of Illinois, who said he was in Kenosha to protect businesses in the street protests, was charged in the killings.
Video of the chaotic events on the streets of Kenosha showed Rittenhouse carrying a long gun and running past police but was not stopped by them.
“The circumstances of that are still being investigated,” Wolf said.
The Homeland Security chief called on local officials to “take early action” to quell street violence.
“You can stop this,” he said. “The federal government will provide assistance.”