PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland, Oregon, has denied a permit for a Saturday rally planned by the right-wing group Proud Boys.
The city found the group’s estimated crowd size of 10,000 people was too big under coronavirus safety measures, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau.
The bureau said it had consulted with Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, and decided that those attending would not be able to comply with social distancing rules because of the large numbers of people.
“We must all do our part to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our community and keep ourselves and each other safe. Events like this are not welcome and are not allowed,” Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the city's parks department, said in the statement.
The Proud Boys have been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Members of the group have rallied in Portland several times in recent years and draw large numbers of people who show up to oppose their presence in the liberal city.
The rally planned for Saturday was moved from downtown Portland to Delta Park in north Portland to accommodate what the Proud Boys called a “battalion of patriots" exercising their right to assemble freely.
Left-wing groups plan at least two events to oppose the Proud Boys, including one in Delta Park.
Wheeler called those who planned the attend the rally “agitators” on Twitter.
“On September 26th, agitators plan on coming to Portland to spread messages of hate and racism — values we don’t welcome here in Portland,” he wrote. “If you intend to come to our city, our home, to spread hate and provoke violence, don’t.”
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio said in a statement last week that the rally would be peaceful and urged those planning violence to stay away. Tarrio has said the rally is aimed at the city's political leadership, including Wheeler, and he has criticized the mayor for not doing more to stop protests that have occurred in the city for nearly four months following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Wheeler also last week banned the use of tear gas by the Portland Police Bureau.
The location selected by the Proud Boys has angered some in Portland because of the history of the park. The site of the park once held a World War II-era working class community called Vanport, which was home to about 6,000 Black Portlanders when it was destroyed in a flood in 1948.
Vanport was originally built to house workers who flocked to Portland's shipyards during World War II. After the war, it was one of the few places where Black people could own a home because of racist zoning and real estate laws.
Black families that were displaced by the flood were forced into a small area of north Portland by the same discriminatory housing policies.