Portland mayor tries to bar anti-sharia and pro-Trump rallies, ACLU corrects him

We know about the unhinged racist, Jeremy Joseph Christian, who, after shouting slurs at two Muslim women in Portland, Oregon, then stabbed to death two men coming to the women’s defense. The man is being properly booked for murder, and sounds like he hates just about anybody who isn’t white.

In view of that incident, it’s perhaps understandable that Portland’s mayor is trying to stave off divisiveness by urging the government to deny permits to demonstrators who seem to be pro-Trump or anti-Muslim (actually, anti-sharia). But banning free speech isn’t the way to enforce a point of view. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) realizes that—they fought for the American Nazi Party’s right to march through the Jewish section of Skokie, Illinois—and I’m proud to have volunteered for that organization in the past. (They’re also the group I went to as a conscientious objector to initiate a lawsuit against Nixon and the U.S. government for calling us up for service illegally. They worked pro bono, and we won our suit.)

The Washington Post reports on the doings in Portland:

The mayor of Portland, Ore., is calling on federal authorities to cancel a pair of upcoming rallies organized by conservative groups, saying the city was still “in shock” after two men were fatally stabbed on a commuter train Friday while fending off a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs.

Mayor Ted Wheeler asked the federal government to revoke a permit authorizing a June 4 “Trump Free Speech Rally” in Portland’s downtown. He also called on the government to block a “March Against Sharia” that is scheduled for June 10 but has not received permits.

“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation,” Wheeler wrote in a Facebook post Monday.

He added that he had asked the organizers of the rallies, which he referred to as “alt-right demonstrations,” to cancel their events.

“I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland,” Wheeler wrote. “There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.”

. . . The organizer of the “Trump Free Speech Rally,” Joey Gibson, sought to distance himself and his group, Patriot Prayer, from Christian, especially as reports surfaced that he appeared at the group’s other events. In a video posted to Facebook on Sunday, Gibson condemned Christian and said antifa protesters were trying to incite chaos at the upcoming rally by exploiting the attacks on the train.

“There’s going to be more intensity, there’s going to be more threats,” Gibson said. “They’re using the deaths of these two people and Jeremy Christian — they’re using it to get Portland all rowdy about our June 4 rally and it’s absolutely disgusting.”

Gibson urged his supporters to remain calm. “You throw one punch, you’re going to jail,” he said.

A Facebook page for the event says the rally will feature live music and “speakers exercising their free speech.”

The “March Against Sharia,” which Gibson is also involved in, says Islamic law “is incompatible with our Constitution and American values.” The event page calls on supporters who “stand for human rights.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon criticized the mayor’s attempts to shut down both rallies, saying the government can’t revoke or deny a permit based on the demonstrators’ views.

And they’re absolutely right. Here are some tweets from the ACLU of Oregon, correcting the mayor’s behavior:

I suspect that if there’s violence, it will be done by bike-lock-wielding ANTIFA members, but everything should be done to ensure that these demonstrations are peaceful.


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Another idea for some small cities and towns but probably not for Portland, Or. – do not allow any demonstrations, thereby, treating everyone the same. The reason could be, do not have resources cover such events.

    • Rita
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think taking away the right to peaceful assembly is defensible.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      “…do not allow any demonstrations…”

      No way is that going to pass 1st Amendment review. “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

      The 1st applies to the States and all of its subdivisions via the 14th: “…No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…”

      Note that the 14th protects even “privileges.” “Rights,” like those under the 1st, get the most stringent protection. Maybe some time/place restrictions might pass muster, but “NO demonstrations”? No way.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        I think if you check it, lots of cities and towns allow no public demonstrations of any kind without a permit to hold such demonstration. And if you allow none you are treating everyone the same. Ask a lawyer that knows the law if you really want to check it but stop taking the language so literally. To many in the law, the document is living, not dead. Changes must be made to go with the times and there have been some changes since 1790 in case you didn’t know.

        Cost to protect the public comes first, not your rights to march wherever you want.

        • Posted May 31, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          “I think if you check it, lots of cities and towns allow no public demonstrations of any kind without a permit to hold such demonstration.”

          This is not true, at least not in Seattle. Critical Mass for example, a cyclist protest popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, was a monthly street protest that never sought a permit. They couldn’t anyway because there was no organizing group, but the city did not attempt to shut them down (except when things got dangerous).

    • John Egloff
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      Here’s a discussion of the law on this:


      Like everything in the law, it’s complicated.

    • BJ
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      That’s literally violating the very first amendment of our founding constitution.

  2. Pliny the in Between
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    My wife was half a block from these murders as they were happening and almost got run down by the police response. We are long time ACLU supporters even when (probably because) some of their actions really honk us off.

    On the flip side one could ask why these protests are scheduled now and why one of the organizers couldn’t have his rally in his own town park of Vancouver Wash., right across the river from us.

    I doubt it will be peaceful considering the mood of this town right now particularly since the PoS who committed these crimes often frequented similar rallies.

    • Posted May 31, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Yeah it seems deliberately provocative. It will not end well.

      • Alpha Neil
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        What is the timeline here? They already have the permits. If they applied for them before the murders then I don’t see how they are being deliberately provocative (well, above and beyond their usual dickishness).

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I saw a discussion about Christian on Fox News’s ‘The Five’. They insisted that he made everyone uncomfortable at the rallies he turned up to and that he was actually a Bernie supporter.

      Jessie Watters is on that show now that it’s taken over O’Reilly’s time slot, and he’s happy to lie through his teeth in support of Trump. And no, I’m not just talking about different points of view etc. I mean outright lies.

      A small number on that channel (e.g. Shepherd Smith, Chris Wallace) have always been good. Others are improving with the arrival of Trump and are genuinely trying to be “fair and balanced”. Some though have regressed badly into Trump worship. They not only defend him whatever the situation, but they’ll make stuff up. The end justifies the means for them. They’re like those who lie for Jesus.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        And at least, Jesus was not nuts. Sorry, couldn’t help that.

    • Posted May 31, 2017 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      that POS frequented Bernie rallies, he was a fervent Bernie and Jill Stein supporter.

  3. dabertini
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    “The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) realizes that—they fought for the American Nazi Party’s right to march through the Jewish section of Skokie, Illinois—and I’m proud to have volunteered for that organization in the past.”

    Wow! Talk about challenging your mettle.

    • Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Upon re-reading that sentence out of context, I realize it may be interpreted as Jerry being proud to have volunteered for the American Nazi Party. (Although it is fairly obvious that that’s not the organization he’s proud of.)

  4. Tom
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Judging by his appearance and behaviour Mr Christian seems to be mentally unbalanced.
    It would be a ghastly irony to discover after all this Islamaphobia talk that he is in need of long term psychiatric treatment.
    Why not wait until his mental health has been properly
    After he may have many more delusions we know nothing about.

    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      My understanding is that Christian has been evaluated before during his numerous prior encounters with law enforcement. He is well known in the community and at least once was interviewed by local TV spewing the same kind of hate.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        Yes, there are thousands in prison with mental problems as bad or worse than this guy. Prisons are the mental institutions in America these days.

        • Ken Phelps
          Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          And prison spending is good for the economy ’cause it creates jobs. Totally unlike that stinking health-care which is a drain on the economy because…um…

          • Posted June 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            There may be millions of people given unnecessary prison sentences, but I do not think Christian will be one of them.

    • Posted June 1, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      I think the two do not exclude each other. From what we know about Christian, he is a vicious hateful POS. During his previous clashes in the law, he has been found sane. I suppose the same will happen now. At the same time, I agree he is mentally unbalanced. He should be given the psychiatric treatment he needs, in prison.

  5. Charles Sullivan
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    The rally scheduled for June 10th has just been cancelled by the organizer. The organizer of the June 4th event refuses to cancel.

    I hope it’s ok to just plop a link to the news story:

  6. ChrisB
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    The Trump “Free Speech” Rally should not be cancelled. Do not make these people into oppressed victims being denied their constitutional rights. This will only allow them to delude themselves further that Trump is on the right of democracy,while his travesty of an administration continues to gnaw away at our democratic institutions like a cancerous mole rat.

    The correct response is to put on a counter demonstration, or if that is deemed to dangerous, a separate rally on a different day. It should also be called a free speech rally, and protest against the incompetent megalomaniac currently residing in the White House and his clown show administration.

  7. Debbie Coplan
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    As an ACLU supporter, I was glad to see they took this position.
    I also have to express the grief I feel for the two men who acted as heroes. One of them had been a roommate of my son and a wonderful friend to him. Quite a tragedy-

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Easy case. Such speech has been constitutionally protected since Brandenburg v. Ohio.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      And at least, Jesus was not nuts. Sorry, couldn’t help that.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        Disregard that..not suppose to be there.

        However, for the lawyer in the house, please tell us, if demonstrating in a city or town requires a permit and the town or city simply refuses to issue any permit stating they do not have the resources to cover such demonstrations, what is illegal about that??

        • Brujo Feo
          Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          WHICH lawyer in the house? I don’t claim to be a Constitutional expert, but I think that you’ve fairly posed the question. I also think that the answer is just as obvious.

          But, of course, I could be wrong. I’m going to do a bit of research.

          • Brujo Feo
            Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

            OK…I googled: “can a local government forbid all public assemblies.”

            The ACLU says this, at https://www.aclunc.org/our-work/know-your-rights/free-speech-protests-demonstrations:

            “What if past marches have turned violent?

            The government can’t deny a permit just because past demonstrations by your group or others ended in civil disobedience or a disorderly brawl. Likewise, officials can’t ask you to promise that protesters will obey the law before agreeing to issue your permit.”

            But the Library of Congress site says this, at https://www.loc.gov/law/help/peaceful-assembly/us.php#_ftn13:

            “The First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct an assembly at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or interference with traffic on public streets, or other immediate threat to public safety or order…” with a footnote to:

            Jones v. Parmley, 465 F.3d 46, 56–57 (2d Cir. 2006), available at http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/465/46/544540/.

            So I read the Jones case. In that case, the Court refused to give the local officials immunity for wrongfully breaking up a demonstration that had already started. But here, you’re asking for “prior restraint,” which clearly brings the issue more into the ACLU analysis, above. You can do more research if you want. I’m confident after this minimal inquiry that simply forbidding all such assemblies would require a declaration of martial law or something similarly drastic. Just forbidding all demonstrations? I repeat: no way.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

            Ken is who I speak of but hardly anything in the law is ever obvious. If it were, we would not have millions of lawyers.

            • BJ
              Posted May 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

              Basically, if a town started refusing permits to every single group over several years, they would eventually be taken to court. It would be argued that it was obvious what they were really doing (not using the policy or office of permits to issue permits, but to keep people from ever peaceably demonstrating) and it would probably be properly scolded by the courts and told to cut the crap. It would set too dangerous a precedent for the courts to allow the practice: it would mean it could spread across the country so nobody could get a permit anywhere.

              • Craw
                Posted May 31, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

                This issue is simpler than speech. The first amendment also explicitly guarantees the right of peaceful assembly.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          The denial would have to be content- and viewpoint-neutral — viz., the city could not deny a permit to one group, but turn around and grant a permit to another similarly situated group based on its approval of one group’s message but not the other’s.

          A city can charge reasonable costs and fees for a permit, but cannot make those costs and fees prohibitively expensive. That was one of the tactics the Village of Skokie tried to use to keep the Nazis from marching in 1977 — one which the courts found to be unconstitutional.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

            I think the website is acting up a bit for some of us. Thanks for that. My idea was that, as long as the city or town in question was consistent and allowed no demonstrations due to the inability to protect the public, they could do that. However, I always find it odd when folks on a liberal site such as this, quote from the constitution and act as if it were obvious and literal.

        • Brujo Feo
          Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          Randy schenck: I answered your question, but it’s “awaiting moderation,” I think due to multiple hyperlinks. Short answer: they can’t do it.

          • Craw
            Posted May 31, 2017 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

            No they cannot as it would violate the right to assembly, which is called out explicitly aside from speech.

  9. BJ
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Good for the ACLU.

    Yes, considering recent events, it’s slightly understandable why the mayor would do this. And yet, as I’ve mentioned so many times, Jews have more hate crimes committed against them every year as a percentage of the population (and they make up a bigger percentage than Muslims), and nobody tries to stop antisemitism by stifling speech or even talks about most of the incidents (unless they’re suddenly interested because they’re trying to blame Trump for them. I noticed a sudden reporting of some incidents as soon as Trump was elected, always with the subtext or even just text of, “it’s because he’s brought out all the white nationalism.”).

    • Posted June 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      I’ve also seen explanation that anti-Semitism is allegedly rising because Trump has a wicked Jewish son in-law.

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m all for free speech, and rallies in support of it. It worries me though that the right seems to be taking the moral high ground on this. In the past, they were the ones trying to suppress free speech. They’ve only recognized its value now they’re a minority.

    However, what I’d like to see more of is honest speech. Currently, the leader of the Free World, the person all democracies look to as their representative, is not only completely unfit for that role, he’s a liar. And I’m not talking about the kind of speech all politicians indulge in. He tells outright lies, and he does it constantly. He can’t utter two sentences without at least one being a lie or at least the result of ignorance on his part.

    The dictators, autocrats, theocrats etc must be loving it.

    • stuartcoyle
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I really don’t like the phrase “leader of the free world”. He’s just the president of the United States, no more than that.

      I consider myself to live in part of the “free world” (whatever that is) and in no way have ever thought of any US president as a leader of it.

      The current US president makes the phrase even more ridiculous.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        In reference to the current occupant of the office, your remarks are correct; however that is not so true of the past. Particularly, since the end of WWII and the fall of Britain from the lead post. Also, since the fall of the USSR the U.S., like it or not, is the only super power.

        • BJ
          Posted May 31, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, basically the “free world” takes many of its cues from the US, so I think that’s where the phrase originates.

        • Posted June 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          + 1 (from an European who was helplessly watching in the 1990s as Croatians and Bosnians were bombed and slaughtered).

    • BJ
      Posted May 31, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      ” In the past, they were the ones trying to suppress free speech. They’ve only recognized its value now they’re a minority.”

      I think this is the way it has always been on both sides. During the Bush Administration, the left was all about free speech, but once Obama was in office, they weren’t. You’d think they would see the value of going back on that now, but it seems like too many of the Democrats’ politicians feel the need to pander to the regressive part of the base (i always wonder just how big a part of the Dem base that is. I wonder if there’s a way to find out…). I understand pandering to them if you’re a House Rep who lives in a very regressive district, but I don’t get it from Senators (unless they’re from CA, WA, or OR), nor from the party administration as a whole.

      But back to the point I first made: in the 80’s, we had both the left and the right trying to shut down speech in a variety of ways. One of my favorite speeches is from Frank Zappa during the Congressional hearings on evil, evil music.

      The far left started the modern free speech movement in the 60’s, but today’s far left has tried to take it all back — and then go even further. They’re even trying to take back the strides the far left had to be so proud of since the Civil Rights Movement, like desegregation.

      Really, it seems like there are only some people who truly believe in free speech. Most just profess a belief in it when it behooves their own tribe.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 31, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think your last paragraph is right on the mark unfortunately.

        Also though, a lot of people don’t really understand what free speech means.

        • BJ
          Posted June 1, 2017 at 7:31 am | Permalink

          “Also though, a lot of people don’t really understand what free speech means.”

          I agree with this too. THe whole “well, it’s only when the government does it does it violate free speech,” and the other side of the coin, “I can say whatever I want wherever I want because of free speech.” Both positions are remarkably uninformed and untenable.

  11. David Jorling
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    I will be going to the rally to see what happens, and join a counter demonstration if one develops. Hopefully it will go on peacefully. I agree with the ACLU’s position, and the Mayor has reversed course. I can’t imagine that any of my former colleagues in the City Attorney’s Office told him it was ok to try to stop it. I suspect, as often happens, he probably didn’t seek the lawyer’s advice until after he tried to have the event cancelled.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      I heard him on NPR yesterday to the effect that his is the responsibility to protect the citizenry from violence and property from damage. IF he marshals his security resources as best he can yet there is (almost guaranteed?) violence, will he be inescapably accused (by some bloviating media type sitting on his gluteals in a safe space) of “failing” to prevent violence? Why can’t all groups see some good sense in at least voluntarily delaying marching for a cooling-off period?

      (What is the “carrot” to sufficiently motivate one to go into law enforcement/public safety [and by extension the armed forces] and deal with bloody human primates? Surely a sense of altruism and duty – certainly not the capitalist profit motive.)

      Rant done.

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