Groups plan counter-protests during 'March 4 Trump' in Lake Oswego
When business owner Kevin "The Geek" Kerwin announced that he was planning a "March 4 Trump" event in Lake Oswego on March 4, it didn't take long for counter-events to begin to pop up — possibly as many as three or four of them.
The most prominent so far appears to be a counter-protest organized by Oregon Students Empowered, a group that describes itself as a way for middle school, high school and college students to help "make change in our community."
"Oregon is a state of resistance, and we do not welcome these kinds of events in our state. We do not welcome misogynists, racists, fascists and xenophobes," reads the description on the group's Facebook event page. "We will outnumber them; they don't even have a chance."
The Portland-based advocacy group Direct Action Alliance also posted information about the pro-Trump event on its Facebook page on Thursday, along with an invitation for its followers to attend a "Rainbow Parade" in Lake Oswego on March 4.
"Bring your tutu, fairy wings and unicorn suits," the post reads. "There might even be a marching band! Glitter and Mexican flags are highly encouraged!"
Alliance member Jacob Bureros told The Review that the group hadn't created an event of its own, but was working with other activists and political networks to encourage people to head for Lake Oswego next Saturday. A later post on the group's Facebook page asks its members to help coordinate ride-share options for people who want to attend.
Bureros said he's also a member of Independents for Progressive Action (IPA), a group of activists in the Willamette Falls and Wilsonville area who supported Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He said IPA is working with the Direct Action Alliance for the event, and a post on IPA's Facebook page also calls for potential attendees to contact the group and help coordinate the response effort.
"We're going to be organizing a peaceful Rainbow Parade, where we're going to be marching right along with the Trump folks," Bureros told The Review. "We're not there to yell at them or do anything — they're there to support what they believe in, and we're going to support what we believe in, and we're going to show up in greater numbers."
At the local level, Lake Oswego resident Erin Lee created a Facebook page to promote an "LO Love-In" at Millennium Plaza Park that she says is specifically intended as a peaceful, family-oriented event rather than a direct counter-march or something more confrontational.
"No protest, no march. More family-oriented, with just a positive message," Lee told The Review. "I'm trying to organize as many people to be there as possible, especially for those who don't want to participate in a counter-protest or necessarily have to interact with the (pro-Trump) group."
Lee says she decided to create the event after reading about the "March 4 Trump" and looking at some of the comments on the event's Facebook page. She said it came as a surprise that such an event would be held in Lake Oswego.
"I'm a parent of a child in the Lake Oswego School District and I grew up here, so I'm a longtime participant in this community," she said. "We're a small community, so for someone to plan something like that — especially with some of the blatantly racist messages that (Kerwin) is putting up there — it was really alarming to me."
Former Lake Oswego City Councilor Jon Gustfason posted a public message on his Facebook page Thursday, declaring that "Kevin the Geek does not speak for Lake Oswego" and asking for suggestions about how to respond to the march.
"Our main focus is trying to make sure that there's some positive action or angle," he told The Review on Friday. "We want there to be a positive alternative to whatever ends up happening in town, and we're deciding how best to do that."
Gustafson said he's been talking to the group of local parents who organized recent "LO for Love" events to decide the best response, and he said he's also waiting to see what other responses emerge in the week leading up to the march.
"My main goal is just making sure that the views expressed by whoever shows up at the Trump rally aren't mistaken as representative of the entire community," he said. "Because as we saw from the 'LO for Love' march (in November 2016, when 300 people carried messages of love and peace through downtown Lake Oswego), there are a lot of us who care about different values."
Kerwin, who is one of four organizers of the local "March 4 Trump," has a history of posting signs in the window of his computer repair shop that convey provocative messages with anti-liberal themes. His signs have received media attention in the past, and he has developed an online following.
This week, Kerwin's decision to organize the pro-Trump march renewed that attention. In addition to the online responses and planned counter-protests planned for next Saturday, four sign-carrying protesters also gathered on the sidewalk near the entrance to Kerwin's State Streeet shop on Friday morning.
Two of them, Michelle Darr and Tera Parrish, told The Review that they intended to protest outside Kerwin's store "until he shuts his business down." The women said they live in Portland and Hillsboro, and Darr said they had identified themselves to Kerwin as "anarchists."
"We saw the ('March 4 Trump') stories," Darr said, "but what brought us out here were his racist Facebook posts."
Parrish said she was a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and was troubled by Kerwin's online posts, which she described as "racist" and "inflammatory," citing his frequent use of racial epithets when referring to African Americans.