Supporters of President Donald Trump and groups of demonstrators who oppose him faced off in Lake Oswego Saturday, March 4, in an often loud and confrontational — yet largely peaceful — pair of marches.
The "March 4 Trump," which started in George Rogers Park before proceeding down State Street, was delayed multiple times by counter-protesters who blocked its path, and the marchers ultimately never completed their planned route.
Instead, the afternoon played out in a series of standoffs between the two groups on State Street, first in the George Rogers Park parking lot, again at the intersection of State and Leonard streets and finally in Lower Millennium Plaza Park, down the steps from the main plaza where a "Stand for LOve" counter-protest had gathered earlier in the day.
Police made three arrests and one Trump supporter was hit on the head with a stick as the March 4 Trump left George Rogers Park around 12:30 p.m. During the confrontation at the gates that separate Millennium Plaza Park from the railroad tracks on State Street, 76-year-old Bob Stowell of West Linn suffered a medical emergency and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.
Otherwise, police reported nothing more serious Saturday than a flag burning and lots of angry shouting and taunting.
Trump supporters gather
March 4 Trump participants gathered in George Rogers Park in the morning, with several members of the group's security team standing guard on the perimeter and roughly a dozen police officers from Lake Oswego and other jurisdictions keeping watch at various points around the park.
"Ultimately, we're just here to keep people safe on both sides," said Brad Smith, who identified himself as the leader of the security detail. The group, he said, was composed of volunteers from Oregon and Washington, many of whom had worked at rallies in the past.
Trump marchers began arriving in greater numbers after 11 a.m., clustering around the park's picnic pavilion to avoid the rain and brief hail that pelted the park. There wasn't space under the roof for everyone, though.
"I don't mind getting wet," said Heath Paulus, who came from East Portland to join the march. "I came out to support our president. In this area of the country, he doesn't get as much support as he deserves."
Many people in the crowd said they were motivated to march in response to anti-Trump protests, while others said they wanted to get a chance to interact with fellow supporters.
"Because the looney left is out there having hissy fits, I felt Trump needed our support," said Diane Gruber, a marcher from West Linn. "This is the first president in two decades where I've felt like he was working for me, an average American."
Many people in the crowd held U.S. flags, as well as pro-Trump signs and banners bearing the Trump campaign's logo. Several carried "Don't Tread on Me" flags.
A small number of opposing protesters also began to appear around the edges of the event, although at the time they did not appear to be attempting to disrupt it.
"I really feel Trump supporters need to see this part if they're going to support him," said Portland resident Rachel Harris, who carried a sign promoting love and tolerance.
Series of standoffs
March 4 Trump organizers had planned to walk north along State Street to A Avenue, then march one or two blocks west before looping back past the edge of Millennium Plaza Park. But when the front of the march reached the intersection of State and Leonard streets, it was blocked by a large group of counter-protesters, and police diverted the marchers through the Old Town neighborhood and back to George Rogers Park.
By 1 p.m., most of the pro-Trump group was gone and the park was all but empty.
"Originally, we were just going to march one time," said attendee Andrew Landers. "But the leaders said, 'Let's go again.'"
So a portion of the marchers opted to circle back through the park and repeat the original route. This time, they stood their ground at State and Leonard in what amounted to a stalemate with counter-protesters, who stood facing them — arms linked — as both sides screamed at each other.
Meanwhile, a crowd of Stand for LOve supporters lined the sidewalk on the opposite side of State Street, from Leonard all the way to Sundeleaf Plaza — part of a planned event that had assembled in Millennium Plaza Park earlier before heading out on its own march.
Nearly two dozen police officers stood in the middle of the intersection, keeping the crowds separated. Traffic backed up in both directions on State Street, but continued to slowly pass through.
At one point, LOPD Lt. Doug Treat tried to negotiate with both sides in the standoff. He asked the protesters to let the Trump group pass; they refused. He told the Trump group that if they headed down Leonard and back to the park, police would provide an escort; they refused.
LOPD Chief Don Johnson credited officers and deputies from across the Portland area for keeping marchers and counter-protesters safe.
Among the agencies who took part: Tigard, Oregon City, West Linn, Gresham, Canby, Hillsboro, Tualatin, Beaverton and Portland police departments, and the Washington and Clackamas County sheriff's offices.
"Today's event went very well," Johnson said. "We had hoped for the best, but planned for the worst. We appreciate the assistance of (our) law enforcement partners, in addition to the commitment of the organizers to keep this event peaceful."