PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – The leader of a Portland group that backs President Donald Trump on Tuesday told followers not to seek revenge after a supporter was shot dead and counter protesters celebrated the killing.
The victim, 39-year-old Aaron Danielson, was walking home on Saturday night after a pro-Trump demonstration in the city when he was shot, said Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.
Gibson called for supporters to “push back politically, spiritually” during escalating violence between right and left-wing demonstrators in the city which has become a focus of the U.S. presidential race after months of anti-racism protests.
“We are not going to commit any acts of revenge, we’re going to make sure justice is served,” Gibson said in a Facebook Live video, calling for a memorial event on Saturday.
Gibson, a Christian conservative, said his friend Danielson was not a “Nazi” or a “fascist” or a “white supremacist,” as some had called him, but “one of the nicest most gentle guys you will ever meet.”
“I don’t understand where all this hatred is coming from,” said Gibson, who espouses non-violence but is accused by anti-fascist groups of provoking confrontations.
An online video showed left-wing protesters cheering in Portland on Saturday night when a woman announced the person killed was a Patriot Prayer supporter and a “Nazi.”
“Our community held its own and took out the trash, I’m not going to shed any tears over a Nazi,” said the unidentified female speaker.
Nobody has been charged in the case yet.
Trump has seized on civil unrest in Portland and other cities to criticize Democratic leaders and call for “law and order” ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
He visited Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday where police shot a Black man in the back on Aug. 23 and a 17-year-old gunman shot dead two people during protests over the killing.
Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Monday said Trump was stoking the violence.
Portland has seen nightly protests with hundreds of arrests since the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, in Minneapolis on May 25.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Tuesday again urged Portland’s Democratic mayor Ted Wheeler to request federal assistance to quell clashes.
Wheeler has rejected a deployment of federal agents.
(Reporting by Deborah Bloom and Andrew Hay; Additional reporting by Ann Maria Shibu and Daniel Trotta; Writing by Kanishka Singh and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Paul Simao and Christopher Cushing)