Groups organize in response to event planned by hate group
Portland police are preparing for a possible confrontation Saturday between racist and anti-racist activists in the Gabriel Park area of Southwest Portland.
A group called Tualatin Valley Skins has announced that it will meet in the park and distribute racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic leaflets beginning at 1 p.m. Organizer Jim Ramm predicts '30 to 80 white power skinheads' will show up in the park for the leafleting.
In response, a loose-knit coalition of minority, labor and human rights organizations is planning a counterdemonstration in the park beginning at noon. 'Let the racists know that hate is not welcome in Southwest Portland or anywhere,' said coalition member Jordan Sardo, a former Freedom Socialist Party candidate for state representative in District 45.
The counterdemonstration will be followed by a unity rally to celebrate diversity at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Multnomah Center, 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway.
'It's really important to make a statement when there is hate activity, but it is equally important to do it in a positive and meaningful way,' said Sylvia Bogert, executive director for Southwest Neighborhoods Inc., one of the groups organizing the rally.
Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said the police are planning to monitor the events to prevent trouble.
'Everyone has the right to free speech and no one has the right to interfere with anyone's free speech rights,' Schmautz said.
According to Bogert, the rally will feature speakers, musicians, artists and activities for children. Bogert said the rally is planned to be a safe alternative to confronting those passing out leaflets in and around the park.
'We're advising people not to try to confront the racists. You won't be able to change their minds and it will only be an angry confrontation where someone could get hurt,' she said.
The coalition also is distributing window posters proclaiming 'Neighbors together against hate' and asking the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission to pass resolutions denouncing discrimination and supporting diversity.
The city will consider the resolution on Wednesday and the county on Thursday.
Ramm's group has taken credit for distributing similar fliers in other cities, including Eugene, Tigard and Troutdale.
He chose Gabriel Park for Saturday's gathering because 'it is large and has many exits, so we can get out fast if we need to.'