Several thousand people are expected in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday for a rightwing rally in support of Donald Trump and his “law and order” re-election campaign, as tensions boil nationwide following the decision not to charge officers in Louisville, Kentucky, for killing Breonna Taylor.

The Proud Boys, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, described it as a free speech event to support Trump and the police, restore law and order and condemn anti-fascists, “domestic terrorism” and “violent gangs of rioting felons”.

Local and state elected officials forcefully condemned the event and rushed to shore up law enforcement ranks as leftwing groups organized several rallies in response.

Oregon governor Kate Brown said she was sending state troopers to help the Portland police and creating a unified command structure among city, regional and state law enforcement – a tactic that essentially circumvents a city ban on the use of tear gas as a crowd-control measure.

The state police said a “massive influx” of troopers would be in Portland by Saturday morning.

“This is a critical moment,” said Brown, a Democrat. “We have seen what happens when armed vigilantes take matters into their own hands. We’ve seen it in Charlottesville, we’ve seen it in Kenosha and, unfortunately, we have seen it in Portland.

She was referencing deaths in Virginia, Wisconsin and Oregon during clashes between those on the right and left.

“The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come time and time again looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic. Let me be perfectly clear, we will not tolerate any type of violence this weekend. Left, right or center, violence is never a path towards meaningful change.”

The Proud Boys, self-described “western chauvinists”, have held multiple events in Portland since Trump’s election alongside other rightwing groups such as Patriot Prayer that often end in clashes with leftwing counter-demonstrators.

Last month, a Trump supporter and Patriot Prayer follower was shot dead after some vehicles in a pro-Trump caravan diverted into Portland and crossed paths with leftwing activists. Right- and leftwing demonstrators fought in the streets, and some members of the caravan fired paintballs and bear spray. The suspect in the shooting. a self-described anti-fascist, was killed the following week by law enforcement in Washington state.

Similar clashes in 2017, 2018 and 2019 resulted in violence and unrest and a massive deployment of law enforcement.

The Proud Boys mentioned the death of Trump supporter Aaron “Jay” Danielson in their permit application, as well as Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged in the shooting deaths of two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse’s attorneys say he actied in self-defense.

“The lawlessness has culminated with the assassination of our friend and Trump supporter Jay Danielson in Portland,“ the Proud Boys wrote in their permit application. “Portland leadership is unwilling to stop the violence. They have been blinded by their hatred of our President and will not allow outside help stopping the violence.”

Portland mayor Ted Wheeler said the city and its police force did not need or want help from “paramilitaries or vigilante groups”.

“For the past three years, our community has repeatedly had to deal with rallies of this kind, in which participants travel to our city threatening ‘takeovers’, touting their ‘combat unit’ capacity, and openly bragging about the waste of city resources that they can provoke,“ he said.

“We are unified and strong, and we will use every available power and resource of our city government to protect free speech and our community from violence.”

Police have canceled all scheduled days off for officers and will primarily be focused on keeping dueling groups of protesters separated. Deputy Chief Chris Davis acknowledged that Oregon is an open-carry state for firearms. But he reminded those attending the rally and counter-demonstrations that under Portland law, it’s illegal to carry a loaded firearm in public without an Oregon concealed handgun permit.

Officers will patrol for weapons and check for permits as needed, he said.

“We ask that you come peacefully and engage in your free speech peacefully,” police chief Chuck Lovell said. “It’s OK for us to disagree about things. But at the end of the day, doing so peacefully, letting people exercise their rights safely is very important. So that’s my ask the folks who are attending.”

Portland is approaching its fifth month of almost nightly protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Demonstrators want the city to take millions from the police budget and reallocate it to support the Black community. Some also are angry with the mayor, who is also the police commissioner, for allowing police to use tear gas until recently and for what they call overly aggressive police tactics.

Wheeler has also refused to cede control of the police bureau to a Black city councilwoman with a decades-long resume of activism around police reform.

This week, protesters hurled three firebombs at police officers as tensions escalated in the wake of a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to charge officers with killing Taylor, a Black woman who was shot in her home.

The unrest has drawn the attention of Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Wheeler for not stopping the violence. For a two-week period in July, thousands of protesters squared off with federal agents sent by Trump from the US Department of Homeland Security, to protect a federal courthouse in downtown Portland.

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