Members and supporters met in Esther Short Park to speak out, worship and remember the life of man killed in Portland, Aaron J. Danielson
VANCOUVER — After the fatal shooting of Patriot Prayer member Aaron J. Danielson in Portland on Aug. 29, a large number of people gathered in Esther Short Park in Vancouver on Saturday evening to celebrate his life and honor his memory.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson introduced several speakers and spoke himself during the event. Those who gathered ate BBQ, sang worship songs with a band and shared their support for Danielson, who was known by many as Jay.
“I’ve never felt a bigger temptation in my life to begin to hate. But we can’t do that,” Gibson told the crowd. “We cannot do that guys. Because hatred is a disease. It will infect you and it will go from one person to the next and the next and it will do nothing to heal this country guys. It will do nothing.”
Gibson and the organization planned the memorial event in Vancouver in an effort to keep it safer, according to a Facebook post. Throughout the event, Gibson and speakers spoke out against any manner of violence in the name of Danielson.
“We have to forgive as much as we possibly can,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we excuse. It doesn’t mean that we forget. But we have to forgive.”
Two close friends of Danielson joined Gibson on stage. Chandler Pappas, who was with Danielson the night he was killed, and Michelle Dawson, who is a member of Patriot Prayer and a sitting town councilor in Yacolt.
“He brought so many different kinds of people together, I met leftists and rightists, I met Asians and black people and Latinos and, and any manner of different races and even religions and perspectives,” Pappas said. “Everybody got along with Jay because he was about bringing people together. He was about unifying people. Jay wasn’t a violent man.”
Dawson, who met Danielson at a Patriot Prayer rally, told stories of how he drove from his home in Portland to join her recurring prayer meeting in Yacolt, and surprised her in a giant bunny suit on her birthday to make her laugh.
“I miss Jay. I miss those moments of being able to call him and say, ‘Hey, I’m having kind of a rough day you know, can you talk to me?’” Dawson said. “We’ve been robbed. I’ve had anger in my heart. I’m not gonna lie about that. I’m sure each and every one of you felt the anger and the rage. And I kind of had to have a reality check. Because I know Jay would not want that.”
Dawson also expressed her frustration and anger with many media outlets, as well as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, choosing to identify Danielson as a white supremicist or facist.
A man who could only be identified as David, also spoke, as a representative of Oregonians for Trump, on how he felt the media and many leaders are slandering Danielson’s name, and supporting his killer.
“We must pray for our leaders in Washington, we must pray for the dishonest and biased media,” David said. “Aaron affected people from all walks of life; Democrat, Republican, left, right, black, white, brown. I can’t think of a better example of the kind of people Jesus has called us to be. Never let your heart harden. Never let hate consume you. But use frustration as a chance to draw closer to God and pray even harder and fight even harder for our country.”
A candlelight vigil was also held for Danielson later that night after the memorial gathering in Esther Short Park.