Why does it seem like those who consider themselves to be the defenders of tolerance are often the most intolerant among us?
On Tuesday, the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association in Portland canceled the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade. The group has hosted the annual event for more than a decade, but won’t this year because of threats of violence against members of the Multnomah County Republican Party who were set to march in the event, scheduled for April 29.
“For more than a decade, 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association, in partnership with local businesses, residents and community groups, has hosted the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade. This event, created to celebrate and promote East Portland and the diverse community that lives, works and plays on 82nd Avenue is also the first sanctioned event of the Portland Rose Festival,’’ read a press release issued by the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association (www.discover82ndave.com).
“Following threats of violence during the Parade by multiple groups planning to disrupt the event, 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association can no longer guarantee the safety of our community and have made the difficult decision to cancel the Parade originally scheduled for Saturday, April 29 at 9:30am. The related Carnival at Eastport Plaza is also cancelled. We are deeply disappointed that the agendas of these outside groups have so regrettably impacted East Portland and the 82nd Avenue community.’’
Angered by the plans of the members of the Multnomah County Republican Party to participate in the parade, two self-described antifascist (ANTIFA) groups pledged to protest the parade. According to The Oregonian Newspaper, those groups were Oregon Students Empowered and Direct Action Alliance. The newspaper also reported that the groups denied sending an anonymous email to organizers of the parade.
“You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,” the anonymous email said, referring to the riots that took place in Portland after the 2016 presidential election. “This is nonnegotiable.” The email informed the organizers that 200 people would “rush into the parade” and “drag and push” those marching with the Multnomah County Republican Party.
A petition was quickly gathered Wednesday with 200 signatures asking organizers to reconsider their decision to cancel the parade, but the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association didn’t do so.
David Gellatly, chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, offered his organization’s support in a letter to James Buchal, chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party, that was posted on Facebook.
Gellatly wrote, “My name is David Gellatly, I am the Chairman of the Clark County Republican Party. We have hosted many positive and safe events, included a Trump Inauguration Event with several hundred people in attendance. I am calling on our neighbors across the river to take a stand, we cannot give into threats.
“Please resume the parade. We will stand with you as will hundreds of others. We are Americans and we do not negotiate with terrorists. I ask to carry on and announce the parade will take place, and we will stand with you in numbers they haven’t seen before. Cancelling this event encourages future threats of violence and we can’t have that control our country or region.’’
I have to say, this news makes me sick. When did dissatisfaction with the outcome of a presidential election in the United States justify violence, or in this case the threat of violence? I know I will hear from Trump opponents who will attempt to make the argument that our president created this culture of violence and they will just never be able to convince me of that.
I will be honest with you, I am not the protesting kind. If I drive by a group of protesters on the road, I become annoyed. I feel inconvenienced and even threatened. However, if they are peaceful and lawful, I will defend their right to free speech. If they break the law, especially with acts of violence, I have absolutely no sympathy for them.
I praise David Gellatly for his support of the Multnomah County Republican Party and his stand against those who have anonymously, and cowardly, made the threats of violence. Even though the protesters can claim a victory by forcing the cancellation of the parade, nobody wins in this situation. We all lose by being forced to live in a culture where this type of thing takes place.