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Pro-Trump Rally in Salem Declared ‘Unlawful Assembly’ as DC Protests Turn Violent

Jonathan Levinson

Far-right groups fought with police and counterdemonstrators Wednesday at a rally outside the Oregon Capitol in Salem, where supporters of President Trump had gathered to protest Congress’ certification of the presidential election.

By 2 p.m., Oregon State Police had declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse.

The United States Congress’ certification of Electoral College votes is largely a formality, one which typically happens with little fanfare and – despite Trump’s claims to the contrary — cannot overturn the election without broad Congressional support.

For weeks, Trump has been supporting his followers as they planned to hold rallies across the country Wednesday, viewed by his supporters as their last-ditch attempt to keep Biden out of office. Thousands of far-right demonstrators took to the streets in Washington, D.C. to support that message.

By early afternoon in D.C., a mob of extremists had already started clashing with police and eventually stormed the U.S. Capitol building. Members of Congress, including Oregon’s delegation, were forced to evacuate the building or hide as people broke windows, stole items and squared off with law enforcement.

In Salem, some people carried an equally violent message, though no one tried to break into the Oregon Capitol building.

“The coup is in full effect,” one speaker told the crowd. “The coup is on. It’s been on for the last four years, but it’s moving very quickly. So you guys need to be ready for it.”

By 3 p.m., police were able to disperse many of the people gathered.

Similar protests in Oregon have already turned violent. On Dec. 21, conservative demonstrators clashed with police outside the Oregon Capitol, angered over public health restrictions and the outcome of the presidential election. Some of those protesters have faced charges for breaking into the Capitol building, spraying bear mace at police officers and disorderly conduct. Oregon State Police said they are still looking for one protester who threw a gas canister into a crowd of police officers.

Police across the country made arrests in the lead up to the pro-Trump demonstrations Wednesday.

Chandler Pappas, a member of the Vancouver, Washington-based group Patriot Prayer, was arrested Monday on accusations he attacked officers at the Salem rally. He remains in the Marion County Jail with bail set at $250,000.

Also on Monday, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested soon after his arrival in D.C. on charges stemming from a December demonstration where Proud Boys tore down and burned a Black Lives Matter sign in front of a historic Black church. He was also found to have two 30-round rifle magazines, which are illegal in the District of Columbia.

On Tuesday night, demonstrations in Washington, D.C., turned violent as Trump supporters turned on police.

The Salem Police Department said its primary goal Wednesday was to prevent violence or property damage and to keep opposing groups separate. In a press release, the Salem Police Department encouraged residents to avoid the area around the Capitol building.

Copyright 2021 OPB.