At least 100 people gathered Saturday in front of the Oregon Convention Center to protest against President Donald Trump, focusing on the administration's immigration policies.
The Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition sponsored the protest -- "Stand Up For Dignity and Protection of Immigrants" -- which gathered first at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at the center's northeast corner, then walked to the center's main entrance on the east side.
The positioning of protesters, and the timing of the protest itself, was linked to an event inside the convention center -- the "2017 Freedom Rally" sponsored by the Oregon Liberty Alliance, featuring speakers and vendors who are aligned with conservative causes and values.
Outside, protesters chanted slogans and waved signs.
"We're here for welcoming all immigrants for justice, for dignity, for all human beings," said Maxine Fookson of Portland, a spokesperson for the rights coalition. "We're here because we're opposed to President Trump's executive orders that are divisive, hateful and totally contrary to the values we believe our nation stands for - as a place that welcomes all human beings, with dignity."
People who chose to enter the east side door walked through the gauntlet of chants for about an hour and a half. In addition to the Oregon Liberty Alliance, the convention center on Saturday also featured trades shows for golf equipment and bridal products.
Protesters outside the convention center said the Freedom Rally attracted people who were intolerant of others and who supported the Trump administration's plan to accelerate the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
"We feel the values of the organizations that are affiliated with the Oregon Liberty Alliance are really contrary to the best of American values," Fookson said. "What makes our country great is our diversity (and) inclusivity of all groups."
Harke attributed the higher attendance to the win last year by Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican, who was scheduled to be one of four speakers. The others were author Star Parker, Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
There have not been protesters at the event in its previous three years, Harke said.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact there are some really strong emotions around this election and people have a lot of passion," she said. "That's why people are here - they have issues they feel passionate about.
"We're just here to lend a voice that we feel is underrepresented in Oregon. We feel the voice they're carrying out there is very represented, at least with representation from Portland."
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