The man who was fatally shot during a skirmish with counter-protesters in Portland, Oregon on Saturday night was a supporter of a far-right group that took part in a pro-Trump caravan, the group said on Monday.
Joey Gibson, founder of the group called Patriot Prayer, said the victim of the shooting was a Portland resident and part of the motorcade that clashed with crowds of Black Lives Matter protesters and other protesters on the city streets.
The Portland Police Bureau identified him Monday as Aaron “Jay”
“Jay is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet,” said Gibson of the shooting victim, who was photographed in a Patriot Prayer hat at the scene of the shooting. “Anyone who knows him … nobody would ever want to hurt this guy.”
In an interview near his home in Vancouver, Washington, Gibson added that he regretted Danielson’s shooting.
“Jay was in his hometown and was attacked,” he said. “So I don’t know what else we could have done differently.”
A caravan of hundreds of vehicles – many waving flags in support of President Donald Trump – began Saturday night in Clackamas, a suburb of Portland, a city that has been a center of protests against police brutality for weeks since the death of George Floyd .
Gibson said the proposed route, as organized by local police, was supposed to drive around Portland – but an important turnoff was mistakenly blocked, forcing the fleet of trucks and cars onto the city streets. Chief Chuck Lovell said Sunday that Portland police tried “precautionary measures” to prevent the caravan from reaching downtown, but were unsuccessful.
“All of the trucks, nobody knew where to go, so they all just went to random places,” Gibson said. “They split us into small groups, which actually put more people at risk.”
When asked if anyone in the caravan fired pepper spray or paintballs into the crowd of counter-protesters, Gibson said there were cases of self-defense.
“I think they had a right to defend themselves,” Gibson said. “You should have the right to drive around the city of Portland and you should have the right to defend yourself.”
There were further protests on Sunday evening and at least 29 people were arrested, Portland police said on Monday.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler condemned the violence Sunday, accusing Trump of creating the “hatred and division” that led to the riots. Wheeler also urged those who might “seek retaliation” to stay out of town.
The president continued to take advantage of the turmoil in Portland on Monday and offered to send federal forces into the city.
“Portland is a mess and has been for many years,” tweeted Trump. “If that mayor’s joke doesn’t clear it up, we’ll go in and do it for them!”
The Southern Poverty Law Center says Patriot Prayer is a “far right” group that has been an active force in the Pacific Northwest for at least three years.
Gibson cast Patriot Prayer as a faith-based grassroots group that is particularly focused on protecting the First and Second Amendments. He denied that the group made “hate speech” and said he would pay $ 3,000 each if he found an example of saying “racist things”.
“We promote freedom and God,” said Gibson.
Gibson warned of the dangers of government overreach and supported Trump’s efforts to pressure local leaders to use federal forces.
“I also think it’s wise that he is forcing Ted Wheeler to ask him to bring him help instead of forcing it around town,” he said.
Last year, Gibson and five other men were charged with rioting outside a Portland bar on May 1st.
The lawsuit against Gibson is pending and he is due to appear for a court hearing on October 23, a Multnomah district attorney spokesman said Monday.
Ben Collins, Mohammed Syed and Tim Stelloh contributed.