The leader of a conservative group who saw a supporter shot dead in Portland over the weekend strongly criticized people celebrating the death of the man while pushing back on characterizations of his group as a white supremacist organization.
“I knew that these people were low. I knew that Ted Wheeler was low. I knew that Kate Brown was low. I didn’t know that they were that low—They would turn around and called Jay some sort of white supremacist or say white supremacists came down there or say spoiling for a fight, when in their town, a Christian, a conservative, whatever, was shot execution-style, and they have no remorse for what happened,” Joey Gibson said in a video message posted on social media.
“They don’t care. They turn around and attack Jay for political reasons.”
Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a supporter of Patriot Prayer, was hunted down and executed, a witness said. The shooting happened after a pro-President Donald Trump car caravan traveled to Portland from nearby Clackamas County.
Following the shooting, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that Patriot Prayer and militia members drove into the city “armed and looking for a fight.”
“I will not allow Patriot Prayer and armed white supremacists to bring more bloodshed to our streets,” she said.
Danielson was armed but had not fired his gun, according to court records.
Police officials said several skirmishes broke out in the city before the shooting between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators.
Wheeler, Portland’s mayor, blamed Trump supporters and the president himself.
“Yesterday’s events began with hundreds of cars filled with supporters of the president rally in Clackamas County and then driving through downtown Portland. They were supported and energized by the President himself,” Wheeler told reporters on Sunday.
Gibson said when he watched the press conference, he was in disbelief.
“Ted Wheeler looked into that into all of our eyes, and he blatantly and obviously lied, and said that the violence that is happening in the city of Portland, which indirectly he’s saying that Jay being shot in cold blood is the fault of President Trump and white and right-wing extremists and white supremacists,” Gibson said.
“And I lost it at that point. I lost it because this is the direct result of Ted Wheeler and his inability to take care of these criminals, his inability to bring order in the city of Portland.”
Rioting has happened on a near-nightly basis in Oregon’s largest city since May 28.
The offices of Wheeler and Brown didn’t respond to requests for responses to Gibson’s comments.
The Democrats have refused offers of federal assistance to quell the unrest. After the shooting, Brown sent state troopers back to Portland. Another part of her plan to end the violence collapsed when law enforcement officials she requested help from declined to send personnel, citing the new prosecutor’s policy that presumptively declines to pursue some charges filed against protesters and rioters.
The media is helping stoke violence by claiming without evidence that white supremacists and nationalists were involved in the pro-Trump parade, Gibson charged. He noted that the man linked to the shooting is an Antifa member and Black Lives Matter supporter.
Nothing supports the notion that Danielson was involved in extremism, he added.
“The only thing that they can never do to Jay is call him a racist because he lived an amazing life. So they can’t talk about specific examples of who he was and what he did, quotes of him saying hateful things because there is nothing. They can’t show him being violent because he wasn’t violent. They can’t show anything on him, except just claim that he’s some sort of white supremacist,” Gibson said.
“So if you live in the city of Portland, or you’re going through the city of Portland, and you’re a conservative, and you’re a Christian, you better be careful because they find it acceptable to execute you in the streets. And not only will they execute you, the politicians will slander your name. They won’t even say that they’re sorry, they won’t even say that they have remorse. They won’t even say that they need to make changes in their city. They will just call you a white supremacist and justify the violence against you.”
Patriot Prayer has been described by Gibson as helping victims of government overreach. He has described himself as a conservative libertarian in the past.
Critics say Patriot Prayer is far-right and point to Jeremy Joseph Christian taking part in a march organized by the group about a month before stabbing two men in 2017. Gibson condemned what Christian did and said he forced the man to leave the rally because he was behaving oddly.
Patriot Prayer has clashed at times with Antifa and other counter-demonstrators, including last month.
Gibson also urged people to “push back politically, spiritually” but not to “commit any acts of revenge.” He promoted a remembrance event for Danielson scheduled for Saturday in Vancouver, Washington. The event page says the event will be “safe and positive.”
Danielson’s murder has been celebrated by Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
During a protest the same night, a woman said she had just learned the man who was killed was a Patriot Prayer supporter.
“He was a [expletive] Nazi. Our community held its own and took out the trash,” she said, prompting cheers from a large crowd. “I’m not going to shed any tears over a Nazi.”
In an appearance on “Fox News @ Night” on Monday, Gibson said the smears are an attempt “by the far-left to dehumanize people so that we don’t treat them like humans.” He said he is not confident that the person responsible for the killing will be brought to justice.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt told reporters at a recent briefing that his office would prosecute violent crimes that are referred to them but will not prosecute people based on their ideologies or affiliations.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell urged people who witnessed the shooting to come forward so officials can “hold the person who did this responsible for their heinous act.”
Lovell and Gibson both said the shooting took place after the rally. The caravan had already cleared the area.
Danielson remained in Portland because he lived and worked there, Patriot Prayer’s leader said.