For 10 years, the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association has kicked off the city of Portland’s annual Rose Festival with a family-friendly parade meant to attract crowds to its diverse neighborhood.
Set to march in the parade’s 67th spot this year was the Multnomah County Republican Party, a fact that so outraged two self-described antifascist groups in the deep blue Oregon city that they pledged to protest and disrupt the April 29 event.
Then came an anonymous and ominous email, according to parade organizers, that instructed them to cancel the GOP group’s registration — or else.
“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 violent riots that hit Portland after the 2016 presidential election, reported the Oregonian. “This is nonnegotiable.”
The email said that 200 people would “rush into the parade” and “drag and push” those marching with the Republican Party.
“We will not give one inch to groups who espouse hatred toward LGBT, immigrants, people of color or others,” it said.
On Tuesday, the business association buckled, announcing it would cancel the parade altogether.
“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,” the group said in a statement.
The “antifascist” groups Oregon Students Empowered and Direct Action Alliance were behind the organized protests scheduled for the parade Saturday but told the Oregonian they had nothing to do with the anonymous email.
A petition to bring back the parade garnered nearly 200 signatures online, but on Wednesday organizers stood firmly beside their decision.
“It’s all about safety for our fans, first and foremost. If we can’t provide safety for our fans, there’s no use in trying,” Rich Jarvis, spokesman for the Rose Festival Foundation, told the Oregonian. “Our official position is we’re extremely sad about this.”
Online, others were outraged, calling members of the antifascist groups who planned to protest “snowflakes,” “anti-American” and “a bunch of chickens and brats.”
“Shutting down free speech is the (epitome) of fascism,” one person wrote on Facebook. “This is America.”
The free speech uproar in Portland reflects controversies across the country, particularly on college campuses, where speakers with conservative and sometimes extreme right-wing ideologies have been met with occasionally violent protests or threats of protests.
Appearances by former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer and, most recently, conservative commentator Ann Coulter have all been disrupted or canceled.
In a statement, Direct Action Alliance said it was “disappointed” that the parade was canceled but added that “no Portland child will see a march in support of this fascist regime go unopposed.”
James Buchal, chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party, said in a statement that his group wants the parade to continue.
“The bottom line is that Portland needs to choose between supporting terrorist thugs and protecting average citizens who want to participate in their community,” Buchal said. “The Multnomah County Republican Party is not composed of ‘Nazis’ and ‘white supremacists’ and those who think we would tolerate marching in a parade with folks carrying swastikas are delusional.”