PORTLAND — Deeply concerned about the level of unrest, property damage and even violence seen here since Donald Trump’s election Nov. 8 as U.S. President, a local Christian ministry teamed up with outgoing Mayor Charlie Hales to organize a visible demonstration of hope and healing late last month.
As it turned out, the Nov. 22 Praise March for Hope in downtown Portland was reluctantly canceled by Hales at the last minute because of continued unrest. However, about 100 Christians opted instead to hold a prayer rally at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
In cancelling the march, Hales cited a counter-demonstration that actvist group Portland Resistance had called at the same time to condemn alleged “police brutality” against peaceful protesters over the previous week.
“The goal of this march was to show solidarity with our vulnerable communities and demonstrate that as Portlanders we are all stronger together,” said Hales in a prepared statment. “I am disappointed the March of Hope cannot move forward as planned.”
The march was proposed by IP (International Praise) Fest. a Portland ministry that each summer holds a downtown festival involving Christians from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
“Those of us on the IP Fest board have been seeing what is going on in our city, and just like you we have been praying for God’s peace and rest in our region. Praying that God would intervene and that nobody would get hurt,” wrote Pastor Justine Rosales in an email to the city’s clergy. She said the board on Nov. 16 had a “divine encounter” at City Hall with Hales’ staff, “They were not only open but even relieved that the ‘leaders of God’ were stepping forward to bring hope back into our city,” she added.
That led to Hales holding a press conferene with IP Fest leaders outside City Hall on Nov. 17 to an-nounce plans for the march, which was to start at Southwest Salmon Street and Naito Parkway and proceed up to the Steel Bridge.
IP Fest leaders said the march’s aim was “to declare the love of God, peace and respect for all who live here.”
James Autry of the ministry coalition Serving Our Neighbors was among Christian leaders who had planned to take part. He said the impromptu prayer rally served essentially the same purpose as the march.
“It was a time of coming together to say that we love our city, and we want restoration, reconcilation and forgiveness, all the things we stand for and aren’t against,” he said.
While protests have been widespread in major U.S. cities, Portland has received particular attention due to incidents of rioting.