WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Oregon, light rail train.
“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable,” Trump said on Twitter. “The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”
Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53, were killed as they tried to stop Jeremy Joseph Christian from harassing the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, authorities say. Another man who stepped in was seriously injured.
Christian’s social media postings indicate an affinity for Nazis and political violence. He was charged with aggravated murder, intimidation — the state equivalent of a hate crime — and being a felon in possession of a weapon and was scheduled to be in court Tuesday.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday that he hopes the men’s actions inspire “changes in the political dialogue in this country.”
He asked the federal government and organizers to cancel a “Trump Free Speech Rally” and other similar events set to be held in the city next weekend, saying the community is sad and angry and the rallies are inappropriate and could be dangerous.
He says his main concern is the participants are “coming to pedal a message of hatred,” saying hate speech is not protected by the Constitution.
A Facebook page for the event says there would be speakers and live music in “one of the most liberal areas on the West Coast.” It thanks Trump “for all you have done.”
Some had called for the president to respond to the attack earlier, including former CBS broadcaster Dan Rather and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon.
“I hope we rise to the memory of these two gentlemen who lost their lives,” Wheeler said, adding that he appreciated Trump’s words but stressing actions. “Let’s do them honor by standing with them and carrying on their legacy of standing up to hate and bigotry and violence.”
The mother of one of the targets of the rant said she was overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness for the strangers who died defending her daughter, 16-year-old Destinee Mangum.
Dyjuana Hudson posted a photo on her Facebook page Saturday of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, saying: “Thank you thank you thank you. … You will always be our hero. … I’m soooooo sorry this happened.” On Sunday, Hudson posted a video with her daughter saying they were traumatized.
Mangum told news station KPTV that she and her 17-year-old friend were riding the train when Christian started yelling at them. She said her friend is Muslim, but she’s not.
“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country,” Mangum said. “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves.”
The teens moved toward the back of the train, preparing to get off at the next stop.
“And then we turned around while they were fighting, and he just started stabbing people, and it was just blood everywhere, and we just started running for our lives,” Mangum said.
Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was stabbed in the neck. His girlfriend, Miranda Helm, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Sunday that Portland State University student was recovering his strength in the hospital and eating.
Telephone messages left at the home of Christian’s mother Sunday and Monday were not returned. It was not clear if he had a lawyer yet.
Tomica Clark told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she has known Christian since elementary school. She said she was surprised to hear people call Christian a racist. Clark is black and said Christian had a lot of black friends.
“He never disrespected me,” Clark said, but added that he changed after he got out of prison.
“Prison took the real him away,” she said.