Throng greets Sen. Merkley at Lents rally

See what the room looked like, filled far beyond rated capacity, when the senator held his rally on the Marshall Campus in outer East Portland …

People stream into the temporary home of Franklin High School in the Lents neighborhood, to hear and catch a glimpse of U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The former location of Marshall High School, temporarily called the Franklin High School Marshall Campus, isn’t easy to access. In the front is a narrow two-lane road that leads west of SE 92nd Avenue; and from behind, a gated entrance accessed from the back of Eastport Plaza.

This lack of accessibility didn’t stop thousands of loyal supporters from traveling to a rally held by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley on the afternoon of January 28.

Standing, shoulder to shoulder, supporters of Senator Jeff Merkley pack the school’s cafeteria.

A half hour before the rally was scheduled to begin, the large glass-walled school cafeteria – posted at a maximum capacity of 1,000 persons – was filled with participants. When the rally began at 2:00 p.m., people were picked 20 wide in the staircase leading down to the room.

Three days later, on the MSNBC Rachel Maddow show, Merkley said he believed attendance at this event was huge: “… 3,700 citizens showed up to weigh in about how angry they are, how frustrated they are …”

With the crowd opened for him to pass through by a Portland Police Officer, Senator Jeff Merkley makes his way to the front of the room.

Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson welcomes the gathered throng.

After Merkley wound is way from the back of the room through the pressing but cheering crowd, newly-minted Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson kicked off the rally and introduced the senator.

In his opening remarks, Merkley’s remarks did not disappoint his minions.

Senator Merkley revs up the crowd by denouncing, condemning, and criticizing President Donald Trump’s first ten days in office.

“Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, but the Cabinet is full of swamp monsters,” Merkley proclaimed, going on to define the “monsters” as “bankers, big oil, billionaires, and bigots.”

Although Merkley didn’t touch on any local issues during his 45 minute speech, Centennial Community Association Chair Tom Lewis (speaking for himself, not his neighborhood association) said, “It was important to me to see our local people there.”

Vowing to slow or stop President Trump’s cabinet picks and U.S. Supreme Court nominees, Senator Merkley says he’ll do all he can to hinder their selection.

After the event, Lewis told East Portland News acknowledged the presence of Multnomah County’s Jessica Vega Pederson, new Portland City Councilor Chloe Eudaly, and other prominent local and state Democratic Party members.

“The takeaways for me was that Senator Merkley talked about how we need to harness the enthusiasm of those gathered and infuse it into local efforts everywhere across this country,” Lewis said. “The positive thing is that people want to do something, and still feel connected, and find something to feel passionate about.”

With the room packed with people, late arrivals watch from outside the glass wall, from the campus square.

After the rally, Merkley joined with other protesters at Portland International Airport, decrying President Donald Trump’s executive order to suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and institute a 90-day ban on all entry to the United States from citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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