The Proud Boys’ plans to bring a large-scale invasion of street-brawling “Patriots” to Portland on Saturday went sideways when their big rally at Delta Park—for which a city permit had been denied because the crowd size was estimated at 20,000—fell flat, with only about 300 mostly out-of-towners showing up in the steady drizzle to demand the city “End Domestic Terrorism.”
Three miles away at Peninsula Park, a crowd of counterprotesters estimated at over 1,000 gathered peacefully. And indeed, despite the governor’s emergency declaration and wide fears about violence, the rallies ended peacefully as both sides went home largely without incident. Later that night, however, the scene became all too familiar as police attacked milling crowds of counterprotesters in the downtown area, along with multiple journalists covering them.
National organizers of the rally—playing largely on outrage and vows of revenge following the August 29 shooting death of a right-wing street brawler downtown—had boasted the event would attract thousands. The permit for which it applied with Portland parks officials had been denied because the request “identified an expected attendance of participants at 10,000 and spectators at 10,000,” well above state COVID-19 restrictions limiting gatherings to 50 people.
When Saturday arrived, however, the crowd turned out to be smallish. Portland police had fenced and closed the park the night before, and carefully monitored people entering the venue when it opened. The final gathering was estimated at a little over 300 participants.
Not all of them were Proud Boys supporters. A sizeable contingent of journalists was present, and some of those were accused of being “antifa” and were surrounded and harassed. One livestreaming journalist, an African American man, was assaulted and kicked in the face by a Proud Boy; police say they are searching for that man now.
When the event got under way, amid a cloud of yellow smoke released under the stage for effect, the small crowd lustily chanted: “Fuck antifa!” and “U-S-A!” Multiple speakers held forth on the evils of antifascists, leftists, Marxists, and Black Lives Matter activists.
One speaker, Carol Leek of Oregon Women for Trump, told the crowd that BLM represents “Black supremacy” and must be combated, as Zane Sparling of the Portland Mercury reported: “This is a war folks, and we have got to fight back,” Leek said.
Leek also urged participants to engage in poll-watching activities around the election: “We’re gonna monitor those ballots when they come in,” adding that her group plans to “protect” ballot drop-off locations in the state.
When the speakers had wrapped, Proud Boys began loading into the back end of pickup trucks, a number of them with paintball guns in hand, apparently prepared to repeat the scene on August 29, when large numbers of pickup-driving Trump fans invaded downtown Portland and engaged in assaults against counterprotesters, as well as firing paintball pellets as bystanders on the sidewalks. However, Oregon State Police checkpoints set up at the park’s exits stopped these vehicles and confiscated the weapons, along with a number of shields, and at least two people were cited by police.
Police also forced all of the exiting participants to leave the park heading north on Interstate 5, away from Portland and over the Columbia River into neighboring Vancouver, Washington, which had served as a staging ground for the rally organizers.
In the meantime, two separate rallies—one organized by antifascists, the other by Black Lives Matter activists—at Peninsula Park attracted over 1,000 participants, who mostly enjoyed soup and speeches over the course of the afternoon and left peacefully. Some of them had brought shields to the rally, but police did not permit them to be unloaded. (Meanwhile, the far-right American Wolf militia group brought stacks of plastic shields to the Delta Park rally that were widely and freely distributed.)
That evening, however, as several hundred of the antifascist protesters re-gathered in downtown Portland, they encountered a large police presence that seemed to use the pretense of a small garbage fire to begin, as Alissa Azar reported, attacking the downtown crowd—many of whom were actually restaurant patrons out for an evening on the town—indiscriminately.
Then for the next couple of hours, police assaults on leftist protesters continued as protesters responded by hurling rocks. Police often countered spoken words with brutal force. One protester was maced holding a sign while gesturing and shouting at police.
Journalists, too, were once again attacked—pushed around an entire block by police who marched at them in a phalanx. One well-known photojournalist, John Rudoff of Portland, age 73, was thrown to the ground by a police officer. “I really am physically OK but am quite annoyed,” he later told The Oregonian. OPB’s Olmos was also assaulted by police—shoved into a tree, making him drop his video camera.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s emergency declaration had given her the power to take control of police behavior Saturday, and it clearly had some effect during the event in tamping down and controlling the violence from the Proud Boys contingent—but then, the increased police presence downtown wound up giving officers more manpower with which to abuse leftist protesters, along with anyone else who happened to be on the streets.
Clearly, the yawning chasm between Portland police and the citizens they are charged with serving and protecting will not be closing anytime soon.