Protest of 'left-wing violence' in Oregon draws small crowds as police make their presence scarce, leaving both sides to just shout at each other.
PORTLAND, OR — The scene that unfolded Sunday at Waterfront Park in downtown Portland during the planned “Patriot Prayer” rally may not have been what anyone had in mind when it was first organized as a protest against “leftist violence” in the city. It certainly was different from past rallies of a similar nature, in which dozens were arrested and brawls nearly escalated to full riots.
For starters, there were a lot fewer people — only about 100 on each side, divided between black-clad anarchists and antifascists, and an agglomeration of Trump-supporting “Patriots,” including some white nationalists and skinheads, as well as “III Percent” militiamen and LaVoy Finicum fans.
There were also virtually no police to be found. Unlike previous confrontations, when police phalanxes kept the two sides separated, the opposing sides confronted each other face to face.
“We don’t necessarily want the police here, because we want to be able to talk these things out,” said event organizer Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer, a Portland-based group that specializes in rallies around the Northwest seemingly aimed at provoking far-left and anarchist groups, as the rally began.
The result was both predictable and familiar — a number of brawls broke out between the two sides, and the affair threatened to turn into a riot several times. There were plenty of verbal interchanges, but no one on either side seemed to have any kind of change of heart.
Fairly typical was the exchange between two women who got into a face-to-face conversation with two red-capped Trump supporters. One pointed at the women: “Shame on you for trying to be a man.” His companion asked them: “Where are the men in antifa? Why do they send their women over here?”
A cluster of antifascist protesters came charging in a line toward the Patriots’ rally a little after 1 p.m., but they were met by a phalanx of alt-right activists, including a cluster of red-hatted “Proud Boys” — the white nationalist “warriors” dedicated to opposing far-left protests — and the charge was blunted.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon, battle lines kept moving and reforming. The “Patriots” marched north up the waterfront for a ways, but were consistently confronted by antifascists determined to block their way. Fights kept breaking out, as did occasional blasts of pepper spray. The protesters sprinkled the right-wing rallygoers with silly string and glitter, as well as a constant barrage of disparagement. The alt-righters formed lines of defense, with the smirking “Proud Boys” standing in front, bantering with the protesters.
Before the rally, organizers promised the critics who talked with them that racist elements had been denounced and uninvited from the rally. Yet in addition to the Proud Boys, a number of Portland-area activists from Identity Evropa — the openly white-supremacist alt-right student group — including local leader Jake Von Ott were visibly present in the crowd; several of them, notably Von Ott, participated in (and appeared to spark) several of the brawls.
The Patriot group ended the day with a march up into downtown along city streets to another downtown park where several more speeches were heard. Then they retreated back to the waterfront, where clusters of alt-right supporters and protesters continued to hold conversations — which tapered off as everyone gradually returned to their cars, and remained reliably fruitless.
According to the Oregonian, police arrested three people — a 16-year-old, 24-year-old Jonny Perez, and 21-year-old Tusitala Toese, who has a habit of playing a starring role in the brawls at Patriot Prayer events — on disorderly-conduct charges.
Gibson is promising a continuing slate of such rallies, including one in Seattle next Sunday titled “Freedom Rally Seattle”. On the event’s Facebook page, Gibson explains:
The West Coast has slowly been infected with communist ideologies throughout our entire culture. It is a belief that the individual is weak and that we are all victims. This is the lie of the century. No matter who you are, we are all amazing people with the ability to do anything that we put our minds to. These liberal strongholds run off of hatred and negativity. Patriot Prayer will bring in a positive message to Seattle that the people are starving for. With light we will change the hearts and minds of those who are surrounded by darkness.
Gibson is planning to attempt an event on Aug. 26 at Crissy Field Beach in San Francisco, while another Portland event is planned for Sept. 10.
Most of Gibson’s previous rallies have been in similar settings — including an attempted provocation in downtown Portland the week after a man stabbed two light-rail MAX passengers to death while spouting Alt-Right ideology, and a protest on the campus of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, amid turmoil there over racial policies.
In his speeches, Gibson spouts “love” and “understanding” and claims that the rallies are about dialogue — while wearing a “Hillary For Prison” T-shirt and telling his audience that Islam is not a religion, it’s “an ideology.” What they are much more clearly about is an attempt to provoke black-clad ideologues on the left into acts of violence.
When confronted at Sunday’s rally by protesters about the presence of obvious white-nationalist elements — including a “Pepe” banner and another one from “Kekistan” — many of the “Patriot” rally-goers shrugged it off as just “trolling,” an attempt to provoke an angry response.
By day’s end, it was clear that was, in effect, what their rally itself was about: a gigantic troll of Portland’s liberal establishment.