Arrests and clashes as rival right and left rallies descend on Portland again | US news


Police in Portland, Oregon, declared a civil disturbance and made six arrests on Saturday evening as they once again struggled to contain conflict between contending protest groups in the city’s downtown area.

Using fences, barricades and tapes, police kept rightwing and leftwing protests confined to opposite parks for several hours starting from noon.

But after the small rightwing group left their rally venue around 4pm, they were pursued through downtown blocks for an hour by a much larger group of antifascist protesters, who had broken from their own rally.

Ensuing confrontations were much less violent than at similar events earlier in the year, but there were a number of skirmishes, and protesters deployed pepper spray, fireworks, smoke bombs and silly string.

Police tried to keep up with the groups, and to break up the larger antifascist contingent, but were unable to prevent a number of face-to-face confrontations.

A final standoff around 5pm outside a parking garage ended when police moved in and formed a protective wall around the remnant group of rightwingers, covering their exit.

One of the last rightwingers out was Joey Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer movement, whose contentious rallies have taken place in the city for almost two years. Patriot Prayer rallies have frequently culminated in violence, and have consistently drawn large counter-protests.

Saturday’s rightwing protest was billed as a “HimToo” rally, and speakers proffered anecdotes about “false rape accusations” and other “Men’s Rights” talking points, in response to what they alleged were the excesses of the #MeToo movement.

Other speakers offered conspiracy theories about the involvement of billionaire and philanthropist George Soros in the #MeToo movement, and the role of industrial chemicals in “emasculating” men.

Many attendees and speakers were closely associated with Gibson and the Patriot Prayer group, including organiser, Haley Adams. At around 40 people, it was smaller than Patriot Prayer events held through the summer.

A counter-protest drew a broad range of leftwing groups together under the banner, “Survivors are Everywhere”, and focused on victims of sexual assault. At its largest, it drew around 350 people. Attendees included antifascists clad in “black bloc” outfits, and a large contingent from the Portland Democratic Socialists of America.

Co-chair of Portland DSA, Olivia Katbi Smith, told the crowd that Patriot Prayer were “out-and-out fascists”, adding that “the only thing that will stop a bunch of fascists is a bigger group of antifascists”. She thanked black bloc groups for protecting the rally.

Other speakers criticised the Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, who earlier in the week failed to pass through the city’s council a special ordinance intended to put “time and place” restrictions on protests by groups with a history of violence. The ordinance was a response to the long string of Patriot Prayer events in the city, including one held in the wake of a double murder on the city’s commuter train in June 2017.

Leftwing and civil libertarian groups – including the ACLU – had criticised the ordinance as unnecessary, and urged Wheeler to instead enforce existing laws.

Only a handful of the rightwing group wore the colours of the “Proud Boys” fraternity, which has been associated with violence and riots at previous events hosted by Patriot Prayer.

But attendees included Billy Sessions and his neo-confederate “Hiwaymen” group, which attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017.



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