Demonstrators aligned with Patriot Prayer and an affiliated group, the Proud Boys, gathered around midday in a riverfront park. Small scuffles broke out and police worked to disperse hundreds of right-wing and self-described anti-fascist protesters.
PORTLAND, Ore. — A Patriot Prayer rally drew hundreds of right-wing supporters Saturday to this city’s waterfront, where a heavy police presence sought to separate them from throngs of counterprotesters.
Some marchers wore helmets and ballistic vests, and also brought batons, bats and other weapons to prepare for a possible confrontation. Scuffles did break out, and police made four arrests.
An Oregonian reporter was hit in the head by a bottle, and the police department said it knew of three people treated by medics, with one taken to a hospital for injuries that were not considered life-threatening. But police, using a mix of barricades, vehicles and forces on the ground, mostly kept the main group of marchers way from their opposition, avoiding the kind of head-on rumble that erupted during a June 30 Patriot Prayer march in the city.
City officials and residents braced for the worst Saturday, and tensions ran high.
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A couple of hours in, around 2 p.m., police moved in with flash bangs and other tools to move left-wing protesters off a street they wanted cleared.
Police announced on loudspeakers that they had observed counterprotesters throwing projectiles, including rocks and bottles, at police officers. Police in riot gear then ordered marchers and counterprotesters to disperse from a major intersection near the waterfront. The event then wound down as Patriot Prayer buses arrived.
In the aftermath of the rally, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said she had received allegations that some of the law enforcement actions taken against the counter-protesters had caused injuries, and on Sunday she announced there would be an independent review to determine if any force used was within policies and guidelines.
The rally was the latest undertaking by Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson of Vancouver, Washington, who is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican in Tuesday’s primary. In rallies around the Northwest, he has drawn a mix of the right wing that Saturday included a representative of Bikers for Trump and the Arkansas-based Hiwaymen, a pro-Confederacy group. Some of that group’s members on Saturday wore bandannas or carried other clothing or gear with the markings of the Confederate flag.
There also was a strong showing of the Proud Boys, a fraternal group that describes itself as Western chauvinists and whose numbers have grown in the Pacific Northwest. Its website lists eight ways to “save America” that including shutting down the government and giving everyone a gun.
“This (Portland) is a very liberal town. We are here to show opposing values, conservatism and libertarianism is alive and well in America,” said Dominic Laufenberg, a 22-year-old Proud Boy member from Mount Vernon, Skagit County.
Chants and insults
As the rally got under way, hundreds of counterprotesters faced off with the Patriot Prayer supporters from the other side of a broad avenue, Naito Parkway. They held banners and signs, and many of them yelled chants, such as “Nazis, go home.”
Patriot Prayer supporters hurled insults back, and chanted “USA, USA.” Officers stood in the middle of the four-lane boulevard, essentially forming a wall.
The counterprotesters included labor-union members, immigrant-rights advocates, democratic socialists and anti-fascists, some in black garb with neon-green masks.
A few arrived early enough to mix with Patriot Prayer supporters. Mary Cadien, a Portland mother of four, did. Amid the Patriot Prayer supporters, she held up a sign that declared “Black Lives Matter” and “No human is illegal.”
Another group at the edge of the rally raised money, without incident, for a local Planned Parenthood chapter.
This was the third Patriot Prayer to roil Portland this summer. In addition to the June 30 rally that ended with police declaring a riot, a June 4 event devolved into fistfights and assaults by both sides as police struggled to keep the groups apart.
The police presence in Portland on Saturday included bomb-sniffing dogs and weapons-screening checkpoints. Patriot Prayer has held rallies in other cities around the West, including, Seattle, Olympia and Berkeley, California.
In a statement, police said weapons may be seized if there is a violation of law, adding that it is illegal in Portland to carry a loaded firearm in public unless a person has a Oregon concealed-handgun license.
A coalition of community organizations and a group representing more than 50 tribes warned of the potential for greater violence than at previous rallies if participants carried guns. It called on officials to denounce what it called the “racist and sexist violence of Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys” and to protect the city.
Gibson said in video posted on Facebook this past week that he won’t stop bringing his followers to Portland until they can express their right-wing views without interference.
“Patriot Prayer is continuing to commit violence in our city …” said Effie Baum of Pop Mob, a coalition of community groups organizing the counter-demonstration.
Some Patriot Prayer supporters alleged Saturday that some of the violence was initiated by Antifa supporters.
Updates with police chief calling for investigation into allegations of injuries. Associated Press reporters Manuel Valdes and Gillian Flaccus and Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton contributed to this report.
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