Some arrested as right-wing rally in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Small scuffles broke out Saturday as police in Portland, Oregon, deployed “flash bang” devices and other means to disperse hundreds of right-wing and self-described anti-fascist protesters.
There were arrests and some injuries, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many. A reporter for The Oregonian/OregonLive was bloodied when he was struck by a projectile. Eder Campuzano said later on Twitter he was “okay.”
Demonstrators aligned with Patriot Prayer and an affiliated group, the Proud Boys, gathered around mid-day in a riverfront park.
Hundreds of demonstrators faced them from across the street, holding banners and signs with opposition messages such as “Alt right scum not welcome in Portland.” Some chanted “Nazis go home.”
Officers stood in the middle of the four-lane boulevard, essentially forming a wall to keep the two sides separated.
The counter-protesters were made up of a coalition of labor unions, immigrant rights advocates, democratic socialists and other groups. They included people dressed as clowns and a brass band blaring music.
The rally organized by Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson was the third to roil Portland this summer. Two previous events ended in bloody fistfights and riots, and one counter-protester was sent to the hospital with a skull fracture.
This time, Gibson changed the venue from a federal plaza outside U.S. District Court to a waterfront park so some of his Oregon supporters could carry concealed weapons as they demonstrate.
Gibson disputed the group’s classification by some as a hate group.
“We’re here to promote freedom and God. That’s it,” Gibson told Portland TV station KGW while walking with demonstrators. “Our country is getting soft.”
Protesters saw a significant police presence that included bomb-sniffing dogs and weapons screening checkpoints. In a statement, police said weapons may be seized if there is a violation of law and added that it is illegal in Portland to carry a loaded firearm in public unless a person has a valid Oregon concealed handgun license.
Among the things police confiscated were long sticks and homemade shields.
Just before 2 p.m., police in riot gear ordered people to leave an area downtown, saying demonstrators had thrown rocks and bottles at officers.
“Get out of the street,” police announced via loudspeaker.
Gibson’s insistence on bringing his supporters repeatedly to this liberal city has crystallized a debate about the limits of free speech in an era of stark political division. Patriot Prayer also has held rallies in many other cities around the U.S. West, including Berkeley, California, that have drawn violent reactions.