On June 30, I attended a rally in Portland, Oregon, put on by a group called Patriot Prayer, at which Antifa and other militia-like groups congregated and fought. Patriot Prayer has said they will continue marches in Portland until everyone who wants to can march safely, because Antifa has threatened and carried out violent responses to others’ attempts to exercise free speech.
On August 4, people are going to come in from all over the United States for another rally, and I’m worried about what might happen given that police did not prevent violence last time. I have attended several of these marches over the last year up and down the west coast. It feels like the violence and lawlessness is increasing, especially due to lack of police action as protesters brawl.
For the June 30 rally, Patriot Prayer worked with the Department of Homeland Security and the Portland Police Bureau to get the permits needed and to plan a march that they hoped would be safe for the participants. The police, under supervision of DHS, established a no-weapons zone and searched the participants and all who entered the park. No guns, mace, bear spray, Tasers, or anything that could be used as a weapon.
All of the flag poles I looked at were hollow PVC pipe. Anyone found with a weapon or banned item at the checkpoint was arrested.
Another group, Proud Boys, came in to provide protection for the march participants. Both local and several out of state chapters attended the event. While the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them an alt-right hate group, they contend that they are not at all alt-right and accept people regardless of race or sexual orientation.
What happened at the last rally, in my estimation, was preventable. The police made sure the people attending the rally were disarmed (not even mace) and all of those people readily agreed to the conditions knowing they would be arrested if they did not comply. It was obvious that no one surrounding the park — i.e., Antifa — would face similar searches and could be carrying an assortment of weapons.
Because of this, it was imperative that the police provide protection on the pre-planned march route, because the marchers had voluntarily disarmed. The police didn’t. A police escort flanked the marchers on the east side and used moveable barricades on the roads intersecting on the west side. Antifa and black bloc anarchists just went around to the side streets and attacked from there.
Below is the story in pictures.
This was the entrance into the park, a federal plaza. Security inside and around the park was through DHS. To get in to the park you had to submit to a search of your things and if it was found you were carrying any kind of a weapon you were subject to arrest.
Originally, the attendees were told they could bring mace in quantities of less than two ounces. Rules were changed once they got there. For anyone wondering why they would want to carry mace or pepper spray, several people have been attacked on the way out of rallies while returning to their vehicles. They were allowed to keep helmets, safety glasses, and protective gear.
Portland Police guarding the northwest corner of the Federal Plaza. Across the street is Chapman Park, where Antifa and black bloc were gathering.
There was a significant amount of police in and around the park. I saw officers from DHS, the county sheriff, and Portland Police. The park was secure and free from violence. The protestors on the other side were yelling epithets and sometimes throwing things, but you could easily avoid interaction with them by stepping away from the barrier.
People mingled and waited for the speeches and music to start. There were people from Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
I walked around the borders of the park to take a look at the outside. These three were at the entrance to the plaza with the woman doing all of the talking. She yelled at the police about their jobs (she thought police were a waste of her tax dollars) and about the racist people inside the park and how guarding them was a waste of the public’s money. Remember these three, as we encounter them a few photos down.
While walking to Chapman Park, I came across these people, who were masking up to join Antifa and black bloc there.
In Chapman Park. Protestor stands with her sign facing away from the Federal Plaza.
Antifa hanging out on the backside of Chapman Park.
Police in riot gear wait for the march to start.
Remember these three? They moved down the front of the barricades closer to Chapman Park, where most of Antifa was waiting and continuing to argue with officers who then began to ask them to leave.
This man appeared in front of me as I was walking back towards the Federal Plaza and the Patriot Prayer gathering. He wouldn’t say anything when spoken to, just held up his sign higher. I am not sure who or what he represents other than the usual Keep Portland Weird scene.
Here we are again. These three. The woman decided to engage this Proud Boy. Conversation went along the lines of race and race betrayal. Both held their own until they were asked to leave the barrier.
Shortly after I took the picture above, one of the two men outside of the barricade, who was asked to leave, refused. He was then arrested. It was one of the few arrests of the day.
Back inside Terry Schrunk Federal Plaza, the rally begins with speeches and songs.
Patriot Prayer founder and Washington state U.S. Senate candidate Joey Gibson called on everyone to bend a knee for prayer. It is the only thing, he said, that you should bend a knee for.
Gibson addresses the group before they left for their march.
Getting ready for the march, Joey pumps up the crowd with words of encouragement. A large contingent of Proud Boys were at the front and rear of the marchers to provide extra security. They would be needed.
Proud Boys traveled from several states to be a part of this rally and to provide security.
Someone started yelling out “I pledge allegiance…” and the crowd jumped in and finished with him.
Attendees started the march and were greeted on the corner with this scene. Antifa and other protestors swarmed over from the park into the street screaming things like, “Racist mother-ckers! Go home, Nazis! Lights out, alt-right!”
Antifa and other protestors swarm out into the street at the back end of the protest. They were taking pictures, using airhorns, and screaming at the marchers.
A few seconds into the march someone (the guy in the middle) threw firecrackers and Antifa and black bloc surged forward even more. It made me nervous so I started to retreat.
As I was retreating, DHS, or maybe Portland Police, started firing pellet guns for crowd control. It got very loud, very quick. According to Antifa’s social media posts several of the crowd was hit. They pulled back and the tail end of the marchers got safely past with the police following behind them.
As the Patriot Prayer contingent marched forward there were other protestors screaming “Racists!,” “Bigots!” “F-ck you!” and taking pictures of them.
These people ignored police orders to get back from Patriot Prayer.
The police start to load up onto their vehicles to follow the marchers from behind.
This is the moment the march turned the corner and were confronted with the sight of Antifa coming up the side street. Antifa had taken down barriers and were pouring up the street in large numbers. Shortly after this some kind of explosives were thrown and detonated in the middle of the crowd here.
The moment the two sides met up.
I talked to the Proud Boy in the helmet above and asked what was happening. He said he was pulling that person off of someone to separate them. There were dozens of brawls going on in this street at that moment. Antifa tossed at least three different homemade improvised explosive devices into the crowd in this block as well as spraying copious amounts of pepper spray. The groups eventually separated and the march resumed.
This is the next block up on the march that had been closed off by police with barricades. Antifa just went around it and came towards the march again.
The two sides meet up again: Antifa and a Proud Boy. Immediately after this, fights started on every side of me and all up and down the street. The man with the red scarf in the back is holding a weapon of some sort under his arm. Remember, anyone attending the Patriot Prayer event had been disarmed of anything that even resembled a weapon.
These are Sharps/black bloc/Antifa. The man in the denim vest (also giving the finger in the picture above) in the middle of turning away had just been punched in the face by someone from the march.
Here’s the brawl that started a moment later. I was surrounded on all sides by brawls.
Police in riot gear clearing the streets and breaking up the fighting. Portland police held everyone there for around five minutes and then on a loudspeaker told everyone to return to the plaza. The march had been declared a riot and permits were revoked.
Streets are cleared and everyone started the walk back to the park a few blocks away. Medics started attending to the injured across the street.
I took some pictures of the injured at the park. Many people had been pepper-sprayed repeatedly by Antifa. The telltale sign is the milk of magnesia that they wear from rinsing their eyes and skin. Looking over my pictures later, I discovered a discarded can of wasp spray as well.
Hit in the head with an asp.
Pepper sprayed and hit in the forearm with a blunt object.
Pepper sprayed and hit in the head with a blunt object. At this point I ceased taking pictures and was trying to figure out my exit from the park. Antifa and black bloc were still at the exit to the park and the Department of Homeland Security was clearing the park and demanding that everyone leave.
Most people had nowhere to go, as they had taken a chartered bus in from Vancouver in an effort to prevent their tires from being slashed, which has happened in the past. While I knew I could leave the park and walk to my car, I didn’t want to be followed. Eventually police used flash bangs to disperse the crowd of protestors so people from Patriot Prayer could leave safely.
The one thing that always sticks with me when I attend these events, especially as I look at the images I took, is the hatred and anger from the people “protesting” Patriot Prayer. It is disconcerting to look at all the faces, even through the protection and emotional distance of a camera lens, screaming and spitting and throwing things. They are enraged, and use foul language. They hate you, and want to physically harm and intimidate you.
In following up I asked Portland Police about how they managed the march, why they changed the route, and did not keep the two groups separate. I also asked about the explosions I heard and felt. This was the response I got from Portland Police’s public information officer:
The Police Bureau attempts to ensure a safe environment so community members may exercise their First Amendment to free speech and assembly, as well as ensure safety for community members not participating in events. The Police Bureau assesses multiple aspects of an event and determines the best course of action after careful assessment and understanding of the capabilities of the assets available at an event.
It was the Police Bureau’s desire to have the pre-planned route followed.
The Police Bureau cannot limit access to public areas based on a person or group’s political ideology or past behavior. Events, like the event on June 30, 2018, are extremely complicated and difficult to ensure for the safety of all those around. There are people that arrive at events that have the intention of participating in criminal behavior.
I do not know that we have located and investigated the specific types of fireworks being thrown during the event; however, I am aware that officers reported hearing items that made loud booms during the event.
Sergeant Chris Burley
Public Information Officer
Portland Police Bureau
Kathryn Townsend of Patriot Prayer said the march had been planned with the police, who had promised to keep the two groups separate. “We were supposed to have a police escort in front, in back and on the sides. In fact, the police told David [the march organizer] to get the permit SO they could help us. They said they couldn’t protect us UNLESS we got a permit.”
She went on to say, “I trusted the safety plans so much, I even told people not to worry, [that] Antifa will be [kept] away from us. It feels now like a set up.”