PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the demonstrations planned for August 17 draw closer, the Portland Police Bureau said they’ve been in contact with organizers on both sides in an effort “to achieve the goal of a safe event.”
Saturday’s rally — and the violence it may bring — are a relatively new reality in Portland, as an informal coalition of white nationalists, white supremacists and extreme-right militias hones its focus on Oregon’s largest city as a stand-in for everything it feels is wrong with the US.
At the top of that list are the masked and black-clad anti-fascists — aka, antifa — who turn out to violently oppose right-wing demonstrators as soon as they set foot in town.
Already antifa members issued an online call to their followers to turn out to “defend Portland from a far-Right attack.” Portland’s Rose City Antifa, the nation’s oldest active anti-fascist group, says violence against right-wing demonstrators is “exactly what should happen when the far-right attempts to invade our town.”
None of the city’s nearly 1,000 police officers will have the day off, and Portland will get help from the Oregon State Police and the FBI. Mayor Ted Wheeler has said he may ask Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, to call up the Oregon National Guard.
In a one-on-one interview with KOIN 6 News on August 6, Wheeler said “things will be different” at this planned protest.
On Tuesday, PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw released information about what they know, the areas that will likely be affected and what they’re planning.
“The demonstrations will be impacting a very small area of Portland and I encourage everyone to enjoy what will likely be a beautiful day by engaging in fun activities at a number of community events,” Outlaw said in a statement.
‘Won’t tolerate violence’
Lt. Tina Jones with PPB said Chief Outlaw canceled anyone’s day off and they’ve requested help from other partner agencies for the day.
“We are not tolerating any sort of criminal violence,” Jones told KOIN 6 News.
She admitted “this is going to be kind of gameday fluidity” when the protest begins. But she promised, “You can anticipate a very large law enforcement presence, a visible presence in the area to keep this event safe.”
And Jones re-iterated the police will support everyone’s 1st Amendment right to free speech and assembly.
“But we will not tolerate criminal acts of violence,” she said, “and we will be prepared to take action if that’s what they intend to do that day.”
Though many eyes are on the protesters and the police for this demonstration, Jones said this event “isn’t going to define our city.”
“We’re doing what we can on every level to communicate with everyone in our community.”
Events changing plans
However, some downtown events are making changes due to safety concerns.
The annual “Summer Smoker” boxing match at Kells Irish Pub has been canceled. The Havana Nights themed fundraiser was to be held Saturday evening.
The Roses on the River 5K event was relocated to the Eastbank Festival Plaza at 10 SE Main Street. It was originally to be held on the west side.
The Growler Guys on the south waterfront decided to postpone its scavenger hunt.
“Portland Police Bureau members continue to plan for the up-coming demonstrations and we want to provide our business owners, community members, and visitors with the most current information we have available,” Outlaw said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Who are the protesters
Over the past 3 years a number of protests in Portland have escalated into violent confrontations between right-wing groups and the anti-fascists who oppose them. Here is a brief synopsis of the groups expected to be in Portland on August 17.
The Proud Boys describe themselves as “the world’s greatest fraternal organization” that “is and will always be MEN ONLY (born with a penis if that wasn’t clear enough for you leftists)!”
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Proud Boys ideology as “general hate.”
“Established in the midst of the 2016 presidential election by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys are self-described “western chauvinists” who adamantly deny any connection to the racist “alt-right,” insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda,” the SPLC wrote
The Oath Keepers describe themselves as “a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” They also list a declaration of orders they will not obey.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers general ideology as “antigovernment movement.”
“The Oath Keepers, which claims tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members, is one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today. While it claims only to be defending the Constitution, the entire organization is based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans.”
The Three Percenters describe themselves as “a national organization made up of patriotic citizens who love their country, their freedoms, and their liberty. We are committed to standing against and exposing corruption and injustice. We are NOT a militia. However, we do have meetings on local levels. …”
The Anti-Defamation League describes the Three Percenters as a “wing of the militia movement that arose as part of a resurgence of the militia movement in 2009. The term “Three Percenter” refers to the erroneous belief that only 3% of colonists fought against the British during the Revolutionary War—but achieved liberty for everybody. Three Percenters view themselves as modern day versions of those revolutionaries, fighting against a tyrannical U.S. government rather than the British. With anyone able to declare themselves a Three Percenter, the concept allowed many people to join who were not suited, physically or by inclination, to engage in paramilitary activities. The Three Percenter logo—the Roman numeral III—has become very popular among anti-government extremists.”
Perhaps the best known local right-wing group, Patriot Prayer is led by Vancouver-based Joey Gibson. Its logo is a lion wearing a crown of thorns with blood dripping down its face.
The Patriot Prayer website is filled with local and national content highlighting armed clashes between groups with opposing viewpoints.
There is also a link to a fundraising effort for Gibson’s legal defense stemming from at least one lawsuit filed after a May Day brawl in Portland at Cider Riot
Rose City Antifa
The Rose City Antifa website describes themselves as an organization “founded in Portland, Oregon in October, 2007 to confront fascist organizing taking place in our home town. Our organization formed following the successful efforts of the Ad-Hoc Coalition Against Racism and Fascism to shut down Hammerfest, a neo-Nazi skinhead festival that drew over one hundred boneheads to the Portland area in early October 2007. We seek to continue the work of the Ad-Hoc Coalition, as well as countless anti-racist community organizers, anti-racist skinheads, and other individuals who have worked to oppose racial prejudice and bigotry in our communities.”
Antifa protesters generally wear black masks during events to hide their identity from police and law enforcement agencies.