PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — A burst of pepper spray and a volley of paintball gunfire broke the peace in downtown Portland on Saturday, Aug. 7.
A stand-off between left-wing anti-fascists, often dubbed antifa, and a right-wing group, some of who wore the black-and-yellow colors of the Proud Boys, led to an incongruous clash as pedestrians and tourists on tandem bicycles strolled past at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Posters on social media had advertised a gathering led by Pastor Artur Pawlowski at noon near the Battleship Oregon Memorial off Southwest Naito Parkway — but the first confrontation began closer to the Salmon Street Springs.
Dozens of black-clad counter protesters pushed into the right-wing band, hurling a flash grenade and spurring Portland Police Bureau squad cars onto the grass under the mid-day sun. The right-wing group marched to their announced gathering point in response.
“Antifa had threatened to beat people up and do what they do — and then they showed up and did it,” an attendee from the right-wing side said. “The police were not even far from there and they were laughing in their vehicles and doing their thing. It’s probably hard to care as an officer in a place where they take away all your funding.”
Several speakers preached to the crowd of perhaps a few more than 50, while the original band dressed in black appeared to consider the confrontation a success. But soon a dozen or so counter-protesters trickled over to the memorial, leading to shouting matches.
After 90 minutes or so, the religious event concluded. But those providing security to the event — armed with paintball guns, batons and other weapons — were forced out of the park by the counter-demonstrators, who unleashed a blast of pepper spray a few blocks away. Right wingers fired a paintball gun in response, while a Portland Police squad car whooped its siren to no effect just a few feet away.
Both sides soon separated, with the right-wingers piling into a pick-up truck and departing for parts unknown on the east side.
One lefty demonstrator, a 64-year-old Portlander named Wade Varner, said he was merely passing through the park with his dog, Traffic, but said he felt obligated to challenge those on the right.
“The Nazis came out and we drove them off again,” said Varner, describing himself as a Navy veteran who served on the U.S.S. Fulton. “I’m sitting here, totally unarmed, in a wheelchair, and this f—ker shoots me in the face with a paintball.”
No arrests were made during the confrontation.
A leader for the PDX Proud Boys disavowed the group seen downtown, saying they were “unknown individuals… mimicking” their outfits while the real organization was out cleaning graffiti in downtown Gresham.
“Funny how acts of that nature never get publicized,” the organizer said. “Nevertheless, we specifically warned the church group of the dangers the local government controlled domestic terrorist antifa would impose on them. Unfortunately, everyone now sees how the police will not show up, support, or protect women and children like we do.”
Portland police said the fight broke out immediately once the groups converged but was “over prior to any police response,” PPB’s Derek Carmon told KOIN 6 News.
“As the groups left, there was a report of another small fight that was over prior to police response. No arrests were made and no one came forward to report any crimes that we are aware of. Police had no interaction with either group today,” he said in an email.
KOIN 6 News contributed to this report