Police in Portland, OR are facing criticism for their handling of a white supremacist rally on Saturday organized by the extremist groups Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys. Four people were arrested and several were injured, but the scale of violence was considerably less than many had expected.
The white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups—totaling about 400, according to media reports—were confronted by a coalition of about 1,000 counterprotesters, including antifa, Social Democrats, clergy, and community groups, at a riverfront park, and as the march progressed, police kept the two sides apart by moving down the middle of a four-lane boulevard.
But police dressed in riot gear moved to break up the afternoon rally by charging counterprotesters and deploying dozens of “flash bang” devices and tear gas, after claiming that the cops had been hit with bottles, rocks, and other projectiles. Some of the counterdemonstrators disputed that claim. One woman was taken to the hospital with a fractured arm after being struck with a “flash bang” grenade.
“[T]he first missile I saw and heard came from the Patriot Prayer side, across the street, towards the protesters,” Portland photographer Doug Brown told The Guardian.
According to The Guardian:
Eric Ward, executive director of civil rights organization Western States Center, said that while he believed some counterprotesters made some “bad decisions” by bringing weapons, the police charge “punished every counterprotester for the actions of a few”.
This collective punishment, he said “doesn’t align with the treatment of the Proud Boys and [Patriot Prayer leader] Joey Gibson”.
Gibson had earlier told the Patriot Prayer group that a deal with police meant that they would not be searched in exchange for confining themselves to a barricaded area. No weapons searches were carried out on the Patriot Prayer group.
The police tweeted their justification:
In a statement reported by ThinkProgress, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said, “Unfortunately, today, some people chose to commit illegal acts of violence, which required members of the Police Bureau to take action in order to keep all participants and non-participants safe.”
Video captured the police surge:
“Police in Portland, of all cities, siding with & protecting nazis ‘proud boys’ and ‘prayer...’ some shit,” comedian Kathy Griffin wrote on Twitter.
Others said the police tactics helped prevent the large-scale violence that had been anticipated, particularly following a previous violent Patriot Prayer event in the largely liberal city last June.
[T]he heavy-handed police tactics—including placing hundreds of riot cops between the adversarial groups—appeared to avert the outcome darkly hinted at by national progressive media for the past two weeks: that right-wing groups would wreak havoc and even kill someone.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, Portland police managed to keep the two groups of warring protesters—Patriot Prayer supporters and their antifascist opposition—separate for hours. Officers confiscated weapons, posting photos of sticks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks and a baseball bat wrapped in a Kekistan flag.
Gibson, who is campaigning for the U.S. Senate in Washington State, called the rally an “excellent day.”
Another organizer, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, said “today is a big win for America,” and “the cops did their jobs and we’re proud of them,” The Guardian reported.
Toese, coincidentally, was sporting one of the most disgusting T-shirts imaginable, celebrating the murderous Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the victims he had tossed out of helicopters to their deaths:
Here’s the back of his shirt:
Also, there was this guy:
Another rally is planned for Aug. 18 in Seattle.