After the Antifa attack on reporter Andy Ngo became national news, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler decided to take a stand. Well, it wasn’t exactly a stand it was more of a vague statement about “some” who “chose to engage in violence.” Mayor Wheeler wanted these unnamed perpetrators (he never named Antifa) to know he wasn’t having it anymore.
This coming weekend Portland is expected to be the scene of another clash between far-right groups from out of town and homegrown far-left groups, especially Antifa. In anticipation of this, Mayor Wheeler put out a video statement once again saying he won’t tolerate the violence. He promised to “use whatever means necessary” (a phrase that should resonate with Antifa) to prevent violence. Yesterday, Wheeler also had a public gathering of civic leaders to make the point that the entire city is against violence in the streets. Again, it’s worth noting that the Mayor never mentioned Antifa by name. Still, Portland Mercury’s Blogtown reports local far-left activists are upset with the Mayor:
“What’s even more unsafe is letting these movements go unopposed,” says Effie Baum, spokesperson for Popular Mobilization, or PopMob, a group that organizes left-wing rallies. “If we don’t go, they’re going to continue to grow and continue to come back. Honestly, the growing far-right movement is far more dangerous than the decision to show up and oppose it.”
Baum believes the city’s pushback violates Portlanders’ constitutional right to protest…
Baum acknowledges that Portland’s various anti-fascist groups often use different tactics during protests. Some of them can turn violent.
“The bottom line is that we are all on the same team and we all have the same end goals,” Baum says, “which is we don’t want fascists feeling welcome in our community.”
Evan Burchfield, a spokesman for Portland’s Democratic Socialists (DSA) also expressed frustration with Mayor Wheeler’s civic unity event Wednesday:
DSA and other groups who plan on opposing the Proud Boys believe Wheeler’s event is simply an attempt to undercut the August 17 counter-protest.
“Mayor Wheeler has decided that the far-left is just as much as bad as the far-right,” Burchfield says. “And he’s engaging in the erroneous idea that if you just talk sensibly to these people, they will see how wrong they are.”
Actually, there’s good reason to think that right-wing groups would stop showing up in Portland if Antifa didn’t consistently show up in greater numbers and behave badly and often violently. Joe Biggs, the Proud Boys member who is organizing the protest scheduled for this Saturday has specifically said he is coming to confront Antifa: “That group of antifa there in Portland needs to be exposed for who they are.” The right-wing groups are offended by the idea that their views are forbidden in a major American city by a mob of thugs who behave as if they have been given police powers. That’s why these street battles keep happening in Portland, where Antifa has numbers, rather than in San Diego or Los Angeles.
The far-right says they aren’t coming to bring violence but will respond if attacked. Antifa is always willing to engage in violence and has said violence is “exactly what should happen when the far-right attempts to invade our town.” Hopefully, the police will do their job this weekend and keep the two groups apart so that no one gets hurt. But preventing that violence may mean arresting the masked anarchists who are there specifically for that purpose. It remains to be seen if Mayor Wheeler and Portland PD are up to the task.