PORTLAND, Oregon—Police say a Proud Boys rally and counter-protests in Portland, Oregon, have largely dispersed without serious violence Saturday, though they are investigating an assault after one person who was documenting the event was pushed to the ground and kicked in the face.
Separately, police said a criminal citation was issued after officials confiscated firearms, paintball guns, baseball bats and shields from a pick-up truck belonging to right-wing protesters that was initially stopped for having obscured license plates as it left the rally.
Several hundred people gathered at the Proud Boys rally to support President Donald Trump and to condemn the violence that has been occurring for more than three months during “Black Lives Matter” and “Antifa” protests on Saturday afternoon. The attendance was far fewer than the 10,000 organizers had expected.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) declared an emergency on Friday ahead of the rally as state and local law enforcement moved to shore up law enforcement ranks as left-wing groups organized several rallies to oppose the Proud Boys’ message. About 1,000 counter-protesters gathered at another park.
Brown said she was sending state troopers to help the Portland police.
I’m pleased to say that through the unified efforts of Oregon State Police, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Portland Police, events earlier today were free from serious violence. Thanks to those who demonstrated peacefully. May that continue throughout the evening.
— Chief Chuck Lovell (@ChiefCLovell) September 27, 2020
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said on Twitter Saturday evening, “I’m pleased to say that through the unified efforts of Oregon State Police, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Portland Police, events earlier today were free from serious violence.
“Thanks to those who demonstrated peacefully. May that continue throughout the evening,” he said.
The Proud Boys events began at noon and were largely dispersed by 3 p.m., although around 150 counter protesters remained in the Irving Park field for speeches into the evening, The Oregonian reported.
The Oregon Department of Transportation said earlier it had shut down the interstate highway for a brief time to help control the crowd and flow of traffic.
“The purpose of this closure was to clear some people out of the area who wanted to leave and to keep competing groups separate,” said Chris Liedle, a spokesman with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, in updates posted on Twitter, as the city had braced for the threat of violence with multiple rallies in the area. Last month, a violent street brawl broke out in Portland between Proud Boys members and counter-protesters.
Police Saturday also said they arrested three people, including a man suspected of driving under the influence and a woman for an outstanding arrest warrant.
Dozens began to show up two hours before the Proud Boys rally, some packed into the beds of pickup trucks. Many flew American flags or black flags bearing the logo of the Three Percenters, another right-wing group. Many were wearing militarized body armor, including helmets, and protective vests. Some wore Make America Great Again hats.
An attendee poses for a picture before listening to organizers speak during a Proud Boys rally at Delta Park in Portland, Oregon on Sept. 26, 2020. (MARANIE R. STAAB/AFP via Getty Images)
TJ Detweiler, who works in construction and plumbing, said at the rally that he wanted to end domestic terrorism in the United States.
“I would like to see people stop the looting and rioting and enjoy the country for what rights we have,” Detweiler said.
Clashes in Portland
The Proud Boys are self-described “Western chauvinists.” They have held multiple events in Portland in support of Trump’s reelection alongside other right-wing groups such as Patriot Prayer that often end in violent clashes with anti-Trump counter-demonstrators.
Brown said of her declaration, “This is a critical moment. We have seen what happens when armed vigilantes take matters into their own hands. We’ve seen it in Charlottesville, we’ve seen it in Kenosha and, unfortunately, we have seen it in Portland,” she said, referencing deaths in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Oregon during clashes between those on the right and left of the political spectrum.
“The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come time and time again looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic,” said Brown.
“Let me be perfectly clear, we will not tolerate any type of violence this weekend. Left, right, or center, violence is never a path toward meaningful change. Peaceful protest is the only path toward change. Those stoking the flames of violence, those coming to Portland looking for a fight will be held accountable.”
Last month, Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a Trump and Patriot Prayer supporter, was shot and killed after crossing paths with left-wing activists. The suspect in the shooting, a self-described anti-fascist, was killed during a shootout with federal officers the following week as they tried to arrest him in Washington state.
The Proud Boys mentioned Danielson in their permit application, as well as Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged in the shooting deaths of two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Some attending Saturday’s rally carried signs that said “Free Kyle Now.” Rittenhouse has said he was acting in self-defense.
The Proud Boys raised the prospect of taking matters into their own hands in a permit application filed with the city this week in response to what they described was the destruction of Portland by a “mob” in recent months.
“Portland leadership is unwilling to stop the violence,” the Proud Boys wrote in the application. “They have been blinded by their hatred of our President and will not allow outside help stopping the violence.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said the city and its police force did not need or want help from “paramilitaries or vigilante groups.”
Police leadership canceled all scheduled days off for officers Saturday and were primarily focused on keeping dueling groups of protesters separated.
Deputy Chief Chris Davis acknowledged that Oregon is an open-carry state for firearms. But on Friday, he reminded those attending the rally and counter-demonstrations that under Portland law, it’s illegal to carry a loaded firearm in public without an Oregon concealed handgun permit.
“We ask that you come peacefully and engage in your free speech peacefully,” Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Friday. “It’s OK for us to disagree about things. But at the end of the day, doing so peacefully, letting people exercise their rights safely is very important. So that’s my ask the folks who are attending.”
The rally came as Portland approached its fifth month of almost nightly protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Protesters want the city to cut millions from the police budget and reallocate it to support the Black community.
By Gillian Flaccus and Sally Ho