Police use pepper spray and non-lethal ammunition on rival protesters after rally
A riot was declared in downtown Portland, Oregon, on Saturday evening as the city exploded into its worst protest violence of the Trump era.
More than 150 supporters of the far-right Patriot Prayer group fought pitched street battles with scores of anti-fascist protesters. In total, nine people were arrested.
The far-right march had started near Schrunk Plaza in the city centre, where the rightwing group had held a rally, led by the Patriot Prayer founder and Republican US Senate candidate Joey Gibson.
As soon as the group left the plaza, they clashed with anti-fascists who had been waiting across a heavily barricaded street nearby.
As the two groups came to blows, Department of Homeland Security officers fired non-lethal ammunition towards the counter-protest.
Later the groups met on another street nearby, where the worst of the violence took place.
Patriot Prayer supporters – many of whom wore the colours of a rightwing fraternity called Proud Boys – were seen hitting counter-protesters with flagpoles, trash can lids, and their fists.
One Proud Boy was seen to floor an anti-fascist protester with a single punch. Later in the day he was seen being cuffed by police officers.
Counter-protesters, some clad in “black bloc” clothing and masks, released deafening fireworks, and punched back at Patriot Prayer supporters.
While anti-fascists used pepper spray, Patriot Prayer members had been unable to take theirs into a federal park. The melee lasted several minutes before Portland police revoked the permit for the march and cleared the street. The groups clashed again soon after and police used pepper spray to separate them and declared a riot at 6.15pm local time.
People in both groups suffered head and facial wounds in the fighting.
Patriot Prayer protesters made their way back to Schrunk Plaza and vented their rage in speeches.
Regular Patriot Prayer rally attendee Katherine Townsend told the group that Portland police had “set us up”, and accused them of “disarming us and herding us towards antifa”.
Townsend said: “It’s not Portland any more, it’s Portlantifa.” But she and other members of Patriot Prayer said they would come back to the city to assert their message of “freedom of speech”.
Gibson said they would “storm city hall” if necessary to get their message heard.
On Facebook, Gibson echoed Townsend’s remarks, writing that: “Portland police allowed criminals to charge our permitted march then declared our march a riot and revoked our permit.”
Unlike recent protests, many participants on the Patriot Prayer side had travelled from around the country, after Gibson issued a national call for assistance.
In a statement, Portland police’s deputy chief, Bob Day, said: “Portland police planned for today’s protest so that people could exercise their first amendment rights to speech and assembly.
“However, once projectiles, such as fireworks, eggs, rocks, bottles and construction equipment were thrown and people were injured, we ordered people to disperse.”
A spokesman for the groups organising the counter-protest, Rose City Antifa, said they were “not surprised by the level of violence, given Patriot Prayer’s rhetoric on social media in the lead-up to the rally”.