Proud Boys rally in Portland, Oregon, draws smaller crowd than authorities feared
Around one thousand supporters of the rightwing Proud Boys group, some armed, rallied in Portland, Oregon on Saturday in a largely peaceful event that drew far fewer followers than organizers forecast and state authorities had feared.
The rally in a north Portland park ended after a few hours of speeches and chants, many against anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter groups which held a nearby counter-protest.
The Proud Boys had forecast a crowd of at least 10,000 and Portland’s police chief on Friday said he saw chances of a “very, very large” gathering.
The state governor, Kate Brown, had declared a weekend state of emergency for Oregon’s biggest city, saying “white supremacist groups” were traveling from out of state to attend the rally called by the Proud Boys to “end domestic terrorism” in Portland.
The Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group, said they were hosting a free speech event to support Trump and the police, restore law and order and condemn anti-fascists, “domestic terrorism” and “violent gangs of rioting felons”.
“This is a critical moment,” said Brown, a Democrat. “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 was referring to deaths in Virginia, Wisconsin and Oregon during clashes between right and left.
“The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups have come time and time again looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic,” Brown said. “Let me be perfectly clear: we will not tolerate any type of violence this weekend. Left, right or center, violence is never a path towards meaningful change.”
On Friday, the Oregon Justice Resource Center launched a $1.25m civil suit against three named men, and 50 more yet to be identified, over a rally on 22 August at which rightwingers fired paintballs into a leftwing crowd. The same day, a journalist’s hand was broken by a Proud Boy wielding a baton. One man, Alan Swinney, said on social media he had been indicted.
Also on Friday, the Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, published a “letter to the community” in which he invoked for the first time state anti-paramilitary laws, a move the Guardian recently reported experts were urging.
“Oregon law prohibits paramilitary activity,” Wheeler said. “Organizers of and likely participants in the 26 September event have openly discussed tactical operations and military-style formations that lead us to believe that they are operating as an unauthorized private militia.”
Over four years in the city, provocations by rightwing activists have culminated in violence while Trump and rightwing media have scapegoated local officials and anti-fascists.
— see the Guardian for full story