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Far-right groups and antifascists collide in Portland

Thousands of protesters and counter-protesters descended onto downtown Portland, as police tried to keep the peace


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Taylor Link
August 4, 2018 9:50PM (UTC)

A long-awaited confrontation between far-right groups and antifascists took place in Portland on Saturday. Journalists on the ground have recorded clashes with police and indiscriminate acts of violence.

The group that calls itself Patriot Prayer had organized the Portland protest under the guise of First Amendment advocacy, but to outside observers, it was clear that the group wanted to establish a battle ground to fight antifa.

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Portland city officials have been bracing for the impending encounter.

“It is particularly troubling to me that individuals are posting publicly their intent to act out violently,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement. “We don’t want this here.”

Sgt. Christopher Burley, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau said, “We will protect life, safety and property to the best of our ability,” adding that crowd management is complicated.

The far-right protest started before noon in the downtown district of Portland. Antifa immediately formed their own counter-protest, with reports suggesting that over one thousand people had assembled to oppose Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, groups that have been labeled fascist and ethno-nationalist. The two sides were separated by a heavily secured road.

But that did not prevent early violence.

After hours of relative peace, reports indicated that police ordered the counter-protesting side to disperse. After failing to leave the scene, police began to implement riot control on antifa.

Katie Shepherd, a journalist for Willamette Week covering the protests, reported that Portland police claimed to have seen protesters throw bottles and rocks at officers. Shepherd said she did not witness anything that would have instigated flash bangs to be deployed.

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"Standing at the police line, I did not see anything thrown prior to crowd control being deployed," she wrote in a tweet. "There may have been. My impression was that things were settling down before the first flash bang exploded."

The Portland chapter of antifa has complained that the police response thus far has only been focused on the counter-protests.

Antifa's complaints may be legitimate. HuffPost journalist Andy Campbell reported that Proud Boys faced zero dispersal orders from the police.

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The far-right groups allegedly cheered every time a flash bang was heard in the distance.

As the far-right groups were able to maintain their presence downtown, antifa were forced to retreat.

Around 2:30 p.m. in Portland, the police announced that protests were declared a “civil disturbance,” and ordered people to disperse.

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Multiple injuries have been reported on the ground.

Jared Holt, a reporter for Right Wing Watch, signaled that the police intensified the situation in Portland on Saturday.


Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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