A rally held in downtown Portland’s Schrunk Plaza by Washington State conservative activist Joey Gibson on June 4 was nearly dwarfed by the overwhelming local reaction it elicited. Billed as the “Trump Free Speech Rally,” Gibson’s event drew at least two hundred strident supporters of President Donald Trump, with more than a few arriving from outside of Portland and Oregon.
Meanwhile, at least twice as many Portland-based members of various groups aligned with or identifying with the anti-fascist movement, also known as “antifa,” convened directly across the street. Simultaneously, hundreds more arrived for another protest against Gibson’s group, billing itself as “Portland Stands Against Hate” outside of Portland City Hall.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, yet another rally, this one with Portland-based unions, situated itself at the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building.
Although planned long before Jeremy Christian’s arrest on May 26, the events of that day nonetheless hung over the rally. Some in the Trump rally held signs disclaiming Christian’s affiliation with the group, attempting to tie him to Bernie Sanders, a candidate he briefly supported for decidedly anti-semitic reasons.
Others were not so quick to brush Christian off.
On the antifa side of the street, signs held aloft questioned which local leader with alleged ties to white supremacist groups would be the “next” Jeremy Christian. One of these, Jacob Von Ott, a local leader of Identity Europa, a white nationalist organization, was filmed shaking hands with Christian at an April 29 rally after Christian performed several Nazi salutes, which he claims he did to de-escalate tensions surrounding Christian’s conduct.
For their part, some in the Trump rally weren’t ready to cast Christian aside, even in light of Christian’s remarks on the MAX.
“When I found out they pushed him…then I started thinking, Jeremy Christian, self-defense,” said one attendee in a video posted by Buzzfeed. “He had free speech to be an asshole.”
“Immigrants NOT welcome!”
As the rallies continued, tempers flared. Although drowned out for the most part by the larger crowds of counter-protesters, much of the inflammatory rhetoric seemed to be directed at counter-protesters.
“Two genders, two genders,” chanted Trump supporters at the Portland Stands Against Hate rally, apparently singling out someone in the group. This chant would then morph into one of “two scoops,” an apparent reference to Trump’s executive privilege in getting two scoops of ice cream instead of one like his guests and family get.
A Mexican flag held aloft by counter-protesters received several racist taunts, and numerous signs mocking Muslims and their faith, including one making light of the recent tragedy in Manchester, were paraded around the perimeter of the Trump rally. Internet pseudo-personality Baked Alaska taunted immigrants rights groups chanting “immigrants welcome” by yelling back “immigrants not welcome.”
Signs decrying “white genocide” also briefly made an appearance at the Trump rally, but were quickly hustled away on the pretext that it clashed with the ethos of the rally, as Gibson stated white supremacists would not be allowed in. This stands in contrast, however, with recent remarks made by rally headliner Based Stickman, who, quoting Baked Alaska, also took offense at what he deemed “white genocide.”
Other alt-right celebrities present included one named Based Trojan, a man with large “WHITE PRIDE” tattoos on his arms. Also in attendance was a local white supremacist known only as Porkchop, who burned an antifa flag.
Antifa stays mad
With the end of the Trump rally approaching, the Portland Police Bureau alleged assault of officers by foul-smelling liquids, the threat of hurled bricks, and confiscated weapons of other sorts, then began to clear Chapman Square.
Firing flashbangs, pepper spray and other crowd dispersal tools, the PPB pushed antifa first into the center of the square, and then completely free of it. At first, antifa managed to create a barricade in the street, but after a brief standoff broke off and began marching north on Fourth Avenue.
At 4th and Morrison, PPB kettled several dozen protesters, journalists, and legal observers and announced that if they did not clear the area they would be detained, even though they had already surrounded them with no apparent means of exit.
After a relatively brief detention they began the process of identifying the detained, arresting 4, and releasing the overwhelming majority of the remaining detainees.
Airfare for a day in the park
In spite of so many arriving with agitation in mind, the Trump rally wound down and came to a close without the kind of Berkeley 2.0 confrontation that the alt-right had been talking up. The creation of the kind of internet-famous pseudo-celebrities did not happen as might have been expected, nor did antifa act in the way some might have hoped they would.
Instead, the enduring image seems to have been a boisterous opposition and intense police response.