Downtown protest declared civil disturbance

Rallies follow rejection of proposed ordinance to control violent protests

Another day of rallies filled Portland’s downtown park blocks on Nov. 17, sparking conflicts between members of various right- and left-wing groups days after city council rejected a proposed ordinance to limit potentially violent protests in the city.

While a number of physical encounters broke out during the protests, police kept the groups separate for most of the day.

Approximately 40 people gathered around 2 p.m. in Terry Schrunk Plaza to attend a rally dubbed #HimToo, hosted by Haley Adams, a member of Vancouver, Wash.-based right-wing protest group Patriot Prayer. The rally featured speeches from Adams and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, among others.

Police had cordoned off Schrunk Plaza as well as parts of nearby Chapman Square, where local activist groups Popular Mobilization and Rose City Antifa staged counter-protests, joined by members of the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

As the #HimToo rally began to wrap up and organizers headed back to their vehicles around 4 p.m., a group of approximately 80 counter-protesters attempted to confront them, only to be met by police officers.

Officers declared the event a civil disturbance following a brief physical confrontation between the two groups.

Small altercations continued until police managed to separate the two groups by several blocks, allowing the #HimToo organizers to walk to the parking garage near the corner of Southwest Third Ave. and Taylor St. where their cars were located.

Before the group left, Adams, Gibson and Patriot Prayer member Tusitala “Tiny” Toese stopped to speak with reporters, allowing counter-protesters enough time to move in and resume fighting, prompting police to block stairwells and allow the group to leave.

Protesters had dispersed and police left the area by 5 p.m.

Over the course of the day, police arrested six individuals on charges including interference with a peace officer, disorderly conduct and harassment, Fox 12 Oregon reported. According to a Portland Police Bureau press release, officers observed multiple assaults and a number of projectiles thrown at protesters and officers, including bottles, lit road flares and gopher gas.

In recent months, violent clashes between left- and right-wing protesters in Portland have attracted national and international attention, prompting criticism of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s approach to addressing the problem.

Wheeler announced on Oct. 15 he would seek city council approval for a proposed city ordinance that would allow him, as police commissioner, special power to limit protests deemed potentially threatening to public safety, The Oregonian reported.

A number of critics decried the ordinance as unconstitutional and disrespectful of civil rights.

“The city’s ordinance is deeply problematic,” tweeted Mat dos Santos, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. “It is unconstitutional, bad policy and totally unnecessary. Taking it to court is a waste of limited taxpayer dollars and could set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the nation.”

Wheeler tweeted in response. “Other lawyers, including Mary McCord of Georgetown Law—with a higher profile and with a successful history of defending the constitutionality of time, manner and place restrictions—strongly disagree with your opinion.”

On Nov. 13, the city held its annual Spirit of Portland award ceremony, which commissioners present to individuals and organizations they feel embody Portland’s values as a city. Recipient Bobby Singh, founder and director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, rejected the award, citing the proposed ordinance as the reason, Portland Mercury reported. “I was incredibly honored to chosen for the award, [but] it doesn’t feel appropriate to accept when the city lacks a true commitment to civil rights,” Singh said.

Portland City Council rejected the ordinance on Nov. 14 in a 3-4 vote. “I’m not convinced we’ve done everything we can with the tools already at our disposal,” Commissioner Nick Fish, who cast the deciding vote against the ordinance, told Willamette Week. “It’s long overdue that we all link arms and tell the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and those who would bring hate into our community, ‘stay home.’”

While members of Patriot Prayer—which has been at the center of a number of recent violent protests in the city—participated in the Nov. 17 rally, representatives from the organization stated on Facebook that the group had no official affiliation with the protest.

Adams said the purpose of the rally—and the #HimToo movement in general—was to advocate for men who have been falsely accused of sexual assault.

“Men too can be abused, men too can be lied about, men too have the right to a fair trial,” organizers stated on the rally’s Facebook page. “Men [and] their families are starting to become very nervous about today’s blame projecting [and] it’s time to stand up for them together as we do women…Instead of putting one or the other on a pedestal men and women should be working together.”

Counter-protesters said they showed up to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and give them a space to speak out.

“The alt-right is trying to silence survivors, erase trans identities, control the bodies of women and people of color and criminalize families and individuals seeking safety,” Popular Mobilization organizers stated on the Facebook page for their rally, dubbed Survivors Are Everywhere. “As Audre Lorde said, ‘there is no such thing as a single issue struggle.’ People are suffering from multiple attacks because they belong to more than one targeted group. We are stronger when we stand together and lift up all of our voices.”