Far-left and far-right groups protest remains mostly nonviolent, Aug. 17. Gregory Retz/PSU Vanguard

Police, far-right and far-left groups all claim victory in Portland rally

The Portland Police Bureau, far-left and far-right groups all claimed victory in a long-awaited rally that took place on Aug. 17, where over 1,000 far-right and far-left demonstrators took to the streets of Portland.

Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs and Effie Baum, an organizer with the far-left group Popular Mobilization, all hailed the event a success after minimal violence took place at what was expected to be highly contentious demonstration. 

This was the result of a dedicated police strategy that gave both groups autonomy to move almost wherever they liked while tactfully directing both groups far apart from one another, keeping both groups at least one mile apart at all times. 

The far-right rally planned for Aug. 17—entitled “End Domestic Terrorism” on Facebook—was organized by Biggs and multiple far-right groups, including the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer. 

The intention of the rally was to label the far-left group antifa as a domestic terrorist organization, an idea that has recently gained traction after antifa was widely criticized for the assault of journalist Andy Ngo at a similarly contentious protest that occured in Portland on June 29.

Counter protests were quickly organized for Aug. 17 by Rose City Antifa and Popular Mobilization (PopMob) in order to “resist the alt-right,” according to PopMob’s Facebook page.

They encouraged counter-demonstrators to come dressed in costume, and multiple performances were scheduled to take place—including marching bands, dancers and acrobats—in order to create a “spectacle like [the alt-right] have never seen before,” according to the Facebook event page.

The rally, while large and contentious, remained mostly non-violent. Various skirmishes occurred throughout the day between small pockets of left and right wing demonstrators. 

Early in the day, the majority of the right-wing demonstrators were allowed access to cross the Hawthorne bridge after multiple members of the Proud Boys told the Portland Police that they wanted to leave the downtown area, which the police facilitated, according to OregonLive.

After that, both left- and right-wing demonstrators wandered through various areas of Portland, some seeking out confrontation in what the Willamette Week called “a wild-goose chase.” Encounters between the groups were scarce.

Portland Police made 13 arrests throughout the day and seized various weapons, according to OregonLive. Police declared the rally a civil disturbance toward the end of the event after counter demonstrators began to disrupt traffic around Pioneer Courthouse Square before they dispersed around 6 p.m. 

Outlaw told OregonLive police successfully kept the event safe while allowing both groups to exercise their free-speech rights. 

Both Outlaw and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler were criticized after the protests on June 29—as well as previous protests—for not having done enough to stop the violence.

After the rally, Wheeler posted on Twitter: “I am relieved that no lives were lost. Weapons were seized quickly. @PortlandPolice did an extraordinary job keeping the peace, protecting life, & responding to violence.”

Effen Baum, an organizer with the far-left group PopMob, applauded the counter-demonstrators who came to denounce the alt-right and stated that the next time far-right groups return to Portland, the counter demonstrations will be even larger, according to OregonLive. “We built a very diverse coalition of people who turned out to say that hate is not welcome here,” Baum said.

A spokesperson for Rose City Antifa, who spoke at the rally and identified themselves as Jane, said “[Antifa’s] here because we are a community that is millitant, is alive, is remembering, and knows what the fuck is going on, and together we want to plan and keep it that way.” 

Biggs, the central organizer of the far-right rally, said the media publicity and national scrutiny of the far-left group antifa made the event a success. 

“We wanted national attention and we got it,” he told OregonLive.

Biggs specifically cited president Trump’s tweet as a success, which was posted on the morning of Aug. 17 just before the rally took place, which read: “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.’ Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!”

Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana recently supported a bill which calls for “the designation of antifa as a domestic terrorist group.”

Shorty after the rally, Biggs and other members of the Proud Boys stated they would return to rally in Portland every month until Wheeler declares “antifa an enemy of Portland and restore order,” according to Willamette Week. Wheeler responded by saying that he would deploy the police force as often as he needs to in order to keep Portland safe.

“Clearly sustaining the kind of investments we made are going to be difficult,” Wheeler told OregonLive. “Honestly, the Proud Boys could not articulate why they were here. I don’t know if they will come here again or not.”