US City Braces for Conflicting Demonstrations
Updated Aug. 17, 2019, 12:40p.m.Conflicting demonstrations were expected to draw hundreds of protesters Saturday to the city of Portland, Oregon, where police were positioning in the downtown area to keep the peace.Far-right protesters are expected to march in the same part of town where local anti-fascist groups intend to conduct a counter-demonstration.Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined leaders of the city’s religious, and business to warn those “who plan on using Portland on August 17th as a platform to spread your hate. Those groups are not welcome here.” communityFILE – Joey Gibson, left, founder of the Patriot Prayer group, argues with a bystander at right as Gibson’s group marched following a rally supporting gun rights, Aug. 18, 2018, at City Hall in Seattle.Friday police arrested Joey Gibson, the leader of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer’s, prompting him to urge his followers on social media to “show up ten-fold, one hundred-fold” for Saturday’s protests.Gibson, who was not involved in organizing this weekend’s event but has planned similar rallies in the past, surrendered Friday on an outstanding warrant for a fight that broke out in May between his right-wing supporters and left-wing adversaries.Mayor Wheeler said all of Portland’s nearly 1,000 police officers will be on duty Saturday and will be helped by the Oregon State Police, other local police forces and the FBI.The rally was organized by a member of the Proud Boys, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Expected to join them are the American Guard, Three Percenters, Oathkeepers and Daily Stormers.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Guard is a “white nationalist group,” Three Percenters and Oathkeepers are “extremist,” anti-government militias and the Daily Stormers are “neo-Nazis.”Countering the right-wingers is Portland’s Rose City Antifa, a local anti-fascist group that has called on its members to take to the streets in an opposing rally.U.S. President Donald Trump indicated before events in Portland he could take action on antifa. In a tweet Saturday the president said, “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!”Antifa has grown more visible recently and experts say the groups are not centrally organized, and their members may espouse a number of different causes, from politics to race relations to gay rights. But the principle that binds them — along with an unofficial uniform of black clothing and face masks — is the willingness to use violence to fight white supremacists, which has opened them to criticism from both left and right.At a June rally in Portland, masked antifa members beat up a conservative blogger named Andy Ngo. Video of the 30-second attack grabbed national attention.
The city’s leadership and residents are on edge ahead of the rallies. Many summer staples like music festivals and recreational events have been cancelled. A 5K race has changed its course to avoid possible violence and most businesses in the area plan to close.