A united front against far-right groups appeared to be paying off for authorities and progressive groups in Portland, Oregon, ahead of a planned protest on Sunday.
With a coalition hosting joint events on Friday, the far-right organizers appeared to be in some disarray. Some advertised a new venue for their own Summer of Love protest. Others fell silent. Groups like the Proud Boys and the Patriot Prayer, who have featured prominently in often violent protests in the city in recent years, did not sponsor the event.
Haley Adams, a longtime far-right, pro-Trump organizer in the Portland area, said on Telegram late Friday that the location has changed for the Sunday protest, which has no official approval. Her message partially stated that “the event is due to be relocated to be published tomorrow,” suggesting that she may be moving from downtown Portland.
Local officials and nonprofits repeatedly identified the Proud Boys as the main organizers of the event, but there was little evidence of direct involvement on social media and on the group’s affiliated websites.
The Proud Boys are referred to as a terrorist organization in Canada and are defined as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the USA.
The group has been involved in major summer rallies in Portland for the past three years, including one where police fired gas canisters at counter-demonstrators, another where the city closed a bridge to make way for the protest, and one last September, which was received by a large inter-agency police presence.
Portland government officials criticized for alleged inaction or bias in their response to far-right protests spent much of that week developing a joint response to the planned Sunday event.
On Friday, Mayor Ted Wheeler and representatives from progressive groups including the Western States Center and Integrity First for America attended events to spread the message that, as Wheeler put it, the city should “choose love.” .
At a virtual event with several speakers and a gospel group, Wheeler said, “Hate groups have no place here. Violence has no place here. “
Amy Herzfeld-Copple of the Western States Center said there was a direct link between such expressions of solidarity and the apparent disorganization of the right.
“We have seen that when broad and deep coalitions of community leaders and elected officials come together in support of inclusive democracy, bigoted far-right events often break apart and their impact on the community is weakened,” she said.
“Likewise, the right public attention can put pressure on anti-democratic actors and heighten the division between them.”
Wheeler repeated the love message in a press conference this also marked the Portland Police Chief. Chuck Lovell warned anyone who intended to “stay away” from violence, but added, “You shouldn’t expect to see cops in the middle of crowds trying to tell people apart.”
Earlier this week officials including Wheeler and Oregon Governor Kate Brown gave one Joint announcement Condemnation of “the threat and use of violence against people and the destruction of property to promote bigoted political or social goals”.
Not everyone on the left agreed, however. Earlier that morning, speakers at a rally organized by groups such as the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC) condemned Wheeler’s and Lovell’s approach to right-wing protests.
Juan Chavez, an attorney with the OJRC, called for the two men to resign and told the participants: “We know that the police stand up whenever the Proud Boys appear in our city while fascists attack the community.”
The planned protest for Sunday coincides with the first anniversary of a “Say No to Marxism” rally where far-right protesters fired airsoft rounds at leftists protesting police violence, drew guns, destroyed a food truck and beat reporters.
One of the more prominent and violent protesters at the event, Alan Swinney, got arrested the following month. The self-proclaimed Proud Boys member remains in Mutnomah County Jail. of not pleading guilty Charges including assault, improper use of a weapon, aiming a firearm at others, and improper use of tear gas, stun gun, or mace.
Airsoft guns are guns designed to fire non-metallic projectiles. Last year, a Guardian investigation found that their right wing deployment had been carefully planned. It continued. Earlier this month, a man from Portland, Mark Lee, got arrested after being photographed one weekend pointing an airsoft pistol at a journalist that resulted in fighting between counter-demonstrators and right-wingers, also armed with batons and chemical spray.
When asked whether airsoft guns could or should be treated as firearms, a Portland police spokesman pointed out: City ordinance Defined firearms as projectile weapons that use the “power of gunpowder or other explosive”. The mayor’s office did not respond immediately to questions about airsoft weapons.
There was some evidence that at least some right-wingers were planning an action on Sunday. The OJRC event was briefly interrupted by right-wing YouTube streamers associated with Haley Adams. Obvious threats against local journalists circulated on social media platforms associated with the far right.