Police in Portland, Oregon arrested thirteen people and seized weapons such as bear spray and shields from ‘multiple groups’ as right-wing groups and far-left counter-protesters clashed today.
Authorities also set up concrete barriers and closed streets in an effort to contain the groups.
Flag-waving members of the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters militia group began gathering late in the morning, some wearing body armor and helmets.
Meanwhile, masked Antifa protesters clad in black were also among the several hundred people on the streets.
Polices said they had seized weapons from the groups that were gathering on both sides of the Willamette River, which runs through the city.
More than two dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, were in the city for the right-wing rally that was expected to draw people from across the country.
Police said over a loudspeaker that people on the streets for the unpermitted rallies could be arrested.
The gathering was hyped on social media and elsewhere for weeks.
President Trump issued a stark warning to antifa, the collective of militant anti-fascist leftist groups.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2019
Notably, Trump did not warn or criticize the controversial right-wing group organizing the rally that antifa was planning to protest against.
Organizers Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio, who did not receive a permit for the rally, are members of the Proud Boys, a group of self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” with links to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and a history of violence against left-wing activists.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated them as a hate group.
In the days leading up the event Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said people who espoused hate or engaged in violence were ‘not welcome.’
Not all who gathered late Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa. Also on hand were people who attended a nearby prayer service, holding signs that said things like ‘No Trump, No NRA.’
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson was arrested Friday after surrendering on an arrest warrant for rioting.
Gibson organized the similar rallies in 2017 and 2018 that erupted in clashes, surrendered Friday on an arrest warrant for felony rioting.
He was at a confrontation that broke out on May 1 outside a bar where antifa members had gathered after a May Day demonstration.
In a video he livestreamed on Facebook, Gibson accused the police of playing politics by arresting him.
‘What I’m saying to everybody who’s listening to this (is) they’re trying to shut you guys up. They want you to not show up in Portland, they want to put fear in your hearts,’ Gibson said.
In addition to the Proud Boys and Three Percenters, the white nationalist American Guard also said it would have members in Portland.
The Oath Keepers, another far-right militia group, said in a statement they were pulling out of the rally because organizers have not done enough to keep white supremacist groups away.
‘It would be best for the patriot/conservative cause if this August 17 rally were simply canceled,’ the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, wrote.
Trump’s disinterest in criticizing the Proud Boys is part of a longer trend in which he’s remained completely silent or, at most, has been mildly critical of the threat posed by white nationalist and white supremacist organizations, many of whom view his presidency as a boon for their cause and whose language echoes that of the president.
Trump often undercuts his criticism of hate with statements that run counter to the point he seems to be making, and with political talking points.
Following a mass shooting that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Trump responded by reading a speech in which he denounced the ‘evil anti-Semitic attack.’
But during unscripted comments later that same day, he lamented that there wasn’t an armed guard inside the synagogue.
And following the recent shooting in El Paso — in which the shooter left writings that made it clear he hoped to target members of the Latinx community — Trump said “one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” but also blamed mental illness and video games for the violence.
Trump also, infamously, responded to the death of Heather Heyer amid the violence in Charlottesville by saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of a protest that included neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump has been repeatedly critical of antifa, however, and has threatened to label the association a terrorist organization in the past.
GOP lawmakers have already made symbolic gestures to the same effect: In July, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Bill Cassidy (LA) introduced a nonbinding resolution that would label antifa activists as terrorists.