Antifa, Patriot Prayer collision in stunt rally
Bloody violence erupts as Antifa activists stormed a Porland, Oregon rally by a right-wing group Patriot Prayer.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Viral videos of bloody clashes between right wing activists and self-described anti-fascists have drawn national attention to Portland, Oregon, the city of the legendary political activism that has been struggling to keep the peace in stunt rally’s to illustrate a microcosm of the nation’s political divisions.
Tensions erupted most recently this month when the members of the so-called “antifa” movement turns out to be a march organized by right-wing group with the name Patriot Prayer.
If the police tried to keep order, fist fights broke out in a string of downtown parks lined with aspen trees and dotted with plaques in honor of Portland’s founders and fallen World War II soldiers.
Videos of the conflict on social media show a man being struck on the ground and kicked repeatedly as he covered his head with his hands. In another, a man lying on the ground, dragged away from a group of attackers, his bloody face. In a third, two men — including the wearing of a homemade body armor — swings on a third man who is backed against a wall with his arms up.
The police four arrests 3 June in and around the parks, which have become meeting places for different opinions in this liberal city is already known for near-weekly protests.
And in this city, and patiently wait out the traffic jams caused by protests of residents wondered how the freedom of expression had turned so violent.
Protesters here traditionally have demonstrated together for their causes. But last year, a different kind of political activism has been destroyed, unanimity is normally seen among the protesters, said the old Portland resident Jon Baldivieso.
“Hidden better forms of political speech,” he said. “It feels different when protests are more one-sided and not a clash between the ideological groups. …I have very low patience for physical confrontation.”
What happens can be an expression of a deep sensitivity for a dark chapter in the history of the city that bustles as the rest of the country is also becoming more and more politically polarized.
In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan had a strong presence in the city and by the 1980’s, Portland is a hot spot for white supremacist groups, giving it the nickname “Skinhead City.”
One of the most notorious attacks in Portland’s racial history occurred in November 1988, when an Ethiopian immigrant was beaten to death by three white supremacists of the California-based White Aryan Resistance in the front of his apartment.
The city is also the home base for the popular front, a now defunct white separatist organization, founded in 1994, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
While the Patriot Prayer is not considered a white supremacist or hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the members march in addition to right-wing groups, to promote free speech rights by rejecting the political correctness, said Ryan Lenz, an SPLC spokesperson.
Those marches have drawn a powerful response from a left-wing movement known as the antifa, which is dedicated to rooting out neo-Nazis and white supremacists, ” he said.
The 10-year-old group rose City Antifa is one of the best organized of these loosely connected groups in the country, and also one of the oldest.
Individual antifa members to remain anonymous, but the group’s public Facebook page, a call for the members to show until 3 June to confront the “rising tide of fascism and the forces of the structural and defiant white supremacy” in Portland.
“If you think about it, Portland is the home of this extreme left-wing perspective … but at the same time is home to very hardcore racist groups to go back to the skinhead groups,” Lenz said.
Patriot Prayer has also marches and demonstrations in many other cities in the AMERICAN West that have drawn violent reactions. But the Portland events have taken on great importance because of the stabbing deaths a year ago of the two men who came to the defense of two young black women — one in a hijab— who are harassed on a light-rail train by a Patriot Prayer sympathizer.
The man charged in the death, Jeremy Christian, was filmed making the Nazi salute to a Patriot Prayer rally a month before the murders.
Christian, who pleaded not guilty, later told investigators he was not motivated by racism, but was drunk and wanted to “do of his free speech thing” when he called racist and anti-immigrant slurs on the light-trail-train for the plug.
In the aftermath of the Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson organized a pro-Trump free speech rally, which was attended by thousands from both sides to the center of Portland.
The ensuing chaos shut down a large part of the city is the core, and the police arrested more than a dozen people surrounded from all sides fought.
Gibson, who is half Japanese and lives in Vancouver, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland, said that his followers are not racist, but want the right to express themselves safe in a city that is very liberal. He hopes for another rally as soon as the next month in an effort to promote the confrontation.
“We are much more diverse than any of these far-lefters, who are mostly white men,” Gibson said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. The marches are intended to “stir the pot. It is for people to oppose us, to engage with violence against us.”
Many Portland residents say that they love their city’s reputation for political dissent, but are dismayed it has become a spot for violence.
In a park dedicated to a town of the founders, an accountant Mack Stilson used his lunch break to run through a set of bluegrass songs on his mandolin as a tour of the group for a walk by snapping selfies and bike commuters whizzed past.
“This is a bit like an arena for the fight and I have a lot of trouble getting the weight behind it,” he said of the protesters.
He added: “You can say what you want to say, or you’re extremely conservative or extremely liberal, and I think this city should be open to both. That’s kind of what this city is all about.”