Portland saw its largest far-right demonstration of the Trump era on Saturday, as 500 rightwingers traveled from around the country to march back and forth across the city’s bridges, and briefly occupy a patch of its waterfront.
By making extensive accommodations for the unpermitted rightwing protest, including close police escorts, concrete barriers, and reopening a bridge to allow them to leave the downtown area, Portland authorities succeeded in preventing head-on confrontations between it and a much larger counter-protest.
The far right “end domestic terrorism” protest, organized by leaders in the “western chauvinst” Proud Boys fraternity, saw Trump supporters rub shoulders with more radical groups, including Three Percenters, a “patriot movement” militia group, and American Guard, who the Anti-Defamation League described as “hardcore white supremacists”.
In a statement after the rally, the Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio appeared to be promising to hold the city to ransom. On the group’s Telegram channel, a link was sent out to a Gateway Pundit story that quoted the chairman promising to come to Portland once a month, and saying: “Sooner or later, [Portland mayor Ted Wheeler] will run out of money and his counterparts in government will no longer take him seriously. The path forward for Mayor Wheeler is simple, free your city from the grip of Antifa, take direct and meaningful action.”
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On Saturday, there was sporadic violence later in the day, and police declared a civil disturbance in trying to remove a group of mainly leftwing protesters blocking streets near the city’s central square. Elements of the counter-protest remained downtown for more than three hours after the departure of rightwing demonstrators.
Police said they made 13 arrests and seized weapons throughout the day.
Donald Trump put pressure on city authorities early in the day with a characteristically explosive tweet. “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR’,” the president wrote from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday morning. “Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully, the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!”
Speaking to CNN, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler said of Trump’s tweet: “Frankly, it’s not helpful. This is a potentially dangerous and volatile situation, and adding to that noise doesn’t do anything to support or help the efforts that are going on here in Portland.”