Written by 5:42 pm New York News

Portland Fears Violence as ‘Proud Boys’ Group Descends on City

PORTLAND, Ore. — Members of the right-wing Proud Boys and their supporters arrived in a Portland park on Saturday as leftist activists prepared their own counter-rallies, raising the temperature of a city already on edge as officials pleaded for the ralliers to refrain from violence.

Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in advance of the arrival of the Proud Boys, an all-male group whose members — many of whom support President Trump — often engage in provocations, threats or fighting with opponents at their events. Ms. Brown’s declaration cleared the way for a major law enforcement presence in hopes of keeping the dueling groups apart, but there were fears that people traveling to the park with violent intentions would nonetheless find a way to sow chaos.

Downtown Portland has been rocked by protests this summer, first over the police killings of Black people, and later over the Trump administration’s move to send federal agents to the city in an attempt to quell the demonstrations. And demonstrations across the United States kicked up again this week after a grand jury in Kentucky decided not to indict either of the two Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency room technician, in her own apartment.

Protesters in Louisville faced off with the police again on Friday evening, with the police firing flash-bang grenades and arresting 22 people; more protests were planned for Saturday. In New York, hundreds of demonstrators held a sit-in for more than an hour on the Brooklyn Bridge, where many took a knee in honor of Ms. Taylor. People also took to the streets in Oakland, Seattle, Boston and Albuquerque, where a motorist reportedly tried to drive a car through the crowd, though no one was reported injured.

In Portland, the Proud Boys have described the event on Saturday in the city’s Delta Park as a rally to ”end domestic terrorism” that they say is being carried out in Portland and other cities by left-wing demonstrators, including supporters of antifa, the loose group of activists who sometimes use violence to stop people from promoting views they deem fascist or racist.

But many in Portland see the event as a thinly veiled excuse by the right-wing group to brawl with their ideological opposites. Among the roughly 200 Proud Boys members who were gathered Saturday morning, hours before the main event, some were carrying guns. Others had bullet-proof vests and other tactical gear.

“The pattern of these particular groups is clear: to intimidate, instigate and inflame,” Gov. Brown said on Friday.

A coalition of left-wing groups has organized a demonstration in an area of the city known as Vanport, just down the street from the Proud Boys event, and officials worry that members of the two groups could try to confront one another. The State Police have promised a “massive influx” of troopers to keep them apart. Another event promoted by Portland residents — promising crafts and other activities — has been scheduled for downtown, miles from Delta Park.

Alex Sundine, a member of Black Unity PDX, an activist group in Portland, said the organizers of the counter-rally hoped to focus on their own event and ignore any efforts by the Proud Boys members to engage them.

Among other things, organizers there said they would discuss the history of the Vanport neighborhood, a former home to many Black shipbuilders who were kept out of Portland by discriminatory housing practices. The city was destroyed when the Columbia River flooded it in 1948, and part of it was later turned into Delta Park, the site the Proud Boys members chose for their rally.

“It’s a history lesson almost to make people aware of what that land was and what it means — and a reminder of how our society treats Black people,” Mr. Sundine said.

Even as he publicly condemned anyone hoping for violence, Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, acknowledged in an interview on Friday that skirmishes were possible, if not likely.

“I’d be stupid to say that I don’t expect someone to come in with some type of nefarious motives,” he said, pledging to report any such person to the police.

Earlier in the month, Mr. Tarrio posted online that “antifa is in for a bad time” if law enforcement was not present for the event.

The group has strongly criticized Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland for not taking a stronger line against the protesters who clashed with agents outside of a federal courthouse downtown in nightly confrontations over several weeks. The Proud Boys welcomed Ms. Brown’s emergency order, which also allowed state and local police to use tear gas, which the mayor had banned city police officers from using.

In a statement this week, Mr. Wheeler, a Democrat, said he feared the arrival of Saturday’s demonstrators more than the ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice in his city.

“I categorically condemn violence of all kinds by all people,” Mr. Wheeler said in a statement. “But let me be clear, the alt-right and white supremacist groups organizing to come to Portland on Saturday present the greatest threat we’ve faced so far.”

The Proud Boys have held similar events, including last summer in Portland and Washington D.C., both of which included violent skirmishes.

On Friday, Alan Swinney, one of the far-right activists involved in clashes this summer in Portland, said he had been indicted and planned to turn himself in. It wasn’t immediately clear what charges he faced.

Portland has a long history of left-wing activists organizing to confront white supremacists or other far-right groups. Some incidents occurred as the city’s progressive organizers tried to quash some of the most explicit remnants of the region’s troubled racial history, which included Oregon’s status as the only non-slavery state to join the union with a constitutional clause that excluded Black people.

In the Trump era, a variety of right-wing groups, including the Proud Boys, have organized events in the city, some with the explicit intention of spurring confrontations with local activists. Leftists, including those who are part of the collective Rose City Antifa, one of the more prominent and organized antifa groups, have gathered to oppose them.

“The anti-fascist position has always been: never let fascists control the streets,” said Joseph Lowndes, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon who researches right-wing political trends. Mr. Lowndes said that while events that draw groups like the Proud Boys often lead to violence, he worried that recent events in Portland — including an antifa supporter’s killing in August of Aaron J. Danielson, an activist with the far-right group Patriot Prayer — raises the prospect of even more confrontation.

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio contributed reporting.

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