Police will check for weapons, bombs at Saturday protest
Police will deploy "weapon screening" stations and bomb-sniffing dogs during a political protest scheduled to begin on Saturday, August 4 in downtown Portland.
Police say the demonstration starting at 10:30 a.m. will take place at Tom McCall Waterfront Park between Southwest Salmon and Morrison streets — though previous confrontations have often sprawled past police barriers as left and right-wing activists do battle in the streets.
"There will be a significant law enforcement presence in the area of the demonstration due to past threats and acts of violence," a police spokesman wrote. "Persons attending any of the events should not bring any weapons or items that can be used as weapons to any of the events."
Joey Gibson — the Patriot Prayer provocateur ostensibly campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in Washington State — has scheduled a "Freedom March" for his supporters from noon to 12 p.m.
"We have been one of the few groups on the West Coast fighting for free speech," Gibson said in a video about the event posted to social media. "You guys are making legends in Portland because you're not allowing these people to march."
As has become customary at Gibson's rallies, members of the black-clad anti-fascist group known as Antifa have vowed to assemble in opposition. Police declared a riot when the duo last clashed on June 30, where mano-a-mano combat reportedly sent a handful to the hospital or into handcuffs.
The brawl forecasted for Saturday has already spawned another anti alt-right group, POPMOB, which is short for Popular Mobilization. They have announced their own "Stop the Hate" protest outside Portland City Hall, 1221 S.W. 4th Avenue, beginning at 10:30 a.m. with a march to waterfront to follow around 11:30 a.m.
"It is clear that the current system is broken and doesn't work for a lot of people," POPMOB organizer Effie Baum said. "We want a world that meets the needs of all people so that all people can have a full and meaningful life. Patriot Prayer does not want this."
In a statement, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler noted that federal law prohibits cities from denying protest march permits based on past acts of violence associated with those groups.
Wheeler has personally condemned what he says is the right-wing's group "hate speech," but says the Portland Police Bureau must protect everyone's First Amendment rights equally.
"Chief Outlaw and I have serious concerns about the potential for violence at this weekend's demonstrations," he said. "It is particularly troubling to me that individuals are posting publicly their intent to act out violently. We don't want this here."
Protests between Antifa and Patriot Prayer can be very unsafe for participants, bystanders and journalists.
This June 30 video shows Ethan Nordean, a Patriot Prayer supporter who often calls himself Rufio Panman, punching a masked left-wing activist with what some say was enough force to leave the fallen man "unconscious."
During a confrontation over a hat on June 2, a clip shows Patriot Prayer supporter Kerry Hudson being repeatedly kicked in the ribs and hit with a black pole by two people who appear to be Antifa supporters.
Patriot Prayer's recent gatherings took place at Terry Schrunk Plaza, where a quirk in jurisdiction allows federal police officers to confiscate guns. That won't be the case on Saturday.
While weapons are banned in most cases at Portland city parks, those will concealed carry permits valid in Oregon are lawfully allowed to carry firearms in green spaces like the waterfront.
Gibson has called on his supporters with valid permits to bring guns. He confirmed to OPB that his Washington State concealed carry permit is not valid across state lines.
"Everyone should be carrying around guns at all times, especially in our situation," he said earlier. Gibson also claims that some members of his group will dress in black and pretend to be members of Antifa on Saturday.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has suggested that the Saturday protest could become "the next Charlottesville," a reference to the white supremacist rally where one counterprotester was killed in a car attack.
The Multnomah County Republican Party has asked Mayor Wheeler to provide police protection to Gibson.
"The continuing failure of Mayor Wheeler and the Portland Police Bureau to draw any distinction between those engaged in a peaceful lawful assembly and those whose sole purpose is to attack and disrupt that assembly, can only be explained by a political bias in favor of the attackers," said James Buchal, the organization's chairman.
"Mayor Wheeler's recent claims that Portland does not 'police based on the content of speech' ring hollow when Portland lets Leftist thugs disrupt peaceful gatherings in Portland," he continued.