It was billed as a massive rally by the violent, far-right group called the Proud Boys — whom the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group — but by the time it ended, only a couple hundred people had gathered in North Portland's Delta Park on Saturday, Sept. 26.
Many were dressed in camouflage and militarized body armor and listened to classic rock. When they came by car, they passed Portland Bureau of Transportation traffic signs lit up with messages like, "Black Lives Matter" and "Hate has no place here."
By 1 p.m., violence began to break out. Proud Boys began pushing independent journalists. A live-streamer was shoved to the ground and kicked in the face. Other journalists also were targeted.
Some of the group carried taser shields — a shield that can generate a painful electrical pulse. Others openly carried long guns.
The rally was one of three separate protests of groups with vastly different ideologies that unfolded in relatively close proximity to one another on Sept. 26. The Proud Boys gathered at Delta Park in North Portland, but were denied a permit over COVID concerns. Anti-fascist groups held a rally about three miles away at Peninsula Park. At least one thousand people gathered there and listened to speakers urging all to work toward racial justice and equality for all.
An earlier rally, this one from Black Lives Matter supporters, attracted hundreds of people to the Historic Vanport near Delta Park to discuss what had been Oregon's largest Black community, before it flooded, and the history of racism in Portland.
Organizers said the Proud Boys rally supported President Donald Trump and the police, and condemned anti-fascists that the group accuses of "domestic terrorism." Speakers condemned Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Trump reelection apparel was for sale in the park.
One woman live-streamed about the pandemic. "I won't wear a mask for my protection, and I won't wear a mask for the protection of anyone else," she said.
Independent journalists were chased from the park by Proud Boys members. Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, and Chandler Pappas, another prominent member, both spoke.
Pappas accompained Patriot Prayer supporter Aaron "Jay" Danielson to a Trump car parade the night Danielson died in late August.
Violence is breaking out at Portland Proud Boys rally https://t.co/CNOs5pqarH— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) September 26, 2020
"It's just as much Kate Brown's fault, Ted Wheeler's fault and comrade D.A. Mike Schmidt's fault for encouraging this for 120 days," Pappas told the crowd Saturday, referring to the Oregon governor and mayor of Portland.
Tarrio was spotted armed with a White Claw hard seltzer stuffed inside a pocket of his flak jacket.
"I don't drink, this is a celebratory drink. This is the day when we destroy Ted Wheeler's chance of reelection," Tarrio told an interviewer with the Youtube show "All Gas, No Breaks."
Shane Moon, who was hit by a driver in August after attending a memorial for Jay Danielson in Vancouver, told the crowd he was in the hospital for three days and has suffered hearing loss.
"I'm not going to let no sissies sucker punch me with a truck to keep me from being out here," Moon said.
Carol Leek of Oregon Women for Trump told the crowd they had to fight against "Black supremacy," saying "This is a war, folks, and we have got to fight back."
She encouraged the crowd to run for office, fill out ballots, and then remarked "and if you get two, send them both in."
"I'm really just kidding," she said repeatedly. "That was a joke, ha ha ha."
The selection of Delta Park drew anger from some Portlanders. That land once served as home for much of Portland's Black community before the area flooded in the 1940s.
Around 2 p.m., rally attendees began slowly leaving Delta Park. As they did, they passed a counter-protester holding an American flag and signs reading, "Vets and firefighters believe Black Lives Matter" and "This flag belongs to ALL Americans, not some."
Describing himself as a Portland resident and firefighter, the man told a reporter: "If people of character and good nature don't stand up for our country, who will?"
The history between the groups has often spilled into violence, spurring Gov. Brown to use her emergency authority to appoint Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton joint incident commanders of Portland for a 48-hour period between Saturday and Sunday.
Members of the Portland Police Bureau's Rapid Response Team were deputized as Federal Marshals at 9 a.m. Saturday, according to State Police. "This will allow federal prosecutors to charge allegations of assault on a federal officer to anyone who attacks Officers," according to a tweet.
Multnomah County Sheriff's Chris Liedle, acting as a spokesman for the unified command of MCSO, the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police, said the mass gatherings occured "without serious violence."
Liedle said Portland and OSP officers stopped a pickup truck leaving Delta Park at 3 p.m. due to its obscured license plate. Officers confiscated paintball guns, shields, firearms and baseball bats, and issued a criminal citation.
We can confirm that officers have conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle leaving Delta Park. The officers took possession of firearms, paintball guns, baseball bats, and shields. At least one criminal citation was issued. pic.twitter.com/rtJhzeCcv1— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) September 26, 2020
On Twitter, OSP said one trooper was minorly injured after a rock smashed into their squad car window near Rosa Parks Way and Missouri Avenue. PPB said officers confiscated buckets filled with rocks and condoms inflated with "unknown liquid" near North Rosa Parks Way and Albina Avenue around 5 p.m. Saturday.
On Friday, large barriers were placed at Delta Park. State Police said they would not reveal their tactical plans, but told reporters they would have "a massive presence" of officers at the park in North Portland beginning Saturday morning. Their presence also was notable at Peninsula Park and along Interstate 5.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has forbidden Portland Police from using tear gas, after a long summer of its use, sometimes in residential neighborhoods.
Brown said she "is incredibly concerned about the increased risk of violence in Portland this weekend and the safety of all Oregonians."
"Some people will be armed, with others ready to harass or intimidate Oregonians," Brown said. "The pattern of these particular groups is clear, to intimidate, instigate and inflame."
Brown was not shy about her directive: "Let me be very clear. Those who commit serious, violent acts will be charged, prosecuted and held accountable."
Wheeler said he was pleased about the governor's order.
In a written statement, he said: "I categorically condemn violence of all kinds by all people. 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."
Joe Biggs, one of the event organizers for the Proud Boys, claimed his group was not in Portland to engage in violence. "Like I said, if anything happens today that's violent, it won't be because of us," Biggs said, adding his group would respond to counter-demonstrators. "If they come out here and put their hands on us, we're going to f*** them up. That's about it."
Traffic and mass transit were disrupted at times throughout the day.
You can find Portland Tribune updates and video of the events here.
Oregon Public Broadcasting and KOIN 6 News are news partners of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this article, as did Portland Tribune Managing Editor Dana Haynes and reporter Jim Redden.
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