An Oregon City park transformed into a battlefield as dueling groups of protesters engaged in violent skirmishes miles from their usual sparring grounds in downtown Portland Friday, June 18.
Local police declared a riot around 3:40 p.m. and eventually separated the left-wing and right-wing bands — causing the fighting to subside after nearly a half hour of intermittent warfare.
Oregon City police declare riot just now— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) June 18, 2021
Chaotic battle as proud boys, antifa clash near Portland pic.twitter.com/XuS5I2cP5j
"You guys are Portland scum! We're from here," shouted a leader of the Proud Boys, Flip Todd. "You made us be what we are. You created us."
Members of the opposing band, clad in black despite the heat, also spoke out, with one person carrying a sign reading, "Save a life — kill a Nazi."
"Somebody take care of these terrorists before I do," declared one member of the anonymous group known as antifa.
The confrontation began as the hot sun fell on Clackamette Park around 2 p.m., with both sides gathering separately. Soon they approached warily and began trading insults. Brawling was sparked after one person set fire to an American flag and the other group rushed in.
The pop of paintball guns, whack of flagpoles wielded as cudgels and hiss of chemical spray soon engulfed the grassy field near the park's main gate. A second contingent of officers arrived with lights flashing, ordering the crowd to disperse toward a nearby fast-food burger joint.
"This is Clackamas County, we don't mess around!" one officer shouted.
The clash had been pre-planned on social media — with those on the right claiming it was a GOP voter drive and those on the left saying they were there to fight fascism. But many families were clearly caught unaware, making for an incongruous scene, with some neighborhood children doing kickflips and jumping off a swing set even as the tension boiled.
"I'm waiting until these guys start fighting. It's gonna be hilarious," said Charlie, age 14.
Others found the looming confrontation befuddling.
"I think both sides have mental illness," said a father visiting with his family from Ohio. "Just (give them) 5,000 water balloons on one team, 5,000 on the other, and have at it."
Oregon City police monitored the protest from the beginning, but their first tactic hinged on writing $15 citations for cars parked in the area reserved for boat trailers, catching many locals in the process.
"It's not fair. I couldn't find a spot," said one woman with a child in tow. "Nobody knows. Most of the cars, they come here every day."
"Your choice is to move your car," replied Sgt. Justin Young of the police department.
The Pamplin Media Group did not observe any arrests. Several people were taken to the ground during skirmishes, and some called out for medical attention, though the extent of their injuries was not clear and did not appear to require hospitalization.
Proud Boys, many dressed in their yellow-and-black colors, chanted "F— antifa" and lingered at the edge of the park as the other side trudged up the hill and began to disperse after police arrived in force.
Eventually the right-wingers walked a short distance and began waving flags to passing motorists on Route 99E. Officers closed the park to all members of the public past 5 p.m.
Lefty activists had vowed to halt a previous flag wave event held at the Clackamas Community College in Oregon City in May, but the event fizzled after police shut down the campus and kept both sides separated.
OCPD Chief Jim Band told KOIN 6 News that the Proud Boys had reserved a picnic area at Clackamette Park for consecutive Fridays, and OCPD was assisted in mitigating the clash by Oregon State Police and Clackamas County deputies. Oregon City Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith thanked OCPD leadership and assisting police agencies for their response to the riot.
"The professionalism exhibited today dealing with a highly volatile and unpredictable event is something that I am, and all of us should be, very proud of," Lyles Smith said.
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