Portland Braces for Trouble Ahead of Opposing Rallies

Police in Portland, Oregon, are mobilizing in preparation for Saturday when far-right protesters are expected to come face-to-face with local anti-fascist counter-demonstrators. 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined leaders of the city’s religious, police and business groups to warn groups “who plan on using Portland on August 17th as a platform to spread your hate.”  Those groups are “not welcome here,” he said. 

He said all of Portland’s nearly 1,000 police officers will be on duty Saturday and will be helped by the Oregon State Police and the FBI. 

Saturday’s rally is organized by a member of the Proud Boys, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Expected to join them are the American Guard, Three Percenters, Oathkeepers and Daily Stormers.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Guard is a “white nationalist group,” Three Percenters and Oathkeepers are “extremist” anti-government militias, and the Daily Stormers are “neo-Nazis.”

Countering the right-wingers is Portland’s Rose City Antifa, an anti-fascist group that has called on its members to take to the streets in an opposing rally. 

FILE – Antifa counter-protesters, rallying against right-wing group Patriot Prayer, light a smoke grenade in Portland, Oregon, Sept. 10, 2017.

Antifa in the United States have grown more visible recently and experts say antifa groups are not centrally organized, and their members may espouse a number of different causes, from politics to race relations to gay rights. But the principle that binds them — along with an unofficial uniform of black clothing and face masks — is the willingness to use violence to fight against white supremacists, which has opened them to criticism from both left and right.

At a June rally in Portland, masked antifa members beat up a conservative blogger named Andy Ngo. Video of the 30-second attack grabbed national attention.

The city’s leadership and residents are on edge ahead of the rallies. Many summer staples like music festivals and recreational events have been canceled. A 5K race has changed its course to avoid possible violence and most businesses in the area plan to close for the day.