The Portland Proud Boy rally in downtown Portland Saturday, Aug. 17, met with sizable, vocal resistance. Aside from a handful of skirmishes and arrests, however, the day was mostly peaceful.
The day’s events started early, with counter-protesters gathering at Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park around 9 am. The Proud Boy contingent gathered across the river before crossing Morrison bridge, at which point Portland Police Bureau (PPB) set up a blockade separating the two groups.
A smaller group of Proud Boys assembled on the counter-protest side, which resulted in some heated exchanges, but didn’t ultimately lead to any physical violence. That group eventually joined fellow rally-goers, without incident.
Unlike Eugene’s Aug. 10 right-wing rally, black clothes-wearing Antifa were very visible. During the majority of the day’s events Antifa stayed near the PopMob counter-protest. But, as the day’s events seemed to be winding down, Antifa members announced that they would cross Burnside Bridge to confront the Proud Boys on the east side of the river.
While Antifa and a small number of other counter-protesters did attempt to march to the Proud Boys’ location, their efforts proved unsuccessful as PPB riot police cordoned off the area. Additionally, the Proud Boys reportedly left the area before Antifa was able to get through PPB’s blockade.
At different points throughout the day, counter-protesters, particularly Antifa, turned their attention to PPB, accusing them of supporting the Proud Boys and chanting “A-C-A-B, all cops are bastards,” and “Whose streets, our streets.” As the day wore on, more and more of the protesters’ attention was focused on PPB, with the counter-protest against the Proud Boys turning to an all-out protest against the police.
By about 4 pm the protest moved west into downtown, with protesters assembling in and around Pioneer Square. A group of protesters briefly staged a sit-in on SW Yamhill Street directly opposite a line of PPB officers but that protest action ended without incident. PPB stated in a press briefing that it declared a civil disturbance around then “due to information available” at the time “including the fact that there were numerous conflicts between protesters.”
By about 6 pm most protesters had left the area or were distracted by a bicycle accident near the southwest corner of the square.
PPB also noted that at least 13 arrests were made throughout day and cited offenses including disorderly conduct, interfering with police, resisting arrest, possession of a weapon in a park and unlawful use of a weapon.
None of the skirmishes EW witnessed ended in arrests. PPB estimates there were approximately 1,200 protesters and rally-goers in attendance at the peak of the day. The vast majority of attendees were counter-protesters.
Additionally, PPB said they are aware of six instances where officers used force against protesters, including one instance where they used pepper balls.
Some of the other counter-protest events included a PopMob event that featured several speakers, music and a generally positive atmosphere. The Unpresidented Brass band, who regularly attends these rallies, came to Saturday’s rally dressed in banana costumes, dubbing the effort the “banana bloc” much to the enjoyment of the counter-protesters. Additionally, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and several union groups made appearances.
While PPB stated they were pleased the rally and counter-protest didn’t turn out as violent as expected, others said they were negatively affected by the rally being held at all.
Two workers at the Portland Saturday Market in the Great NW Ice Cream Company booth said that business was slow and attributed the lack of business to the rally. Many other businesses in downtown decided to close their doors for the day including Starbucks, several restaurants and retailers, the Microsoft store and the Apple store.
Yet still others took the opportunity to use the divisive presence of the Proud Boy rally to send a message of peaceful resistance and unity.
Portland NAACP president E.D. Mondaine concluded an impassioned during the PopMob by declaring, “White nationalists everywhere. Hate groups everywhere. We’re here in the City of Roses and we’re making a stand in one of the whitest cities in America,” he said.
Mondaine added, “My white brothers and sisters ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around. And we’re walking in the power of freedom! God bless you.”