Portland far-right rally: police charge counterprotesters with batons drawn

Police in riot gear use stun grenades and pepper spray on leftwing groups protesting against Patriot Prayer marchers

America

A rally by rightwing group Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon, culminated in a police charge on counterprotesters on Saturday, as a demonstration once again brought disorder and violence to the citys downtown area.

Two hours into the rally, police moved towards leftwing counterprotesters with batons drawn, and used dozens of flash bang stun grenades and rounds containing pepper spray.

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As they moved on the counterprotest, Patriot Prayer marchers chanted lock them up, lock them up.

Counterprotesters
Counterprotesters march in opposition to a rally organized by the far-right group Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Terray Sylvester for the Guardian

Portland police sent hundreds of officers in riot gear to the rally, and for most of the day they kept Patriot Prayer, led by Republican US Senate candidate Joey Gibson, and an affiliated group, Proud Boys, separated from their opposition.

Patriot Prayers stated beliefs are not neo-Nazi or white supremacist, but his critics say the groups events have attracted white supremacist elements and have frequently brought serious violence to cities around the US West.

Gibsons insistence on bringing his supporters repeatedly to the liberal city of Portland has crystallized debate about the limits of free speech in an era of stark political division.

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One part of the 1,000 strong counterprotest, billed as PopMob, included labor groups, a local Democratic Socialists of America chapter, clergy, community groups. There was also a large contingent of anti-fascists clad in black bloc clothing.

As the Patriot Prayer group marched, protesters followed at a distance through neighbouring streets. The charge happened on Southwest Columbia Street, several blocks south of Patriot Prayers original rallying point. Police claimed that protesters were throwing missiles at their lines.

One journalist, Eder Campuzano, was struck in the head by a full plastic bottle, causing him to bleed from a head wound, which he said likely came from a counterprotester.

Supporters
Supporters of the far-right group Patriot Prayer in Portland. Photograph: Terray Sylvester for the Guardian

A Portland photographer, Doug Brown, said that the first missile I saw and heard came from the Patriot Prayer side, across the street, towards the protesters.

I dont know who set it off, but it went towards the black bloc. And then the police just swarmed them, Brown said.

Browns tweeted video of the police charge shows them confronting protesters en masse, and attacking him and and other reporters filming from a sidewalk.

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Olivia Katbi Smith, co-chair of the Portland Democratic Socialists of America, said the police were not provoked.

A Portland woman was later admitted to hospital after being hit with a flash bang round.

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A counterprotester argues with police in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Bob Strong/Reuters

Eric Ward, executive director of civil rights organization Western States Center, said that while he believed some counterprotesters made some bad decisions by bringing weapons, the police charge punished every counterprotester for the actions of a few.

This collective punishment, he said doesnt align with the treatment of the Proud Boys and Joey Gibson.

Gibson had earlier told the Patriot Prayer group that a deal with police meant that they would not be searched in exchange for confining themselves to a barricaded area. No weapons searches were carried out on the Patriot Prayer group.

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A counterprotester throws an object towards police in Portland. Photograph: Bob Strong/Reuters

Portland police did not respond to requests for comment on weapons searches, or their charge on counterprotesters.

The Patriot Prayer rally had attracted people from all over the country – many wearing the colors of the Proud Boys group, others wearing Trump-branded clothing and Infowars merchandise.

Patriot Prayers events attracted widespread attention in the last month after an event in Portland on 30 June that culminated in some of the worst street violence in the citys recent history.

Saturdays crowd of more than 400 was one of Patriot Prayers biggest to date in a series of over 30 events held in the Pacific Northwest and northern California during the life of the Trump administration.

At the conclusion of the march Patriot Prayer members claimed victory, with Gibson saying that it was an excellent day, excellent.

Tusitala Tiny Toese, who has been involved in two alleged street assaults outside protests, and who has been arrested at previous protests, told the rally that today is a big win for America, that the cops did their jobs and were proud of them, and that in future, were still gonna come to Portland.

Toese wore a T shirt bearing the slogan, Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong.

Katbi Smith, the DSA co-chair, said If its a victory for them, its a victory won by the cops. We outnumbered them.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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