(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A flag is seen on the sidewalk following clashes in Portland
By Deborah Bloom
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – Around one thousand supporters of the right-wing Proud Boys group, some armed, rallied in Portland, Oregon on Saturday in a largely peaceful event that drew far fewer followers than had been forecast by organizers, police said.
The rally in a north Portland park ended after a couple of hours with demonstrators dispersing north, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said.
Videos posted online showed demonstrators, some armed with bats, paintball guns and shields, riding in the backs of pick up trucks flying “Trump 2020” and U.S. flags.
Police said they were investigating an assault of one person documenting the rally, and that a total of three people were arrested at the Proud Boys rally and a left-wing counter protest about 2 miles away that drew around 500 people.
The Proud Boys, a self-declared “Western Chauvinist” group, forecast a crowd of at least 10,000 when they asked for a permit to hold the demonstration in Delta Park, a request which was denied by the city. The rally went ahead anyway, ringed by a heavy police presence.
Several vehicles were stopped as they left and drivers ticketed for infractions including obscuring their license plates, according to state police and reports on social media.
Governor Kate Brown on Friday declared a weekend state of emergency for Oregon’s biggest city, saying “white supremacist groups” were traveling from out of state to attend an event the Proud Boys said was organized to “end domestic terrorism.”
Local and state leaders said in a letter to the community that many participants had openly discussed tactical operations and military-style formations and planned to cause chaos and violence while claiming to be acting in support of police.
President Donald Trump, who has made law and order a principal theme of his re-election bid, has singled out Portland as one of several Democratic-led cities he denounces as “anarchist jurisdictions” that should have federal funding cut.
His Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, said Trump’s rhetoric was stoking violence.
The pro-Trump, pro-gun rights Proud Boys publicly denounce violence, for the most part, but members wearing trademark black and yellow polo shirts often brawl with left-wing opponents at rallies.
Portland has become a magnet for right-wing counter protesters following four months of anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter demonstrations against police violence and racism.
Left-right clashes have escalated across the United States since mid-August, a self-declared anti-fascist shooting dead a right-wing Patriot Prayer member in Portland on Aug. 29 after a teenage vigilante killed two protesters and wounded another in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 25.
The men-only Proud Boys group describes itself as a fraternal organization that is “anti-racism” and “anti-political correctness.”
Civil rights group The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group, citing its members’ anti-Muslim and misogynist rhetoric.
Proud Boys rally draws fewer than expected in Portland
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