• Sat. Mar 6th, 2021

Portland braces for clashes, violence at Proud Boys rally and counterprotests

A rally by the far-right Proud Boys on Saturday in Portland, Oregon, in support of President Donald Trump and police is expected to draw possibly thousands of supporters as well as counterprotesters, leading the city to brace for violent clashes.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency on Friday, saying “white supremacist groups from out of town” were coming to the city and announcing a coordinated effort between state and local law enforcement throughout the weekend to keep people safe.

“We have seen what happens when armed vigilantes take matters into their own hands. We’ve seen it in Charlottesville, we’ve seen it in Kenosha and, unfortunately, we have even seen it here in Portland,” the governor said, referring to deaths following political clashes in Virginia, Wisconsin and Oregon.

“Let me be perfectly clear, we will not tolerate any kind of violence this weekend,” she said. “Those stoking the flames of violence, those coming to Portland looking for a fight will be held accountable.”

The Proud Boys, a group of self-declared Western chauvinists, were denied a permit for the planned gathering due to coronavirus social-distancing concerns, but plan to rally anyway in what they describe as a free speech event to support Trump and the police and condemn anti-fascists.

The Multnomah County sheriff said police are anticipating a crowd of 1,000 to 3,000 people at the Proud Boys demonstration, NBC affiliate KGW reported, in the city that has become a flashpoint for sometimes violent political conflict in months of ongoing demonstrations. Organizers of the rally said they expect 20,000 people.

Last month, a Trump supporter and follower of another right-wing group, Patriot Prayer, was fatally shot during a clash with counterprotesters in Portland. The man was part of a motorcade that clashed with Black Lives Matter demonstrators and other protesters, with some members of the caravan firing paintballs and pepper spray into the crowd.

The Proud Boys mentioned the death of Aaron “Jay” Danielson in their permit application. They also mentioned Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old charged in the shooting deaths of two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The governor used her emergency powers to give the Oregon State Police superintendent and the local sheriff the power to take charge of public safety in Portland for the weekend, a move that would restore the ability of law enforcement to use tear gas as a crowd-control measure.

The state police superintendent said there would be a “massive influx” of troopers in the city beginning Saturday morning.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said on Twitter this week, “Violence has no home in Portland.”

The dueling protests in Portland come as tensions around the U.S. have once again escalated following the decision by a Kentucky grand jury this week not to charge any police officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, during a police raid at her home in March. One former Louisville officer was charged with first-degree wanton endangerment for gunshots that hit neighboring apartments.

The Associated Press contributed.