Antifa demonstrators hurled smoke and projectiles at police officers during rallies in downtown Portland on Sunday, injuring at least two, according to police.
The Rally and March Against White Nationalism, which was organized by the Portland Stands United Against Hate group, started off at a park on the waterfront with speakers leading demonstrators in song and prayers, Fox 12 reported.
After police changed the planned route of the march to avoid violence, tensions built up between the demonstrators and an opposing group, Patriot Prayer, also scheduled to hold a rally.
Police said demonstrators threw projectiles and smoke bomb — and knocked down a fence that police had put up. They also said seven suspects were in custody.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson originally planned to hold a larger rally in Portland but it was moved to nearby Vancouver, Wash., to try and keep it safe and family-friendly, according to Fox 12.
Patriot Prayer bills itself as a peaceful First Amendment advocacy group that appears in locations where there have been past confrontations over free speech.
Gibson told Fox News their rallies are rooted in “a philosophy about promoting love and peace but doing it in a way that’s respectful. It’s about building bridges.”
Antifa members, Fox News previously reported, have over the last year increasingly made their violent presence known at progressive demonstrations and counter-protests to alt-right groups and speakers across the country — leaving critics to question Antifa’s role in the leftist protest movement and to ask if the group is causing more harm than good.
Antifa, short for anti-fascist, traces its roots back to militant anti-fascists operating in Nazi Germany during the 1930s. The emergence of these modern groups in the United States — which are comprised predominantly of radical anarchists and focus more on fighting far-right ideology than on encouraging pro-left policies — coincided with a rise of white nationalists following the election of Barack Obama in 2008, analysts said.
Since the election of President Trump, Antifa activists have become even more active, fighting with right-wing activists and police in cities from Philadelphia to Houston to Hamburg, site of this year’s G-20 summit.