Portland police in riot gear called in to clear clashes between right-wing and antifa protesters

Police in riot gear were summoned to downtown Portland Saturday to keep a lid on clashes between hundreds of right-wing protesters and self-described anti-fascist counterprotesters.

Authorities patrolled the streets at midday advising demonstrators to “get out.” There were some arrests and reported injuries but it wasn’t immediately clear how many of either occurred.

A reporter for The Oregonian/OregonLive was bloodied when he was struck by a projectile, The Associated Press reported. Eder Campuzano said later on Twitter that he was "okay."

Protesters aligned with Patriot Prayer and an affiliated group, the Proud Boys, met in a park at a rally organized by their group leader, Joey Gibson, but they were met by antifa protesters carrying signs saying, “Nazis go home” and “Alt right scum not welcome in Portland.”

Wire reports say police officers stood in the middle of the four-lane boulevard, essentially forming a wall to keep the two sides separated.

Indeed, the police presence remained strong throughout the demonstrations, as bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled and weapons checkpoints were visible. At one point, authorities deployed “flash bang” devices to break up the feuding parties. Long sticks and homemade shields were confiscated, AP reported.

Saturday’s rally was in stark contrast with two other rallies organized by Gibson this summer that ended in bloody fistfights and riots that sent one counterprotester to the hospital with a skull fracture.

Portland police had threatened to seize weapons after Gibson changed the venue for this latest event from a federal plaza outside U.S. District Court to a waterfront park so some of his Oregon supporters could carry concealed weapons as they demonstrated. It is illegal in Portland to carry a loaded firearm in public unless a person has a concealed handgun license.  

Gibson's insistence on repeatedly bringing his supporters to this intensely blue city has stoked a debate about the limits of free speech in an era of striking political divisions. Patriot Prayer also has held rallies in many other cities around the U.S. West, including Berkeley, Calif., another left-leaning community.

But the Portland events have taken on outsize significance after a Patriot Prayer sympathizer was charged with fatally stabbing two men who came to the defense of two young black women — one in a hijab — on a light-rail train in May 2017.

Gibson, who is running a longshot campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington State, said in a live video on Facebook earlier this week that he won't stop bringing his followers to Portland until they can press their right-wing views without interference.

Organizers say that while Patriot Prayer denies being a white supremacist group, it affiliates itself with known white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazi gangs.

"Patriot Prayer is continuing to commit violence in our city, and their events are becoming more and more violent," said Effie Baum of Pop Mob, a coalition of community groups organizing the counter-demonstration. "Leaving them a small group to attack in the streets is only going to allow them to perpetuate their violence."

Dueling protests a month ago ended with Portland police declaring a riot and arresting four people. A similar Patriot Prayer event on June 4 devolved into fistfights and assaults by both sides as police struggled to keep the groups apart.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.