The latest far-right march in Portland quickly staked a claim as the most violent.
The gathering of alt-right and white nationalist groups in Tom McCall Waterfront Park today immediately descended into brawling with antifascist counter-protesters that left several men bleeding and soaked in pepper spray.
The crowd at today's "Patriot Prayer" event was small—no more than 100 people on each side. It was a shadow of the events of June 4, when thousands of counter-protesters surrounded an alt-right "free speech" rally held in the wake of a double slaying by a white supremacist on a Portland MAX train. Since then, "Patriot Prayer" marches have had diminished attendance.
But these rallies, with their barely cloaked threats of racist violence, still have the power to disquiet the city and intimidate its citizens—especially when they kick off with a brawl.
Joey Gibson, the Vancouver, Wash. video blogger who has led the far-right movement's forays into Portland, told his crew that the antifa attention showed how serious and powerful his movement remains.
"You have the right of free speech, the right of assembly," Gibson said in a speech. "When they show up beating their drums and yelling, do you know what that means? It means we're winning."
Oath Keepers, members of a militia group that often attends right-wing protests, attacked antifa with pepper spray. Left-wing counter-protesters burned flags. Several frequent participants in Patriot Prayer protests, including a man named Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, were bloodied in the fight that kicked off the march.
Tiny later offered to give a counter-protesters wounds of their own. Flashing the thick silver rings adorning his fist, he pointed to his bloody nose. "Do you want one to match?" he asked. "I can give you one."
Portland police allowed the melee to go largely unchecked, belatedly threatening over loudspeaker to arrest brawlers. By then, the fights had mostly stopped.
Police announced that any illegal activity would get the protesters kicked out of the park. But officers didn't intervene when antifa members started throwing small projectiles at protesters wearing Make America Great Again hats.
Counterprotesters sprayed the far-right activists with silly string and threw glitter in their faces. The ultra-conservative group waved a flag of Pepe the Frog, a symbol of the national "alt-right" movement.
After more than half a year of squaring off, an air of familiarity runs between these groups. But a current of rage still feels fresh.
"Trump is burning this country to the ground," one masked antifa protester screamed at the marchers, "and you're letting it happen."