Alt-Right Skips Town as Portland Dodges Serious Violence in Street Confrontations

A confrontation between traveling alt-right belligerents and masked antifascists ended today with a handful of arrests and little significant violence.

(William Gagan)

It wasn't another Berkeley.

A confrontation between traveling alt-right belligerents and masked antifascists, the an event which in prospect deeply unsettled Portland, ended today with a handful of arrests and little significant violence.

That was partly because police cracked down on the anarchist crowd that had gathered near the "alt-right" rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza. Riot cops cleared protesters out of nearby Chapman Square, and detained about 200 people, including six reporters, for an hour in a downtown street.

But it was also because of restraint from the socialists, labor unions and anarchists who showed up today in a throng well over 1,000 people and outnumbered the right-wing extremists by as much as 10 to 1.

(William Gagan)
(William Gagan)
(William Gagan)
(William Gagan)

Today's rally occurred in the wake of a double homicide on a Portland MAX train May 26, killings allegedly committed by white supremacist Jeremy Chapman. The arrival of right-wing extremists in a raw and angry city raised the frightening prospect of bloody street brawls like those that occurred in Berkeley, Calif. in March.

But the violence today was limited—and mostly directed at counter-protesters by police.

The height of tensions occurred around 3:30 pm, when antifa and black bloc anarchist protesters were forced out of Chapman Square by police. In the minutes before riot cops moved in, masked protesters threw bloody tampons into police ranks while chanting, "All cops are bastards."

Related: Portland Police Fire Stun Grenades and Rubber Bullets into Crowd of Antifascist Protesters

After police cleared them from Chapman Square, the antifa protesters marched through the streets for about an hour, until police surrounded and detained them. Officers confiscated dozens of weapons, photographed by WW reporters (two of whom were also temporarily detained).

Meanwhile, in Terry Schrunk Plaza, alt-right demonstrators wondered how they could safely leave. They asked each other what to do next, wondering if they could escape the park and the city without being accosted.

But the police "kettling" of antifa several blocks away gave the alt-right protesters room to leave.

Supporters of the free speech rally dwindled to about 100 people after police declared the square closed. They faced off with about three times that many counterprotesters. Then the rally leadership emerged, flanked by about a dozen bikers they had hired to provide event security.

From there, the rally leaders wandered through the city, looking for the parking garage where they left their cars.  Some were from Tacoma, others from the Bay Area or Vancouver, Washington. None knew where they were going and some seemed genuinely scared of the protesters who followed.

Small skirmishes broke out, with rally organizer Joey Gibson facing off in a yelling match with antifa at one point and an antifa member later provoking a fist fight with a rally attendee.

There were several isolated protests. Police said only four people were arrested. Police also said they had identified 200 people corralled in a kettle, to compare later with video footage and "see whether they had committed any crimes."

Protestors followed the rally organizers, yelling "Get out of our city!" and "Go home Nazi scum!" until they slowly threaded up the stairs of a Smart Park lot, pausing on each landing to gaze back down at the bike cops and antifa crowded below.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.