A Portland man tells The Guardian that he was suddenly attacked last week by a group of far-right brawlers when he objected to their yelling "Support Trump, build the wall" from the back of a pickup truck.
The alleged assailant in the June 8 attack is Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, 21, an enormous man from Vancouver, Wash. who has served as a de facto bodyguard for U.S. Senate candidate Joey Gibson.
For more than a year, right-wing groups—including Gibson's political movement Patriot Prayer and the men's fraternity called the Proud Boys—have menaced Portland with downtown protests that are thinly-veiled invitations to fistfights with antifascist groups.
But the event reported by The Guardian today appears to mark an escalation: It's the first time people affiliated with the right-wing groups have allegedly assaulted a bystander.
Tim Ledwith, 34, tells The Guardian he was walking downtown last Friday when he saw Toese and several other men shouting at passersby from the truck. He shouted an obscenity at them.
Ledwith says Toese and another man jumped out of the truck bed.
"They were calling me a faggot and slinging epithets at me," Ledwith tells The Guardian. "Tiny walked over calmly and … punched me in the face. I'm like, half his size. I was not a threat to them. I'm 34 years old, not 17. This is not a thing that happens to me day-to-day."
Social-media posts indicate the attack occurred on the sidewalk near a Buffalo Wild Wings on Northeast Broadway, in the Irvington neighborhood.
Ledwith tells The Guardian he has protested against Patriot Prayer events before, including at a huge rally last June, where he was cited for disorderly conduct. But he does not believe Toese or others recognized him from those events.
The alleged attack came five days after one of the most violent altercations between Patriot Prayer and antifa—a downtown brawl that culminated in protesters hurling rocks and concrete at each other. Multiple reporters on scene said the event, a going-away party for Toese, had little pretext of being a demonstration: Few political statements were made except the right-wing agitators vowing to stand and fight "like mad fucking Americans."
Toese has been at the center of Portland's political violence for more than a year. When WW first began reporting on confrontations in downtown parks between right-wing groups and antifascists, Toese quickly emerged as the largest and most violent of the participants.
"People from each side began screaming insults at each other as a circle of observers live-streamed the confrontations," WW reported of one fight. "Within minutes, Gibson's friend, Tiny Toese, the 20-year-old American Samoan, flattened an antifa protester half his size with a punch to the face, while the kid had his arms crossed defensively."
Since then, Toese has twice been charged with misdemeanors by Portland police for his role in brawls.
News of the downtown attack comes with Portlanders once again on edge regarding rumors of right-wing violence at Pride Week.
An anti-LGBTQ group called the Hell Shaking Preachers—who have a history of harassing racial and sexual minorities—hinted online this week at plans to attend Pride. Organizers of a queer-centric dance party warned of threats, including from the Proud Boys—but the Proud Boys denied any plans to disrupt Pride, and police said threats weren't credible.
Meanwhile, Ledwith suffered a split lip from the June 8 punch. Police say they received two calls from the scene, and are investigating.
WW web editor Elise Herron contributed reporting to this story.