For the first time in more than a year of street brawling, Portland police today deemed a march by Proud Boys and other right-wing protesters too violent to continue.
Marchers with the right-wing protest group Patriot Prayer beat antifascist protesters with wooden and PVC pipe flag poles that federal police had allowed the group to keep.
Portland police policy is to confiscate all possible weapons, and they did not allow the antifascist protesters to have flag poles. At least one protester was severely injured in the brawl and lay motionless on the ground after police broke up the altercation.
After two weeks where Portland's leftist protesters drew national attention for blockading federal immigration offices, right-wing groups led by Congressional candidate Joey Gibson returned to Portland in greater numbers than have been seen since last summer, seemingly bent on wresting back the spotlight with street violence.
Patriot Prayer attracted far more attendees than usual, including many men wearing black-and-yellow Proud Boy shirts and others dressed in costumes with helmets. They had a permit to march in downtown Portland. Many arrived from out of town via a chartered former school bus.
After several hours of being restricted to Terry Schrunk Plaza by federal agents, Patriot Prayer began to march toward an intersection filled with counterprotesters dressed in Black Bloc outfits.
Police in riot gear stood by but did not move to get between the two groups.
In a nearby Starbucks, at around 5 pm, a group of uniformed PPB officers discussed their frustration dealing with repeated Patriot Prayer protests where both sides declare a desire to fight in the streets. One officer said the police should restrict the protesters to one area and "just let them fight."
That is essentially what happened as riot cops stood by and allowed Patriot Prayer and Antifa to make contact on Southwest Madison Street.
Almost instantly, the two groups began exchanging blows, throwing objects at one another and shouting—each calling the other "Nazis."
The violence subsided for a bit as police and organizers ushered Patriot Prayer down Madison.
After almost all of Patriot Prayer had cleared the area and as the commotion died down, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers standing across a street and behind metal barricades shot pepper balls into the crowd of antifascist protesters. A spokesman for the agency said protesters had been throwing objects at the agents and "antagonizing" them.
The federal officers kept firing for several seconds as protesters on the other side of the street backed away from the area.
As soon as Patriot Prayer turned onto Southwest 2nd Avenue, Portland police informed the group that their march permit had been revoked and the group would have to remain on the sidewalk.
Patriot Prayer supporters yelled that the cops had "set them up." One man said he would no longer support the Portland Police Bureau.
Antifascist protesters followed the Patriot Prayer march on the opposite sides of downtown streets as SUVs lined with Portland police in riot gear cruised between them.
But protesters on both sides got ahead of the PPB vehicles and moved to attack one another. That's when Patriot Prayer protesters beat antifascist protesters with the flag poles. Antifascists could be seen throwing gravel and firecrackers at the right-wing marchers in the moment before they charged.
Portland police used flash bangs and pepper spray to drive the groups apart. They also declared the gathering a riot and ordered everyone to leave the area or face arrest.
Portland police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.