Police Crackdown Sends a Woman to the Hospital, But Portland Avoids Unhinged Violence in Protester Showdown

Multiple observers described the police use of explosive devices as more aggressive than ever before at Portland protests.

Antifascist protester confronts police on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

A police crackdown on antifascist protesters in downtown Portland today sent at least one woman to the hospital after being hit in the arm and chest with a "flash-bang" grenade police launched into the crowd.

The events surrounding the Patriot Prayer demonstration this afternoon left several others bloodied and bruised, but the violence was not as severe as at a previous far-right rally that devolved into a riot on June 30.

The Portland police actions today drew immediate rebuke from left-wing groups. Multiple observers described the police use of explosive devices as more aggressive than ever before at Portland protests.

Video by Doug Brown.

But the heavy-handed police tactics—including placing hundreds of riot cops between the adversarial groups—appeared to avert the outcome darkly hinted at by national progressive media for the past two weeks: that right-wing groups would wreak havoc and even kill someone.

That didn't happen.

Instead, Portland police managed to keep the two groups of warring protesters—Patriot Prayer supporters and their antifascist opposition—separate for hours. Officers confiscated weapons, posting photos of sticks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks and a baseball bat wrapped in a Kekistan flag.

Yet as in past protests, police force was aimed squarely and nearly exclusively at one side: the antifascists.

Right-wing protesters arrived on the Waterfront dressed in costume. (Sam Gehrke)

Police in riot gear formed a line down Southwest Naito Parkway and barricaded the far-right protesters, led by Senate candidate Joey Gibson. Gibson and his supporters had made threats of violence and promised "self-defense" would happen at the rally.

Related: Protesters seeking a waterfront clash are met by an army of Portland riot cops.

A few far-right protesters, including Gibson himself, wandered into the middle of the antifascist crowd throughout the day. Gibson was spotted almost immediately and followed by a woman yelling "Joey Gibson, right here." Antifascists surrounded him and began screaming for him to get out of Portland and "go home." He was pushed out of the crowd and handed to police who forced him back onto the waterfront.

The first signs of serious trouble bubbled up as protesters from both groups began to march south in a clear attempt to outflank police and start brawls in the street.

Neither group managed to cross Naito Parkway to fight their foes for more than a few minutes—but tensions were heightened as the antifascist group in black bloc approached Southwest Columbia Street and Naito Parkway.

Police ordered the group to retreat back into downtown several times before firing flash bang grenades into the crowd.

Police then said officers had seen protesters throwing rocks and bottles and ordered the crowd to disperse. Riot police then chased protesters through the streets and continued to fire explosive devices.

Earlier: In chaotic scene, Portland police launch flash-bangs pepper balls at antifascist protesters.

One woman was hit by a flash-bang grenade and went to the hospital with cuts and a possible arm fracture, her boyfriend told WW.

Oregonian reporter Eder Campuzano went to the hospital when he was hit in the head by a projectile thrown by counter-protesters.

Counter-protesters had been chanting "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?" all day, pointing to the larger number of officers facing antifascists as evidence of biased treatment. (The antifascist crowd was, however, significantly larger than the far-right gathering, which may have explained some of the attention it received.)

Democratic Socialists of America attend the antifascist protest in Portland on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

One woman, who didn't give her name, asked an officer why police were asking counter-protesters to move even though they were Portland residents and pay for the police salaries. He just shook his head and didn't answer her questions.

"Yeah, we know who you protect," she told him.

Allegations of unequal treatment from Portland police have plagued city officials since at least last June, when officers kettled hundreds of counterprotesters at one of Gibson's earliest rallies.

A Portland police officer also told investigators in the City Auditor's Office that he viewed the right-wing protesters as "more mainstream" than those on the left.

Joey Gibson is interviewed by KGW-TV on Aug. 4, 2018. (San Gehrke)

Today, Gibson's followers cheered and chanted "USA!" as police fired flash bangs and followed the antifascists, pushing them deeper into downtown Portland.

Eventually both Patriot Prayer and the antifascists found their way back to Tom McCall Waterfront Park. A few small scuffles unfolded in the street as far-right demonstrators tried to provoke counter-protesters or tried to slip by unnoticed to get to their cars.

Overall, the event was a far cry from the riot last month that sent five people to the hospital, one with a fractured skull. The day was not, as some out-of-state observers had predicted, "another Charlottesville."

Antifascist protester confronts police on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

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