Several hundred right-wing demonstrators from across the United States arrived on the Portland waterfront this morning for a rally designed to defy and agitate a liberal city they see as a redoubt against free speech and patriotism.

Thousands more Portlanders and progressive activists turned out to confront them—disgusted by more than a year of the group Patriot Prayer looking for  fistfights in downtown streets.

But both groups encountered a much larger police presence that is typical at these events.

The line of riot cops signaled the Portland Police Bureau is ready to follow Mayor Ted Wheeler's urging to tamp down the violent brawls that have made Portland a target of right-wing activists and conspiracy media.

Riot police keep dueling protesters on each side of Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)
Riot police keep dueling protesters on each side of Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

Several hundred counter-protesters, a large contingent dressed head to toe in black, showed up to oppose Gibson's rally. The police have kept the two opposed groups separate by stationing riot cops along each side of Naito Parkway, stopping either side from crossing the street to clash.

A massive police presence has so far successfully kept the two groups separated from each other, on either side of Southwest Naito Parkway.

Antifascist protesters burn an American flag along Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)
Antifascist protesters burn an American flag along Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

Patriot Prayer leader and Senate candidate Joey Gibson planned the Aug. 4 rally, which he has called a "campaign event," shortly after Portland Police declared his June 30 demonstration a riot.

Patriot Prayer supporters and Proud Boys beat antifascist counter-protesters with flag poles federal police allowed them to keep. Antifascists fought back, throwing rocks and fireworks. Both sides used pepper spray.

Patriot Prayer protesters gather along Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)
Patriot Prayer protesters gather along Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

The violence was an extreme version of the street brawls that had become routine at Gibson's events. In recent months, some of his closest followers have also taken to driving around the Portland area yelling "Build the wall" and assaulting random people who shout back from the street.

National press and hate watchdogs have stoked deep concern about today's rally, pointing to Patriot Prayer's decision to bring armed guards and open carry as a signal that even worse violence is possible.

Oregon is an open carry state, but only people with a valid concealed handgun license can carry a loaded gun in public.

Patriot Prayer protesters gather along Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)
Patriot Prayer protesters gather along Naito Parkway on Aug. 4, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

"We've always had guns at the rally," Gibson said in a video on Facebook in the week before the rally. "Everyone should be carrying around guns at all times."

In the event, police did not appear to check Patriot Prayer protesters for weapons—and few of the people arriving were seen carrying guns.

Supporters from many states outside of Oregon joined Gibson in Vancouver, Wash. Saturday morning, then took a chartered bus to Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

They were met by thousands of antifascists and progressive counter-protesters, who ignored pleas from city officials to stay away. Members of Rose City Antifa carried a banner reading "GTFO ya jabronis" and a cardboard cutout of Wheeler clad in a bandanna and the Black Bloc clothing favored by antifascists.

Right-wing protesters attempted occasional, solo forays into the left-wing crowd—including one man who was dragged by police, head bleeding, to his own side of the street.

But most people followed orders and didn't try to broach police lines.

Tuasala "Tiny" Toese, who has started several brawls in Portland and at allegedly attacked at least one bystander, arrived in a T-shirt reading "Pinochet did nothing wrong"—and proceeded to dance to "Cha Cha Slide" with fellow members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing men's fraternity.

For his part, Gibson—whose Washington-state run for U.S. Senate appears a thinly-veiled effort to draw attention to his street marches—gave a pep talk to his supporters that focused on two topics: Wheeler and fighting.

"When we march, we are not here to beat people up," Gibson said. "We are not here to fight. But you have a God-given right to protect yourself if this mayor refuses to protect your constitutional rights."