The Proud Boys and antifascists talked of little but each other all day. But they couldn't find each other.
The two groups wandered across downtown Portland this afternoon, but rarely encountered their adversaries, thanks to a police strategy that allowed the groups broad leeway to move along streets and sidewalks, so long as they remained far apart from each other.
So when the Proud Boys and their allies gathered north of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the cops kept antifascists bottled at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge. When a diminished contingent of the far right marched west across the Tilikum Bridge into the South Waterfront, police allowed antifa to stroll across the Burnside Bridge and wander among the warehouses of the Central Eastside.
The result? A game of cat-and-mouse that felt more like a Tom and Jerry cartoon—and kept the two groups more than a mile apart at all times, even as some said they wanted a confrontation.
Police made 13 arrests, and the few moments of violence arrived mainly as the right-wing groups attempted to leave downtown in two small buses. Antifascists were seen on videos shattering the bus windows, and a right-wing protester appeared to attack the leftists from inside the bus with a hammer. (Because early videos were misleading, this post has been changed to explain who first wielded the hammer.)
Later, police clashed with frustrated leftists, arresting several and tackling at least one woman to the ground, drawing an angry crowd for a tense standoff near the Portland Outdoor Store.
Those moments will add to the highlight reel of right-wing groups who seek to portray Portland as a hotbed for leftist violence. But none of the mayhem feared in recent weeks occurred—a major triumph for Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Portland Police Bureau, who have been the subject of intense national scrutiny from the right-wing media.
Yet the visiting Proud Boys declared the day a victory, saying they had achieved their aim of draining Portland's law-enforcement resources. They pledged to return once a month until Wheeler "excises the alt-left groups from his city."
That grand rhetoric contrasts with what their day actually looked like: wandering, lost and anxious, through unfamiliar streets while warning each other antifa was coming.
After retreating east across the Hawthorne Bridge, many of the Proud Boys and their supporters got in their vehicles and drove away for a barbecue.
About 100 who had parked on the west side, however, were stuck. Police had closed the Hawthorne Bridge so they had to walk south past OMSI and across the Tilikum Bridge.
Passing cyclists and OMSI patrons jeered and flipped off the American flag toting marchers. Word filtered through that antifa was planning to intercept the group as it headed to west side parking garages. Marchers donned helmets and gloves but except for a couple of antifa scouts on bikes, no opposition materialized.
Dozens of police, both on bikes and riding on the outside of trucks and vans, accompanied the Proud Boy group as they proceeded north on Second Avenue. At the Burnside Bridge, a few critics argued briefly with Vancouver, Wash.-based protest organizer Joey Gibson.
When the group crossed into Old Town, Gibson stopped to address the crowd. As he did, a woman on a 750cc Harley Davidson motorcycle pulled up to the curb and drowned Gibson out by revving her engine. Police asked her to stop. She refused and several officers yanked her from her motorcycle and cuffed her.
That ended a remarkably peaceful protest at about 2:30 pm.