A Far-Right Protester Fired Two Gunshots at Black Lives Matter Demonstrators Last Weekend

This reporter and two other eyewitnesses at the scene recognized the driver of the Dodge Dart as Skylor Jernigan.

The Aug. 15 "flag wave" rally outside the Multnomah County Justice Center. (Laura Jedeed)

A right-wing "flag wave" event in downtown Portland on Saturday ended with a far-right protester firing two gunshots into a crowd of Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

Seaside, Ore., resident and conservative activist Haley Adams advertised her Aug. 15 "Rally Against Domestic Terrorism" as a "flag wave" and stressed the group's intent to remain peaceful. About 25 people attended the rally in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center.

This reporter saw several members of the protest arrive with weaponry—they open-carried a Scorpion 9 mm carbine and an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. Others held Mace, paintball guns and a 9 mm handgun.

The flag wave rally exchanged chants and taunts for approximately an hour with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters before Adams' group embarked on a march through downtown Portland. Counterprotesters followed closely, and there was a small exchange of violence between the two groups: Flag wave protesters were seen Macing BLM protesters and shooting them with paintball rounds and hard plastic pellets. Counterprotesters returned fire with Mace and Silly String.

At approximately 1:35 pm, about 15 conservative protesters retreated into the SmartPark garage at Southwest 4th Avenue and Yamhill Street. Ten minutes later, three cars sped out of the garage and down 4th Avenue. The driver of one car—a blue Dodge Dart—fired two shots at a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters as he left but didn't hit anyone. Some of the BLM protesters recovered a 9 mm casing at the scene of the shooting.

This reporter and two other eyewitnesses at the scene recognized the driver of the Dodge Dart as Skylor Jernigan: a well-known presence at far-right events, distinguished by his slight build and eyeglasses.

Skylor Jernigan on Aug. 15. (Laura Jedeed)

Jernigan, 27, a Milwaukie resident, has attended rallies hosted by Adams since December 2018. Formerly a competitive roller blader and martial arts enthusiast, Jernigan has become increasingly focused on right-wing politics over the past two years.

Jernigan came to the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2019 for making threats against antifa. "You're gonna be getting knives put into your throat," Jernigan said in a Facebook video, dated Jan. 24, 2019. "You're going to be getting bullets put into your head if you don't stop this shit with us."

"I saw him as he drove past me in the parking garage," Black Lives Matter protester Jeremy Smith recalled. "That was 100% Jernigan shooting out the window." Smith, who has participated in several counterprotests of Adams' group, recognized Jernigan from previous events. Alyssa Azar, a livestreamer with journalist collective DefendPDX, also recognized Jernigan as the car's driver based on prior research of Adams' group. Both Azar and Smith had recognized Jernigan at the flag wave earlier in the day.

And this reporter, who has previously seen and spoken to Jernigan at several events hosted by Adams since early 2019, also recognized him.

Jernigan could not be reached for comment.

The Portland Police Bureau declined to discuss whether they consider Jernigan a person of interest but acknowledged the bureau has an "open investigation" into the gunshots at the parking garage at 4th and Yamhill. The gunshots were captured in a video shared to Twitter and Instagram.

Although conservative groups have largely kept their distance from Black Lives Matter protests for the past  two months, national attention on Portland's protests appears to be attracting right-wing militants seeking confrontation. That creates a tricky dynamic: Portland's left-wing protesters, who are protesting the police, are often unwilling to cooperate with officers investigating actions attributed to far-right groups.

Last week, a group of leftist protesters reported two pipe bombs thrown at them in Laurelhurst Park.

And on Saturday, shortly after the counterprotest began to disperse—approximately 2:50 pm—a pipe bomb thrown from a moving vehicle exploded on Southwest Main Street between 4th and 5th avenues.

"I couldn't even react," DefendPDX photojournalist Clementson Supriyadi recalls. "The vehicle revved up some and I caught a glimpse of the driver. And then there was a bomb in the middle of the street."

Supriyadi describes the driver as a heavy-set white male in his 30s or 40s, bald with facial hair and wearing a black tank top. It remains unclear whether the pipe bomb incident was connected to the far-right protest. Portland police announced an open investigation of this incident Aug. 17.

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