How Does Portland Pull Out of Its Spiral of Political Bloodshed?

The Proud Boys are rallying in North Portland and vowing revenge on anti-fascist protesters.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

Next week, the civil rights nonprofit Western States Center will conduct a training for Mayor Ted Wheeler's office, Portland city commissioners and bureau directors. The topic? Right-wing paramilitary groups and anti-democratic organizations, and the tactics other cities have used to defang their intimidation displays.

That's a training Western States Center has offered to give City Hall for more than a year, says Amy Herzfeld-Copple, an executive at the nonprofit. This summer, Wheeler agreed. (The Portland Police Bureau still hasn't accepted the offer for a similar seminar, she says.)

But first, the city needs to get through this week. That means enduring another visit from just such a group: the Proud Boys, who are rallying in North Portland and vowing revenge on anti-fascist protesters.

This is a familiar dynamic. Since the Trump administration began, right-wing paramilitary members have used Portland as a "proving ground," as Herzfeld-Copple puts it, for showing they can invade a politically hostile city. Leftists nearly always give them a brawl—and square off with the cops, too. If all of this sounds like the fracturing of an empire after its democratic era ends…well, that's what Western States Center is worried about, too. The results for Portland have already been fairly dire.

On Thursday, the Western States Center marshaled 30 organizations to ask elected officials and law enforcement for a unified response. In this conversation with WW news editor Aaron Mesh, Herzfeld-Copple discusses how this city can avoid a worst-case scenario this Saturday.

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