Several hundred Proud Boys and their supporters gathered at Delta Park in North Portland this afternoon in what they intended as a show of strength for President Donald Trump and their right-wing comrades who've been jailed or killed in street conflicts.
The event was billed as retribution for Aaron J. Danielson, a Trump-supporting protester killed last month by a Portland anti-fascist, and Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people in Wisconsin during a riot.
The prospect of the Proud Boys, a right-wing men's fraternity, and other far-right paramilitary groups arriving in Portland alarmed local officials, who feared their presence could escalate civil unrest in the city. Such groups have repeatedly engaged in fierce street combat with anti-fascists and other political foes. On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown declared an emergency so Oregon State Police could oversee a law enforcement response.
In a permit application, the Proud Boys projected 20,000 people would attend their rally. In the event, less than 500 people gathered on soccer fields in the soggy park.
The protest started with a prayer, calling for "Portland to be saved." Under a canopy of "Trump 2020" and American flags, the demonstrators chanted "U-S-A!" and "Fuck antifa!"
They also condemned the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-fascists, saying violence committed by these groups is hurting the country.
"As a Black man, a person of intelligence, Black Lives Matter is not a movement for Black people," said James Sullivan in a speech. "It is a Marxist movement. It is a movement to censor free speech."
As the rally continued, a handful of counterprotesters showed up, met quickly by Proud Boys and their supporters. While some in the crowd argued and insulted counterprotesters, others tried to keep the peace and not engage with them.
But protesters were observed chasing or shoving several people filming them.
Bethany, who described herself as an independent journalist and declined to give her last name, said Proud Boys supporters came up to her and called her "antifa press." She said one man grabbed the GoPro on her black helmet with "Press" lettered in white.
Later, she alleged she was pushed to the grass by either Proud Boys or their supporters.
"They started screaming, 'She's antifa, she's antifa! Get her!'" Bethany recalled. "They came up and grabbed me and threw me down on the ground."
As the Proud Boys gathered, two separate counter-protests convened in other parks. On the other side of Interstate 5 from Delta Park, a group of Black activists held an event to discuss the history of Vanport, the predominantly Black city that once stood at that location. Further south, more than a thousand leftist protesters held a rally in Peninsula Park.
With few exceptions, protesters did not attempt to bridge the physical distance between the separate events. City officials credited that to the robust law enforcement presence in North Portland.
Police presence inside Delta Park was sparse, but outside the park, Portland police patrolled in riot vans and Oregon state troopers rolled by in their squad cars. Around 1 pm, Portland police came into the parking lot to block traffic and make sure people drove north, away from downtown and toward Vancouver, Wash.