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The Last Time Albert Lee Confronted Right-Wing Militants, He Was Sprayed With Bear Mace. Today, He Went Out Again.

Lee is one of four plaintiffs who on Sept. 25 sued Alan Swinney and two other Proud Boy associates.

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.

A Sept. 26 rally by Proud Boys in North Portland proved anticlimactic. After a week of media hype and official condemnation, the show of strength for President Donald Trump drew only a few hundred people to a rain-sodden field. The group prayed, chanted, roughed up a couple photographers and went home.

Nobody is more relieved than Albert Lee.

He returned to counterprotest today after a vivid previous encounter with the alt-right.

Lee is one of four plaintiffs who on Sept. 25 sued Alan Swinney and two other Proud Boy associates, alleging they used paintball guns and bear mace to assault people who interrupted their Aug. 22 "flag wave" event in downtown Portland.

The lawsuit seeks $1.2 million in damages. But Lee says the real purpose is to establish in the courts that Swinney and his cohorts can't use weapons to silence people who disagree with them.

Lee ran for U.S. Congress in the Democratic primary this May, mounting a vigorous campaign to the left of incumbent U.S. Rep. Earl Blumeanuer. With his lawsuit, he enters far more fraught political territory: the debate over who is engaged in free speech at Portland's dueling protests, and who is engaged in violence.

But in this interview, Lee answers a more immediate question: What does bear mace feel like?