Early Wednesday afternoon, a crowd of some 300 pro-Trump protesters and Proud Boys gathered around a projector screen in a parking lot outside the Capitol, shielded from the Oregon rain by a tent. On the screen, President Trump issued a video message via social media to insurrectionists who had raided the U.S. Capitol.
"We love you," Trump said, his voice on loudspeaker. "You're very special. But you have to go home now."
The Oregon crowd declined. "We're not going home!" one woman yelled.
Instead, for the next two hours, the pro-Trump crowd fired paintballs at anti-fascist counterprotesters and yelled at Oregon State Police, in one of a dozen similar scenes across the country where the president's most committed supporters turned to violence as they refused to concede he had lost.
In most ways, including the low-grade munitions and fisticuffs, the unrest resembled many previous brawls where Proud Boys and anti-fascists squared off in public spaces during the Trump era.
But this one was different in two ways: It was part of coordinated shows of force nationwide by irate Trumpists. And the right-wing protesters displayed a new and growing distaste for law enforcement, which they had previously venerated with "Thin Blue Line" flags.
In between speeches decrying the state's COVID-19 lockdown policies, the protesters burned an effigy of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Many speakers decried the negative mental and social effects of shutting down schools and restaurants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At 1:52 pm, shortly after the pro-Trump crowd rejected the idea of leaving, a group of black-clad leftist protesters arrived on foot. The Proud Boys, a far-right group, went to meet them. A brief standoff with insults hurled back and forth across the street ensued.
Moderators from both sides attempted to keep the two opposing crowds apart with little success. As agitators on both sides closed with each other, a yellow smoke bomb was hurled into the left-wing protesters' ranks. A swift and brutal melee followed. Right-wing brawlers from the Proud Boys drove left-wing protesters back with batons and mace, with the support of other pro-Trump protesters firing paintball guns.
Several left-wing protesters were treated at the scene by volunteer medics for pepper-spray exposure and blunt-force trauma injuries, including leftist protester Gary Floyd, who suffered a broken supraorbital ridge from a pepper ball impact to the face. Two people were hospitalized.
Law enforcement personnel from the Salem Police Department and Marion County Sheriff's Office arrived via armored vehicles and riot vans, while Oregon state troopers moved in to separate the two sides and stop the brawl.
An Oregon State Police statement said officers arrested right-wing protester David Willis, 43, of Lincoln City for disorderly conduct and harassment.
The pro-Trump crowd then turned its attention to the responding state troopers. "You're all traitors!" one protester declared. Law enforcement officers held a secure perimeter around the state Capitol building and Wilson Park to ensure the two sides did not clash again.
All the while, pro-Trump crowds continued to insult law enforcement officers.
Shortly before 8 pm, the Oregon State Police released a warning that right-wing groups might be planning armed takeovers of state Capitol buildings.
"Oregon State Police have heard rumors that armed groups were considering taking over and/or occupy the State Capitols," the OSP wrote. "Oregon State Police fully support people's First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and to gather peacefully. OSP will not tolerate criminal activities and you will be arrested if you engage in any of these acts."