Police Play Cat-and-Mouse With Dueling, Hostile Protesters Around Oregon Capitol

Leftist counterprotesters attacked individual pickup trucks that arrived early.

For the first time since the Jan. 6 invasion of Congress, right-wing groups visited the Oregon Capitol in Salem. Their truck parade was met by anti-fascist counterprotesters who vowed to no longer allow Proud Boys and their allies to arrive at the Capitol building unmolested.

The result: a day of brinkmanship, with one man pointing a handgun at leftist crowds, and camouflaged law enforcement officers jumping out of unmarked vans to assist with targeted arrests.

Today was billed as Oregon's first large-scale gathering of loyalists to former President Donald Trump since the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Right-wing groups planned a flag-bedecked motorcade starting from Sandy, Ore., and ending on the front steps of the Oregon Capitol, reminiscent of motorcade protests in downtown Portland last summer. Left-wing anti-fascists planned a counterprotest to confront the motorcade.

Such dueling protests have previously ended in street brawls involving sticks, shields, and copious amounts of bear mace—including on Jan. 6. This did not happen today.

What transpired instead was a series of small engagements between left-wing activists and right-wing protesters in lone pickup trucks with Thin Blue Line and Gadsden flags, with leftist crowds pursued by motorized riot officers from the Salem Police Department, Marion County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police.

Today may be an indication that street clashes between right- and left-wing protesters, with police in the middle, are a Trump-era trend that will continue well into the Biden years. The escalation of enforcement tactics by responding police agencies in Salem may signal stronger crackdowns on future protests.

At 1 pm, over 100 leftist protesters had gathered on both sides of Court Street in front of the Capitol under cherry trees in full bloom, forming a gauntlet. They were dressed in a full regalia of helmets, gas masks and shields, expecting the arrival of the similarly armed right-wing motorcade.

The bulk of these never arrived. Instead, counterprotesters attacked individual pickup trucks that arrived early.

"Heads up! Chud truck!" the perimeter scouts would yell to alert the crowd. Crowds ripped off flags, threw paint-filled containers, and broke windows of three trucks they suspected to be part of the motorcade.

Salem police and other law enforcement agencies blockaded Court Street shortly before 4 pm. Officers in riot equipment successfully pushed the crowd northward, away from the Capitol building.

What followed was a three-way game of cat-and-mouse. Riot officers aboard vans pursued a crowd of anti-fascist protesters who were actively seeking out the right-wing motorcade.

A series of small clashes between right- and left-wing protesters crescendoed when crowds descended upon a right-wing truck caught behind a red light. A volley of paint bombs and insults spurred the right-wing protester to get out of his truck to confront the black-clad crowd damaging his vehicle. Noticing an increasingly hostile crowd, the man returned to the cab of the truck to retrieve his pistol before returning to the confrontation with it.

The sound of the man cocking his gun sent most of the crowd in a hurried retreat after the man was maced. "He's got a fucking gun!" someone yelled.

Police officers disarmed and took the man into custody within seconds. Later video showed the man being released after a short detainment.

Motorized riot police continued their pursuit of the dwindling crowd under an increasingly heavy rainstorm, using more aggressive enforcement tactics.

Troopers from the Oregon State Police carried out several targeted arrests, sprinting into the retreating crowd several times as other riot officers caught up to secure the scene. Other officers in camouflage fatigues and rifles jumped out of unmarked vans on two occasions to intercept fleeing protesters and assist with arrests. Both were tactics used by federal agents at Portland courthouses last summer, but never seen in Salem before.

Salem police announced in a press release that activities had concluded at 6 pm. Law enforcement made at least four arrests.