With less than 72 hours before Proud Boys and other far-right groups are slated to converge in downtown Portland for an annual rally that has historically devolved into violent street brawls with local anti-fascists, city officials and the Portland Police Bureau have provided scant details of their planned response.
“The Police Bureau is actively planning for the weekend and will have information to share tomorrow,” bureau spokesman Lt. Greg Pashley said.
The mayor’s office, too, declined to immediately provide details about the planned law enforcement response, such as whether Portland police will be joined by other area law enforcement like Oregon State Police and Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies.
Tomorrow, however, should hopefully bring clarity: Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell are hosting a press conference Friday afternoon to address the upcoming rally. That press conference follows an 11 am event hosted by Wheeler called “Choose Love: A Community Gathering to Denounce Hate and Violence in Portland.”
Larger questions also loom about what, exactly, PPB’s response will look like now that the Rapid Response Team—tasked with covering mass gatherings—dissolved in June. The team, Portland’s riot squad, was often tasked with keeping dueling political groups separate. That said, it is unclear what impact the unit’s dissolution might have: While the 50-or-so RRT officers resigned en masse from the unit, they still remain employed by the Police Bureau.
The upcoming rally cannot be a surprise to local officials. For weeks, far-right groups have been actively posting about it online. And the same event took place on the same day last year—Aug. 22.
Portland has regularly been a target—some say a training ground—for extremists wishing to prove their mettle in street combat. Since 2017, city officials have tried different responses—some effective, others woefully inadequate.
The 2020 event, billed as a “No to Marxism in America” rally, escalated into violent skirmishes as Portland police, for the most part, stood by. As WW reported last summer, the Police Bureau made no effort to apprehend known Proud Boy Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who at the time had an active warrant out for his arrest.
And last September, about a month after last year’s gathering, law enforcement arrested Alan Swinney—another Proud Boys member—due to to his actions at the Aug. 22 protest and another gathering that month.
During the Aug. 22 gathering, Swinney allegedly pointed a loaded revolver at a counterprotester. The 51-year-old, who is still held in the Multnomah County Inverness Jail pending trial, faces charges for assault, unlawful use of tear gas, unlawful use of a weapon, and more.
Last summer’s clashes occurred in the build-up to the November election, as violent support for President Donald Trump mounted. It culminated in the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
In the aftermath of the failed insurrection, clashes between Proud Boys and anti-fascists have occurred sporadically this summer—most recently on the weekend of Aug. 7, around an evangelical Christian worship service in Tom McCall Waterfront Park.