Before Storming the Capitol, Trump Loyalists Practiced in Portland for Years

QAnon activists alluded to an impending civil war and claimed two months in advance of the election that, if Trump lost, it would be because Democrats rigged the election.

A MAN, A PAN: Ethan Nordean in downtown Portland for a Proud Boys rally in August of 2020. (Chris Nesseth)

For the past four years, far-right groups, accompanied by members of paramilitary organizations, have led scheduled incursions into Portland, often wearing body armor and carrying weapons. Repeatedly, the stated objective was to conquer the city and its progressives—or, more precisely, to reclaim it for the so-called silent majority of Americans.

It was sometimes hard to see the point of these exercises. But as elected officials laid out a case last week for impeaching former President Donald Trump for inciting an armed insurrection against Congress, one explanation emerged:

The Portland rallies were practice.

Trump was narrowly acquitted Feb. 13. But the footage of the deadly attack on the Capitol, and the use of Oregon headlines by both impeachment managers and Trump's lawyers, got us to thinking: How much of what happened in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 was foreshadowed by the actions of Trumpists in Oregon?

Quite a bit, as this timeline shows.

Jan. 20, 2017: Donald J. Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

March 2017: Right-wing figures, including a Vancouver, Wash., protest group of Trump loyalists called Patriot Prayer, begin meeting in downtown Portland parks for scheduled showdowns with anti-fascists. Fistfights break out. A Portland State University professor tells WW: "They see it as a civil war."

May 26, 2017: Jeremy Christian murders two men and critically wounds another after they interrupted his racist tirade directed at two Black teenage girls. Nine days later, as the city grieves, far-right groups, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, gather in downtown Portland for a "free speech" rally.

June 30, 2018: Clashes between anti-fascists and Patriot Prayer escalate into unhinged mayhem, with right-wing brawlers using flag poles to beat their adversaries. An anti-fascist protester requires surgery after a right-wing brawler hits him so hard he suffers a minor brain hemorrhage. At this event, a Washington state Proud Boy named Ethan Nordean is filmed knocking an anti-fascist combatant out cold. Nordean becomes a national celebrity under the name "Rufio Panman."

Aug. 4, 2018: Patriot Prayer returns to Portland and celebrates the sight of police deploying stun grenades against anti-fascists. Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, a Samoan brawler with Patriot Prayer, arrives wearing a T-shirt that reads, "Pinochet did nothing wrong." He explains the day's objective: power. "Today, we have proven to Portland that no matter what kind of threat they send our way, they are not gonna stop us. They are not gonna make us bend the knee."

Aug. 17, 2019: Proud Boys roll into Portland from across the country, led by a Floridian named Joe Biggs, echoing Trump's demand that antifa be declared a domestic terrorist group. The Proud Boys are allowed to exit the waterfront via the Hawthorne Bridge, a photo op that critics say looks like the city deferred to them.

May 19, 2020: A new element is added to the mix. The QAnon conspiracy theory, at its core, contends that a group of Satan-worshipping elites are involved in a cover-up of child sex trafficking, weilding control over the media and politicians. Jo Rae Perkins wins the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Oregon and posts a video to Twitter expressing explicit support for QAnon.

Aug. 29, 2020: Aaron "Jay" Danielson, affiliated with Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, is fatally shot, allegedly by antifascist Michael Reinoehl, after a pro-Trump truck caravan drives into downtown Portland from Clackamas County.  Deputy U.S. marshals later kill Reinoehl.

Sept. 13, 2020: Perkins hosts a fundraiser that doubles as a rally for QAnon at the Volcano Stadium in Keizer, Ore. At the event, prominent QAnon activists allude to an impending civil war and claim two months in advance of the election that, if Trump loses, it will be because Democrats rigged the election. "These people [Democrats] are planning a coup," says Oregon-based QAnon activist Scott Kesterson. "And they intend to do everything in their power to cheat and steal to take this election away from the people."

Dec. 21, 2020: The marches in Oregon evolve into "Stop the Steal" rallies, asserting the election results must be overturned. State Rep. Mike Nearman opens a door of the Capitol building in Salem, allowing a mob of Trump loyalists to storm the building during a Stop the Steal rally. Angelita Sanchez, a Timber Unity spokeswoman, livestreams the event on her Facebook page.

Jan. 6, 2021: Trump acolytes storm the U.S. Capitol as Congress meets to certify the results of the presidential election. Oregon attendees include Jo Rae Perkins, a prominent QAnon adherent and unsuccessful nominee for the U.S. Senate; Angelita Sanchez, spokeswoman for the conservative lobbying group Timber Unity; Kristina Malimon, a conservative influencer who posted support on her Instagram for QAnon and who was a member of both Oregon Young Republicans and the Multnomah County Republican Party; and Ethan Nordean, aka Rufio Panman. Nordean is charged in federal court after video footage captures him leading a mob to the Capitol.

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