Portland Police Allow Political Brawlers to Lob Rocks and Aluminum Cans at Each Other, and Tell One Side to Skip Town

A Trump-supporting family from Astoria claims they were attacked by Antifa while cops watched.

Antifascist protesters in downtown Portland. (Christine Dong)

One year after police tactics at a downtown protest drew outrage and a lawsuit, Portland cops took a restrained approach to constraining brawls this evening between two groups of protesters who have become bitter political enemies.

A result of that approach: Patriot Prayer protesters and their antifascist foes were emboldened to not only assault each other, but to menace passersby who tried to intervene. The groups even lobbed rocks and discharged pepper spray at each other.

The hands-off police tactics have already drawn criticism from the right-wing Patriot Prayer movement and Antifa, both of whom complain about the results of fights like basketball teams working the referees.

But the return of two groups whose political speech seems like a pretext for organized assaults raises questions about the safety of those who don't participate.

Protesters in downtown Portland. (Christine Dong)

Video taken at tonight's protest shows Patriot Prayer members harassing and threatening a cyclist who tried to break up a fight. Another video captures a Portland police officer giving the right-wing group a choice: Leave town or get arrested.

At least two antifascist protesters broke off chunks of concrete from a protective covering near the curb in front of the Salmon Street Springs. Patriot Prayer protesters grabbed rocks out of nearby business landscaping.

The two groups threw glass bottles and aluminum cans pulled from recycling bins along the waterfront, within shouting distance of the Rose Festival midway.

Police officers, who have watched similar scenes play out in downtown since shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, seemed bemused. One remarked as the protests faded out, "Well, I got my steps in today."

Shortly after the protests ended, the Portland Police Bureau released a statement saying it had arrested four protesters. "The intent of law enforcement today," the statement said, "was to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment."

Police at a Portland protest. (Christine Dong)

The day's violence started quickly—read WW's report on the first half of the protest here—and continued in erratic bursts. It ended with the Patriot Prayer protesters, few of whom live in Portland, sprinting to their getaway cars to skip town.

Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, the Samoan right-wing brawler whose departure home was the ostensible reason for today’s gathering, gave a speech at the end of the evening, confirming what video captured: Police had given his group the ultimatum to leave or go to jail.

"Cops say if we don't leave, they're going to arrest us for free speech," Toese said. "I don't want to leave. But we have to think smart. If they take you, who's going to protect the rest? Today we proved a point that we're not backing down. We take today as a fucking win. We came and we stood like mad fucking Americans."

Patriot Prayer organizer “Tiny” Toese. (Christine Dong)

Police later chased down and detained a man dressed in black after a family of Trump supporters flagged officers and told them he had assaulted the family's father and youngest daughter.

Daniel Adams, who lives in Astoria but says he grew up in Portland, says his family was attacked within minutes of arriving at the protest around 5 pm. He says his family came not to protest anything, but to say goodbye to their friend, Toese.

"I grew up here," he says. " I have a lot of pride for this town and it's unfortunate what it's turned into."

Some members of the family have been known to attend alt-right protests across the country and have close ties to prominent figures within the alt-right movement.

A purple bruise was still swelling above his right eye as he recounted his daughter being struck repeatedly by counterprotesters. He says he tried to pull her away and the masked protesters hit him several times in the face and body.

The family identified the woman as 20-year-old Ashley Adams.

Daniel Adams, who came to the protest in an American flag tie and a Trump-Pence hat, says police watched the assault but did not intervene until it had ended, a tactic Portland police often use at protests.

The assault recounted by the family appears to be the same beating that WW reported earlier in the evening, in which black-clad protesters screamed "Fuck you Haley, go back to the suburbs" as they beat a brunette woman who lay on the ground.

A protester is dragged away from a beating at the hands of Antifa in downtown Portland. (Jason Wilson)

About two hours later, as Adams walked with his wife and eldest daughter, the family saw the group who they say attacked them. Two boys who were skateboarding near the courthouse say they saw the group of masked protesters change clothes and then run from police.

An officer stopped the man who had been detained by pulling out a taser and ordering him to lay down on the sidewalk near the steps of the Multnomah County Courthouse. An officer at the scene said the man was detained pending an investigation of assault.

The man repeatedly told officers he had not attacked anyone as they zip tied his hands behind his back.

This story was updated June 4 with new reporting.

Protesters in downtown Portland. (Christine Dong)

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