Portland police are asking the public to identify four masked protesters who they say deployed pepper spray, threw objects, and jabbed umbrellas at other protesters and police.
That request comes in the wake of a Feb. 8 demonstration in downtown Portland. That protest occurred after rumors surfaced that a Ku Klux Klan rally was scheduled to take place downtown, though it's unclear if such a rally was ever actually planned.
In response, the antifascist group PopMob organized a counterprotest in conjunction with various other community groups. The event's Facebook page encouraged individuals to bring umbrellas: "Tell the KKK they can't stand under our umbrella," the event description reads.
Police now say those umbrellas were used as weapons.
"During this event, metal-tipped umbrellas were used to jab toward people and chase them down the street, and objects (including rocks, concrete, batons, cans, and food) were thrown at community members and police," the Portland Police Bureau said in a press release.
Effie Baum, the spokesperson for PobMob, disputed the police's claims and said the protesters were not, in fact, acting violently.
"I think it's a perfect example of how the police place more resources and effort into protecting property than all of the people who live here," Baum said. "This is just classic police sowing disinformation and exaggerated claims, just like they did with the cement milkshake, as a way to disrupt thriving social movements that they see as a threat to the power… It is very much Portland policing as usual."
In their press release, the police included photos of the suspects, which depict some of them holding what appears to be pepper spray in their hands.
Monday's announcement by police comes after what has become an established pattern after Portland protests: Conservatives widely disseminated videos and reports that antifascists had violently attacked people who confronted them. Those reports led to questions about whether police had done enough to control leftist protesters.
In this case, police upheld one aspect of those social-media reports: the use of umbrellas on adversaries.