Without Police Intervention, a Portland Waterfront Worship Event Leads to Clash Between Political Factions

“If you mess with them or our First Amendment right to worship God—you’ll meet Jesus one way or another.”

waterfront guard Right-wing guards surround the "Let Us Worship" event on the Portland Waterfront. (Justin Yau)

Hundreds crowded Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Sunday afternoon for a worship concert held by a traveling evangelical Christian singer and activist named Sean Feucht. The event, guarded by right-wing militants, soon devolved into a street battle between political factions, as Portland police failed to intercede.

As part of Feucht’s “Let Us Worship” tour around the states, the largely unmasked crowd of hundreds sang, waved prayer flags, cried, laughed and jumped up and down to alternating bouts of praise-and-worship music and preaching.

It was the second such worship event on the Willamette riverfront in Portland this weekend. The first one on Saturday saw left-wing counterprotesters disrupt the event with smoke canisters and destroy sound equipment.

But during the Sunday afternoon event, over 40 uniformed men armed with batons and helmets stood on the outskirts as security to prevent the same thing from happening for a second day in a row.

On the outskirts of the crowd, a handful of right-wing and left-wing militant protesters stood off against each other, but it didn’t escalate to violence. The religious event went off without interruption, aside from occasional yelling between the two groups, most of which was drowned out by the loud music. In fact, the two groups both deescalated each other enough to have conversations.

But the peace didn’t last long. At nightfall, after the event had wrapped up, the two opposing groups fought.

“If you mess with them or our First Amendment right to worship God—you’ll meet Jesus one way or another,” wrote Feucht in a Twitter post after the event, showing a picture of him posing with a group of men in matching black and tan uniforms, most wearing sunglasses.

Among the security guards that were there during the event, however, were a smaller handful of right-wing brawlers led by a well-known Proud Boy named Tusitala “Tiny” Toese. He is not supposed to attend political protests for another year, as part of the terms of his probation.

tiny toese Tusitala "Tiny" Toese (left) argues in front of a downtown Portland coffee shop. (Justin Yau)

As dusk turned to night, the right wing and left wing clashed. The two sides deployed mace, fireworks, and pepper balls at each other in a running battle up and down Southwest Jefferson Street between the intersections of 1st and 2nd avenues.

A passing pedestrian kept cheering on both sides to fight.

“I want carnage! I want to see some real carnage!” the passerby yelled.

The right-wing guards eventually decided to retreat to their vehicles and deploy fireworks from their pickup trucks while driving at high speeds at the left-wing counterprotesters. Black bloc-clad anti-fascists threw metal spikes on the road as a countermeasure.

Portland police did not interfere with the clashes.

explosive An explosion in downtown Portland on Aug. 8. (Justin Yau)

The entire affair had largely ended by 10 pm, until roving left-wing protesters spotted a lone right-winger dressed in tactical gear and a camouflaged shirt, carrying what looked like an AR-15 rifle.

The counterprotesters immediately started following the person they thought to be a gunman through downtown Portland. They yelled profanities at the man and compared him to Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people in Kenosha, Wis., last year.

The man turned and pointed his gun at counterprotesters, bystanders, and members of the press—including this reporter. All the while, he appeared to talk on the phone.

“This guy’s got a gun! He’s already pointed it at me once!” one man yelled to confused diners sitting on the crowded patio of Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen.

The gunman’s aimless patrol around downtown Portland—with no apparent direction or purpose in mind—ended about 25 minutes later, when he walked into the back of the Multnomah County Justice Center into Portland police custody.

The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement this morning that the rifle was actually a replica airsoft rifle.

No charges have been filed against the man.

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