Updated Aug 18, 2019

Portland protests: Hundreds swarm city for far-right and counter-rallies

Members of the Proud Boys and other far-right demonstrators march across the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday. Photo: Noah Berger/AP

Portland Police Bureau said at a news conference they arrested 13 people and seized weapons including metal poles and bear spray, as hundreds of far-right demonstrators and anti-fascist counterprotesters rallied in Oregon’s largest city Saturday.

Details: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he was relived the protests were largely peaceful. But he said, "We have a rising white nationalist movement based on white supremacy in this country — and it is impacting the entire nation — but we're certainly seeing that play out here on the streets of Portland."

Context: The far-right group Proud Boys threatened to return to Portland every month unless the mayor removes the "scourge of violent domestic terrorists from his city," referring to Antifa, according to the Oregonian.

  • Wheeler said that while he supports the right to protest, such demonstrations cost millions of dollars and the Proud Boys' threat "feeds in" to the current national environment of fear, driven by hate crimes and mass shootings.

The big picture: Police said officers seized weapons "almost immediately" after demonstrators began arriving downtown about 8:30am. At its peak, there were 1,200 protesters in Portland, they said. Authorities closed bridges and streets to try to keep the rival groups apart, per AP.

  • Police said they declared the event a civil disturbance about 4:15pm. "By 6:30 p.m., the demonstrators had left the area and police were demobilized," they said in a statement.
  • Portland Police spokesperson Lt. Tina Jones told the news conference that 6 people sustained minor injuries during the demonstrations, including 1 who was taken to hospital.
  • Those arrested face charges including disorderly conduct, interfering with police, resisting arrest, possession of a weapon in a park and unlawful use of a weapon, Jones said.

Driving the news: Many of the far-right protesters back a bill sponsored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) urging Congress to identify the anti-fascist collective Antifa as a domestic terrorist group, the New York Times notes.

  • President Trump tweeted ahead of the rallies, "Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an 'ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.' Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!"
  • CNN reports that Wheeler responded to Trump's tweet by saying, "I’m not concerning myself with tweets coming out of Washington, D.C., and frankly, it's not helpful. This is a potentially dangerous and volatile situation."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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