Far-right Patriot Prayer clashes with anti-fascists in Portland

Police declare protests a 'riot' after Patriot Prayer supporters clash with anti-racists in US city.

    Joey Gibson, founder of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, speaks to the press following a rally in Washington state last year [File: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters]
    Joey Gibson, founder of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, speaks to the press following a rally in Washington state last year [File: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters]

    More than 150 far-right protesters clashed with counterdemonstrators in the US city of Portland on Sunday during a rally organised by a US Senate candidate.

    Police declared Saturday's events a riot, revoking a permit for a rally a permit for a rally by the right-wing Patriot Prayer group after its supporters began clashing with the more than 100 anti-racists and anti-fascists, also known as Antifa, who gathered across the street. 

    Video shared on social media show Patriot Prayer members throwing metal rubbish bin lids at counterdemonstrators, as well as hitting them with flagpoles.

    Both sides can also be seen punching and kicking each other.

    According to those at the counterprotests, police confiscated anything considered a weapon, including clubs and chemical sprays, local media reported.

    "It is very important that antifascists keep up the pressure so that we can stop them once and for all," several Antifa groups said in a Facebook event post prior to the rally.

    "We are indeed city workers, teachers, nurses, bartenders, parents, and people from all walks of life," the event page added. "And we are united in our opposition to the rise of fascism in this country and we sure as hell will not let it take our streets."

    Patriot Prayer organiser Joey Gibson, who is running as a Republican for US Senate in Washington state, told local news outlet KOIN that clashes were "good, in terms that we showed that there's a political move right now to have the police stand down in order to impact free speech in some of these big cities."

    "We'll make Portland so ugly in terms of how they allow these protesters to charge us when we have a permit," he was quoted as saying. "The police stood down, we were told they would not stand down, so we have to challenge it."

    According to those at the counterrally, several members of the far-right Proud Boys, a group that describes itself as "Western chauvinist" and often brags about taking part in physical confrontations with anti-fascists, were also present. 

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    Police, many of whom were dressed in riot gear, used tear gas and sound grenades to disperse protesters. 

    Saturday's event was billed as a "Freedom and Courage" rally, aimed at promoting courage, which Patriot Prayer said was the "backbone to freedom".

    Shane Burley, author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It, wrote on Twitter that he was convinced Sunday's event was "planned by the Proud Boys to fight the left".

    "It was brutal and they targeted people," he said. "I am fully convinced that the Proud Boys would have murdered someone today if they had not been stopped."

    'Unite the Right 2'

    In early June, Patriot Prayer supporters and anti-fascists clashed in what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said was "perhaps Patriot Prayer's most violent rally". The Alabama-based monitoring group added, however, that event, also in Portland, was also the "smallest gathering of Gibson's supporters yet" and "attendance at his rallies has been on the decline." 

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    Sunday's event comes as the far-right organisers of last year's deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia plan an anniversary event in Washington, DC.

    Jason Kessler, who organised last year's event with alt-right leader Richard Spencer, has received initial approval from authorities in Washington, DC, for a rally across from the White House. The alt-right is a loosely knit network of white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

    At last year's Unite the Right rally, James Alex Fields Jr, who had marched with a neo-Nazi group earlier in the day, allegedly rammed his car into a group of anti-racist protesters, killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Last week, Fields was charged with a slew of hate crimes over the alleged murder.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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