How Antifascists Kept Portland Safe

The Proud Bo ys have become a key part of Donald Trump’s base, with Trump even ordering them to “stand by” in case of accused ele ction interference in November during Tuesday night’s presidential debate. This prompted Proud Boy organizer Joe Biggs to say that Trump basically gave the group the green light to fight anti-fascists.

“For years, this anti-fascist coalition has built a c ommunity of people who pour their creativity into community defense. And the uprising has built an anti-racist, anti-capitalist community of greater strength and resolve,” says Evan Burchfield of the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) , a 1,600-member chapter that has a history of getting involved in anti-fascist coalition efforts in Portland.

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Protest Summer

Members of far right groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer have gathered in Portland a number of times since 2016, culminating in an August 22 “Back the Blue” rally, where attendees attacked Black Lives Matter protesters with batons, shields, pepper spray, and pulled firearms, all with impunity while police refused to intervene. After a Patriot Prayer member was killed during another confrontati on on August 29, the Proud Boys promised to return, citing Kyle Rittenhouse as their inspiration.

“We want to live in a safe community. The Proud Boys and other far right gangs have used our city as a staging ground for violence for years,” Burchfield told “We hold the se events to contain them, to keep our city safe, and to demonstrate what kind of community we are.”

Flower Park

While counterdemonstrations have become an expected prelude to the arrival of far right groups to Portland, for Bloom/Pollinate, the organizers decided to move it some distance from the Proud Boys r ally location. The Proud Boys first headed to Terry Schrunk Plaza in the center of Portland, but after their leadership decided the anticipated crowd was too large, the Proud Boys decided to move to Delta Park, a large open area north of the city that does not have the same gun restrictions as Terry Schrunk Plaza. It is also the original site of Vanport, a historically Black neighborhood that was built during World War II when Black workers came to work at shipyards. It was destroyed by a flood in 1948 and has continued to serve as a historic reminder of racist policies in a city often touted as a haven for progressive politics.

“It seemed appropriate to focus our attention on a celebration of the community that the people of Portland have created in opposition to these far right incursions, and to not deign to enter whatever trap the Proud Boys think they’re setting,” Baum told

At noon, both rallies converged on different sides of North Portland. The Proud Boys, led by the group’s international chair , Enrique Tarrio, descended into the middle of the grassy field of Delta Park, staging people in militia gear at checkpoin ts entering the space. Many of the Proud Boys came armed, ranging from baseball bats to firearms, and as people flooded into the space, they began to swarm on media they considered “antifa.” This led to hairy moments as they threatened to attack several jo urnalists, often brandishing their weapons and creating a fear of impending beatings or worse.

More than double that crowd gathered in Peninsula Park as a series of anti-fascist speakers led a rally that was surrounded with organizational tents inviting peop le to get involved in different forms of activism. In an effort to undermine the presence of the Proud Boys, Pop Mob reinstituted an idea they had started last summer when the Proud Boys flooded hundreds into Portland. Supporters could pledge a certain amo unt of money per Proud Boy that appeared across town; the more Proud Boys members that arrived, the more money would be raised for the chosen progressive organization. Last year, Pop Mob raised money for an immigrant rights organization, and this year, the money went to the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), a legal organization that provides legal support to marginalized communities. At last count, there was around $70 per Proud Boys participant pledged by supporters, and since around 300 people were i n attendance at the Proud Boys rally, this equals to around $21,000 for OJRC.

“Things got to change. My grandson should have been alive today,” says Donna Ha yes, the grandmother of Quanice Hayes , a 17-year-old who was killed by Portlan d police in 2017. “Until the police change, it’s gonna be a whole lot of more people [dying].”

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Originally published at https://truthout.org on September 30, 2020.

Filmmaker and author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It. His work is featured at Jacobin, In These Times, Salon, Truthout, etc. @Shane_Burley1

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