Members of the far-right Proud Boys — some carrying firearms and wearing body armor — massed at a rally on Saturday in Portland, Oregon, as counter rallies unfolded nearby and officials in the tense city braced for violence.
At least three people were arrested after nearly 1,500 people gathered at two of three rallies, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
The Proud Boys event started about noon PST with speeches by group leader Enrique Tarrio and other supporters. Some rally goers carried baseball bats. Others held President Trump campaign signs. Protective shields were handed out from a van.
“We are aware that shields are being displayed at both event locations,” the sheriff’s office said via Twitter. “We want everyone to be safe, so we will seize weapons and shields as can be done safely and as resources allow.”
The sheriff’s office estimated 1,000 people attended the Proud Boys rally at Delta Park in north Portland.
The Delta Park rally unfolded near two other events, one by an anti-fascist group commonly referred to Antifa at Peninsula Park, and one by Black Lives Matter supporters at Historic Vanport, CNN affiliate KOIN reported. The sheriff’s office estimated there were 450 people at Peninsula Park.
The sheriff’s office said in a Twitter post it was investigating an incident in which a man documenting the Delta Park rally was assaulted.
KOIN reported that the Delta Park rally began to wind down at 2:30 p.m. PST while the Peninsula Park Antifa rally ended 30 minutes later.
The streets of Portland have been an epicenter for months of sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.
Organizers of the Proud Boys rally called it a free speech event in support of the President, the police and law and order. They vowed to condemn anti-fascists and what they call “domestic terrorism.”
Proud Boys is far-right extremist organization that has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A speaker at Saturday’s Proud Boys rally urged supporters to run for all “local offices possible” and “infiltrate all agencies.” Some people attending the rally registered to vote. Several people pointed out supposed Antifa supporters in the crowd and chased them away.
Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Kate Brown gave Oregon State Police and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office emergency authority on Friday to take over city security in the city this weekend. She declared a state of emergency to boost the number law enforcement officers and allow the use of tear gas.
“The pattern of these particular groups is clear — to intimidate, instigate, and inflame,” she said. “And these types of demonstrations in the past have often ended in fistfights, and sometimes escalated to bloodshed.”
The state police and the sheriff’s office are jointly leading the response, with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) serving under their command.
About 50 PPB officers were deputized as federal marshals Saturday ahead of the rallies.
The move enables prosecutors to file federal charges against people who assault officers.
“Portland Officers have been serving on the front lines of nightly protests for months, sustaining injuries and encountering unspeakable violence,” State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton said. “If I am to send them into harm’s way this weekend, on my authority, I’m going to ensure they have all the protections and authority of an OSP Trooper.”
Officials have said they do not want out-of-state groups to protest in the city, and denied the Proud Boys a permit to have a rally in a public park, citing coronavirus concerns.
But Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said Thursday the city expected protesters to number “somewhere in the thousands.”
Local officials and the Trump administration have clashed over how to handle the city’s protests. Tension escalated after the administration dispatched federal agents to the city as to guard federal buildings and monuments.
In late August, a right-wing group supporter, Aaron Danielson, was shot and killed there during clashes between pro-Trump groups and left-wing demonstrators. Months of protests have led to damaged buildings, injured police and protesters, and hundreds of arrests.
The protests against police brutality and racial injustice began after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while police custody in late May. They picked up after Wisconsin police shot Jacob Blake. Then, on August 29, during a clash between protesters and Trump supporters, Danielson was fatally shot.
The man suspected in Danielson’s death was later killed while police tried to take him into custody.