- Controversial move to enlist armed militia groups for public events comes amid tension between far-right and anti-fascist protesters
Brawls and verbal confrontations punctuated the latest in a series of far-right “patriot movement” events in Portland , Oregon, on Friday, as around 100 attendees clashed verbally and occasionally physically with “anti-fascist” protesters.
In such an atmosphere of tension and violence, Portland Republicans voted this week to invite heavily armed militia groups to provide security at public events.
The Portland Mercury reported the controversial move, after the text of a party resolution was leaked. In May, the Guardian
reported that Multnomah County GOP chairman James Buchal was considering such a move as a result of perceived danger from anti-fascist protesters. Buchal then used a major rightwing rally in the city, on 4 June and in the tense aftermath of a racially motivated double murder on city transportation, as a recruiting platform .
The Mercury reported that Multnomah Republicans had resolved in a meeting on Monday to “utilize volunteers from the Oregon Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, and other security groups” to protect their events. It was previously
reported that the party was asking for donations to combat “threats of leftist violence”.
The groups that Republicans are proposing to employ are controversial. Following the Guardian’s initial report, the Anti Defamation League wrote an open letter to Buchal which said groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters “are not benign ‘security forces’. They are, in our judgment, militia-style, anti-government extremist groups”.
|An anti-fascist counter-protester in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian|
The rally was followed by a march through the park and local streets, which was trailed and heckled by the same counter-protesters. The two sides intermittently engaged in violent scuffles.
The event was organised by Patriot Prayer, a rightwing protest group from Vancouver, Washington, led by Joey Gibson, that has staged many pro-Trump and “free speech” events in liberal cities and on college campuses throughout the Pacific north-west.
With police taking a hands-off approach, and only two parked patrol cars in sight, the two groups were free to engage in continuous and often heated exchanges. Now and again this boiled over, and counter-protesters were attacked.
One prominent member of Gibson’s group, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, was seen to punch a counter-protester to the ground. Toese was at the center of many verbal and physical confrontations, often restrained by Gibson and other attendees.
At one point a masked counter-protester, who appeared to be a young woman, was chased and caught by several men. Another protester discharged pepper spray.
The march came less than a month after a much larger confrontation on 4 June, a few blocks away in Schrunk Plaza. That day, hundreds of “alt-right” attendees were surrounded by thousands of counter-protesters.
That event was held in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Rick Best, 53 , two men who came to the aid of girls being subject to racial abuse on a train. Over
|Joey Gibson, who leads the rightwing protest group Patriot Prayer.|
At Friday’s rally, Gibson said he had “stepped down” from his job as a real estate broker with Summa North, an agency which last week became the target of a social media campaign and pickets promoted by Portland-based anti-fascist groups. Activists were
encouraged to contact the agency to ask them about what one group called Gibson’s “vision of a white supremacist-friendly city”.
Gibson said that the campaign had had an impact on his position at the company, but stressed that he had resigned. On the Facebook page of the Rose City Antifa, a main counter-protester group, the principal broker of Summa North’s Portland operation, Tim Horst, said Gibson had been “terminated” from an affiliate office and that the agency had been “previously unaware of his history”.