PORTLAND—After about 500 members of the right-wing Proud Boys gathered in Portland on Saturday, it didn’t take long for police to announce the first bout of violence: an assault on a man of color who was livestreaming the demonstration.
The attack was caught on video, which showed a man shoving the livestreamer down and kicking him in the face. It was not immediately clear what preceded the assault. Police took to Twitter to ask any witnesses to come forward.
The incident came after the Proud Boys, who organized the demonstration in Delta Park, repeatedly stoked fears about anti-fascist activists, commonly known as “antifa,” seeking to stir up trouble.
Rally participants directed most of their ire at independent journalists instead.
The livestreamer who came under attack was followed by rally attendees along with an independent photojournalist, Zackary Perry, as they attempted to leave the park, Perry told The Daily Beast. He identified the livestreamer only by his first name, Jovanni.
The rally goers “started bringing up a lot of typical anti-antifa talking points,” Perry said, “like ‘you guys are burning down the city.’”
A rally participant then punched Jovanni several times, according to Perry, before throwing him against a fence, kicking him in the head, and punching Perry twice. Videos posted to Twitter confirm most of this account.
Although neither journalist was seriously injured, the alleged assailant threw Jovanni’s phone over the fence, where it was recovered by rally attendees. According to Perry, the phone was unlocked at the time, and Jovanni, who was treated by medics onsite and was unavailable for comment in the wake of the assault, fears that this might enable retaliation from right-wing groups.
As Jovanni and Perry left the scene, another independent photojournalist covering the scene, Justin Katigbak, was assaulted by the same rally participant, Perry said.
The violence came after Proud Boys members repeatedly suggested they were somehow under siege by antifa.
One member of the Proud Boys, who did not identify himself publicly, interrupted the speakers to inform the crowd that “a group of livestreamers from antifa” was approaching the rally. “They are going to try to instigate,” he told the crowd. “Don’t touch them. Don’t fuck with them.”
But even as he shared this message, at least half of the crowd began moving in the direction of the park entrance, some carrying firearms, others equipped with paintball guns.
When the rumored anarchist broadcasters failed to appear, the crowd became distracted by a limousine emblazoned with the name of “American Wolf,” a regional far-right group, and a U-Haul in the parking lot. Protesters began handing out shields in preparation for a potential confrontation with leftist protesters.
A poster that made the rounds ahead of the rally urged people to “do it for Jay,” a reference to Aaron Jay Danielson, a supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer who was fatally shot in late August by a self-proclaimed anti-fascist. Police later shot the gunman, Michael Reinoehl, as they moved to arrest him.
A friend of Danielson’s, Chandler Pappas, took to the stage at Saturday’s rally and insisted, without evidence, that nearly a dozen people had been involved in Danielson’s killing. He went on to blame Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for Danielson’s death.
Inside Delta Park, members of the Proud Boys wore the group’s characteristic black and yellow Fred Perry shirts and stood guard along the access road, stopping vehicles approaching the protest and aggressively confronting perceived agitators.
They grabbed the seat of a bicycle as it attempted to pass them after members fingered the cyclist as potential antifa. After a short conversation, they determined he was just a local out for a ride on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and the cyclist was allowed to carry on.
Group members—designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for spouting white nationalist, anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric—were decked out in camo gear and American flags.
One attendee wore a t-shirt that read, “I hate racism and the Left.” But more common messages revolved around support for President Trump and gun rights.
A handful openly carried long guns over their military-style fatigues. Others carried baseball bats, some adorned with American flags billowing in the breeze. Police later said authorities confiscated firearms, baseball bats, and paintball guns from a truck leaving the rallythat caught the attention of police for having obscured license plates.
On stage during the event, a number of speakers from the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters militia group, and other affiliates echoed two primary messages. The first: end socialism and communism, which are, they claimed, the ultimate goal of the Black Lives Matter movement. The second: don’t engage with “antifa” protesters this time around.
Law enforcement agencies established a heavy presence in the city ahead of the rally, in the hopes of keeping the Proud Boys demonstrators separated from those participating in another dueling rally organized by Black Lives Matter in North Portland’s historic Vanport.
The Black Lives Matter demonstration gave off a festive vibe, with hip-hop music and about 100 cars lined up to caravan across the city. Vanport, which was outside of Portland city limits until the 1970s, was home to many of the region’s Black residents, who were forced out of the city by legally codified discriminatory housing practices. A 1948 flood destroyed the town, displacing many of the region’s Black residents.
“So many families lost everything,” Black Lives Matter protest organizer Regina Rage said as demonstrators gathered in Vanport. “It’s a slap in the face to those communities to have fascist groups come to occupy this space.”
Rage said the event was a way to educate sympathetic Portlanders on the city’s racist history while sending a message to white supremacist groups nearby.
The road between the dueling groups was lined with two police vans, about a dozen police SUVs, and nearly 100 officers, many in riot gear.
As a crowd of a few hundred people grew at the Black Lives Matter event, sportswear blended with the a attire more common at the city’s fiery nightly protests. But while many protesters have a contentious relationship with police, the Black organizers of Saturday’s events mingled with Portland Police Bureau liaison officers.
“The biggest thing,” protest leader Dre Miller told the officers, “is just making sure there isn’t any engagement [with Proud Boy protesters].” The officers promised to block roads to allow protesters to safely leave the area in the event of a confrontation in a rare moment of coordination between the police and BLM-affiliated organizers.