PORTLAND, OR—On Saturday, August 22, protesters and counter-protesters clashed in downtown Portland in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.. The hundred-person gathering later moved to the Terry Schrunk Plaza where the Portland Police Department (PPD) declared an unlawful assembly at 2:50 p.m.
The facility contains a police precinct, police headquarters, a county jail, and courtrooms. It is adjacent the Hatfield Federal Courthouse which was the site of Black Lives Matter protests for weeks last month where police and protesters clashed alike.
Demonstrations officially began around 11:30 a.m. with counter protests planned by left-wing and anti-fascist groups. They were planned in response to the “No to Marxism in America” event by a right-wing group with fascist ties, scheduled at noon at Terry Schrunk Plaza. The “Mother of All Back The Blue Rallies” began at noon at Chapman Square in front of the Justice Center, across the street from Terry Schrunk Plaza. Also attending was the Proud Boys, a male group self-described as western chauvinists which pushes an anti-white guilt agenda. They are identifiable by their yellow-banded polo shirts. Some of the attending members were recorded carrying rifles.
One woman was punched by a Proud Boy member where violence later ensued on both sides of the protest.
Many attendees were wearing helmets and some were carrying makeshift shields and medics worked both sides of the protest, tending to injured people.
Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, previously a top lieutenant in the Patriot Prayer movement, was caught on video at the protest walking by officers. Toese was there in violation of his probation and has an active warrant for his arrest. PPD Captain Tina Jones told the Tribune that officers did not arrest him at the time because “we had limited resources today and have to be selective about if and when any arrests or other actions are taken.”
Authorities curbed almost all involvement in the crowd because of their depleted numbers. During protests, the PPD reported sending officers to the site where a man threatened his mother with a “saber,” according to dispatchers. The weapon was later identified as a “shaver,” a shaving tool, not a sword. They also cited many officers worked until Sunday morning as a result of an overnight riot. Only four squad cars were available for 911 calls across the city for the duration of the protests.
By 12:30 p.m., protesters and cars blocked Southwest 3rd Avenue between Salmon and Madison Street. Hundreds filled the park; sources on Twitter estimate 500. Members of the crowd threw objects at each other and used aerosols like pepper and bear spray. Explosives such as fireworks and smoke canisters were filmed and reported on social media. Some noted people were using a water gun to spray urine as well as tossing it from bottles.
The groups faced off in a line of homemade shields. One side threw a smoke bomb and fireworks at the other.
At one point, a man charged into the other side, fighting ensued and many surrounding people sprayed defensive aerosols.
There was no police presence for the first hour. Authorities reported that fights arose and were quickly broken up. Just before 1:30 p.m., the PPD sound truck made an announcement observing firearms, shields, other weapons, and criminal behavior within the crowd. They warned that continuing behaviors could result in arrest, citations or the use of force. At this time, no officers were seen in the area.
Just after 2 p.m., a right-wing group moved west toward Southwest Columbia Street, where counter protesters followed them into a parking garage. A truck was filmed speeding out of the garage.
Around 2:30 p.m., most protesters moved south of the Justice Center. The PPD, not intervening, asked demonstrators to proceed on to the street and warned drivers ahead. Around 200 people convened at the Terry Schrunk plaza, where they were met by Department of Homeland Security officers. At 2:50 p.m., federal officials declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, ordering people to leave north or face force, arrest, or control ammunitions. The remaining crowd convened near the Edith Green Federal Building.
The events fit the definition, say police, they did not declare a riot. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said in a press release:
“Incident commanders have to weigh out the entire situation to determine if police action is likely to make things safer or not. In this case there were hundreds of individuals and many weapons within the groups and an extremely limited amount of police resources actually available to address such a crowd. Additionally, PPB members have been the focus of over 80 days of violent actions directed at the police, which is a major consideration for determining if police resources are necessary to interject between two groups with individuals who appear to be willingly engaging in physical confrontations for short durations.
While the activity in the group met the definition of a riot, PPB did not declare one because there were not adequate police resources available to address such a declaration. PPB had roughly 30 officers available for crowd management and there were several hundred individuals associated with the events downtown.”
PPB acknowledged a man pointing a revolver at protesters during the protests, now identified as Alan Swinney by reporter Sergio Olmos. Anyone who was witness to the incident or has video is asked to contact PPB detective Jones at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.