It's been a year since alt-right rabble-rousers Patriot Prayer met in Terry Schrunk Plaza for a pro-Trump "Free Speech Rally"—and were met by three large groups of counter protesters. After someone allegedly chucked a soda bottle at a group of Portland police, officers shot pepper spray and dropped flash bangs into the crowd, sparking expected chaos. The event ended after police rounded up at least 300 protesters and wouldn't let them leave until officers took down their information and snapped a photo. (A city investigation has since called this practice inappropriate).
Many of the same protesters reunited this afternoon in the same plaza, located directly across the street from Portland City Hall. The premise? Patriot Prayer had scheduled a "freedom march" at Terry Schrunk to bid farewell to Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, a longtime member who's moving out of Oregon. Rose City Antifa (joined by several other left-leaning activist groups) came to protest Patriot Prayer's white supremacist affiliations—and also chastise the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) for how they handled last year's protest. Neither protest had a permit from the city to legally protest.
Today's events drew a far smaller crowd than last year's dueling protests—which came just days after two men were fatally stabbed on the MAX. But, like last year's protest, police officers showed up to the event in head-to-toe riot gear.
And almost immediately, it got violent.
Mercury reporter Kelly Kenoyer documented the afternoon clash from the ground. According to her observations, both groups carried their own pepper spray and used it liberally on one another. Activists spent most of the rally provoking each other with taunts and getting tangled up in brief physical fights.
According to ACLU observers, four people were arrested—two from each side of the protest. PPB spokesperson Chris Burley confirmed this number in a press release sent this evening. Jonathan D. Feit, 36, and Andrew Arbow, 32, were both charged with disorderly conduct. Gregory Isascson, 43, was briefly detained by Federal Protective Service officers for failing to comply with a lawful order. And the fourth suspect arrested has refused to give his name to PPB.
Burley said PPB's aware these weren't the only people breaking the law at the rally today. "Investigators will be conducting follow-up which may lead to arrests at a later time," he said.
This guy said he dished out what he got when someone pointed out he was punched in the face. There’s some blood on his knuckles. pic.twitter.com/vmNg6cxcDM
— Kelly Kenoyer (@Kelly_Kenoyer) June 4, 2018
According to Burley, two law enforcement officers pepper sprayed protesters to break up fights—but "no other significant police actions [were] taken today." Burley noted that protesters used pepper spray and threw fireworks, bottles, rocks, and ball bearings at each other during the clash.
"The intent of our presence today was to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment," said Chief Danielle Outlaw, in a press statement. "Bureau members attempted to intercede by separating and arresting people on occasions when people's safety were in jeopardy."
The dueling protests eventually fizzled out on the waterfront, with members of both groups throwing rocks and yelling racist, homophobic, and sexist slurs at one another.