In the lead-up to Portland's Pride weekend, the LGBTQ community has raised concerns about the possibility of hate groups inflicting violence against people joining in Pride celebrations. And for good reason. That's because a group of conservative anti-LGBTQ protestors who brought violence to Portland's 2017 Pride Parade is planning to attend.
The Hell Shaking Street Preachers, an anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ group, protested with signs at the city's 2017 Pride Parade and festival, alongside Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer (an alt-right group out of Vancouver) and members of Proud Boys (a national right-wing frat). In a video provided by Fox 12 at the time, Proud Boy Tusitala "Tiny" Toese can be seen dragging a woman with fairy wings into a brawl, then punching a man repeatedly. Allan Pucket, leader of Hell Shaking Street Preachers, can also be seen in the video, and was seen punching people earlier this month at Portland's Patriot Prayer rally on June 3.
On June 6, the Hell Shaking Street Preachers posted its own video of the 2017 Pride Parade on its Facebook wall with the words: "Get ready."
According to a press release sent today, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) "is aware of community concerns about groups or individuals planning to disrupt" this weekend's Pride events.
"While the Bureau has been unable to verify any plans to disrupt events, we recognize the fear and uneasy feelings felt by many in our community," the PPB statement reads.
Pride Northwest and other LGBTQ organizations and venues have put out warnings and safety advisories in response to the rumors.
Pride Northwest, which organizes the annual Pride festival and parade, issued this press statement: "Pride Northwest is watching reports of white supremacist groups potentially planning to target our community during Pride Weekend. Alarming as this is, it is not the first time nor is it unexpected given the current political climate we find ourselves in."
Organizers of the local monthly queer dance party Blow Pony posted a similar warning on its Facebook page:
"It's been brought to our attention that this weekend in Portland Oregon during pride weekend a group of Proud Boys/Alt Right/ White Supremacist are planning to disrupt and possible attack individuals leaving Pride events.... It doesn't matter what event you plan to attend, please stay in numbers, be aware of your surroundings and don't hesitate to ask any promoter, security person or even a stranger to help you get into a safe ride home or even walk you to your car. "
That warning did not sit well with the Proud Boys, who had its Texas-based lawyer, Jason Van Dyke—who was recently fired from his law firm for being a "white supremacist"—send a letter to Blow Pony claiming the Facebook post was incorrect. Van Dyke said that Proud Boys "condemns violence against persons based upon actual or perceived sexual orientation."
Van Dyke says the local chapter of the Proud Boys hasn't been “specifically accused of targeting a gay pride celebration before.” While he admits that Toese is a Proud Boy, Van Dyke denies there is video evidence that Toese punched people at Pride last year.
If you're planning on attending any Pride-related events this weekend, take this advice from Pride Northwest: "If you see something, say something. Alert security, event organizers, or others. Reach out if you don't feel comfortable leaving a space and ask for someone to walk with you. If you are driving, offer to give a ride."