It's another month in Portland, meaning there's yet another planned Patriot Prayer event coming to downtown. I know what you're thinking: Fun!
This time around, the Vancouver, Washington-based alt-right group is crossing the Columbia River Saturday, August 4, to hold an afternoon campaign rally on Portland waterfront for the group's leader, Joey Gibson. Gibson is running to represent Washington in the US Senate. Inexplicably, he's decided to hold a campaign rally in Oregon, surrounded by people who legally cannot vote for him. This conundrum exposes what's probably the real purpose of the Saturday march: To yell at people who don't agree with their beliefs, and maybe punch a few of 'em in the process.
It's not just speculation—Patriot Prayer has an extensive history of showing up in Portland on shaky pretenses to do just that. The group's events have regularly attracted violent white supremacists, like the man who fatally stabbed two men on a MAX train last May.
Gibson's right-wing rallies in the notoriously liberal bubble of Portland have begun to attract riled-up alt-righters from across the country. Patriot Prayer members have claimed that a number of supporters are "flying in" to participate in Saturday's protest. More than 300 people have indicated they're attending on Gibson's Facebook event page. The threats and hateful messaging around this particular event prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to dangerously dub the event the "next Charlottesville."
Meanwhile, Portlanders who oppose Patriot Prayer's alt-right ideals (read: anti-immigration, anti-LGBT, pro-guns, pro-Trump, etc. etc.) have again organized to protest the noon march. As always, those who identify as anti-fascists, or antifa, have pledged to fight Patriot Prayer's expected violence with more violence—with the intention of protecting Portland from right-wing extremism. But in Portland, it's unclear if that response works—proven by the increasing number of visits by the ever-growing faction of Patriot Prayer-ers. It appears that for Patriot Prayer, violence only attracts more violence. Another group, named Popular Mobilization (POPMOB) plans on holding a rally Saturday morning in front of city hall for those who may not be interested in joining the potentially violent counter-protest—but want to speak out against Patriot Prayer's invasion.
If Saturday's event goes according to plan, we're bracing for another messy clash.
Here are a few other things to know going into this weekend's protest:
- Patriot Prayer might be armed. But it's not necessarily newsworthy. After rumors flared about Patriot Prayer bringing guns to the Saturday rally, Gibson said that his followers always bring guns to their rallies. And if they have an Oregon Concealed Handgun License (CHL), armed protesters aren't breaking the law. Update: According to an interview with OPB's Amelia Templeton, Gibson will not be armed, since he doesn't have a CHL for Oregon. He's "not sure" if the hundreds of other people coming to his event from out-of-state are aware of that law.
- All eyes are on the Portland police. In the midst of a debate over whether or not Mayor Ted Wheeler kept Portland officers from assisting federal immigration officials during the Occupy ICE protests, city riot cops will likely be on high alert during Saturday's protest (especially since federal police often partner with them for large protests). And with Portland Police Bureau's history of unconstitutional responses to these types of protests, legal observers with the ACLU and/or the National Lawyer's Guild will be watching.
- Alex Jones probably won't show up. But, since he did talk to a number of alt-right folks about making an appearance, Jones (the InfoWars conspiracy theorist behind the disgusting "Sandy Hook parents were paid actors" hypothesis) may weirdly appear. We doubt it. However, we don't doubt that his rumored appearance has increased the event's popularity across the country.
- The city probably won't revoke Patriot Prayer's permit to protest. One of the largest demands from Portlanders tired of Patriot Prayer storming our city is for Mayor Wheeler to revoke the permits that grant the group the right to protest on city property. But, according to Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesperson Dylan Rivera, past litigation has the city's hands tied. In the past, the city's only revoked a permit when a protest or march has become violent. It's not a fun waiting game.