Patriot Prayer's top brass met in a heavily-policed Terry Schrunk Plaza this afternoon to talk broadly about men being wrongly accused of sexual assault. Dubbed "Him Too," the rally's twisted response to the "Me Too" movement drew a few hundred Portlanders out to counter-protest in neighboring Chapman Square. Less than 50 members of the Vancouver, WA extremist group Patriot Prayer showed up, including founder Joey Gibson.
The downtown rallies were separated by Portland police, Multnomah County Sheriff's deputies and Department of Homeland Security officers (tasked with policing the federally-owned Terry Schrunk Plaza). The Portland police arrested six people during the demonstrations for disorderly conduct, harassment, and interfering with a police officer.
The dual rallies fell three days after Mayor Ted Wheeler's proposed changes to protest rules failed to pass a council vote. Wheeler's rules would have restricted the location, time, and size of two simultaneous protests if neither group had a permit to protest and if the two groups had a "history of violence" against each other. The proposal was pitched as a needed "tool" to help the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) deter violence between opposing rallies.
If anything, today's clash was proof that those rules wouldn't have altered the way Portland police address tense protests. Largely, because the proposed restrictions are tools the Portland police already have—and use.
The counter-protest, which featured speeches by sexual assault survivors and chants of "believe women," was organized by a group called Popular Mobilization (or "Pop Mob"), who partnered with Rose City Antifa and Portland's Democratic Socialists of America faction to hold the event. According to the PPB, the group did not obtain a permit to protest.
Yet, before the group showed up, Portland police closed off the southern half of Chapman Square with plastic fencing and yellow caution tape, creating a buffer of sorts between the north side of Chapman Square and neighboring Terry Schrunk Plaza. This clearly limited where attendees were allowed to protest.
Officers are legally allowed to do so under the city's "Emergency Park Closure" ordinance.
Patriot Prayer, meanwhile, had received a permit from the feds to protest in Terry Shrunk Plaza, meaning they were solely monitored by federal officers throughout their rally. Federal officers also checked each attendee for weapons and explosives before entering the park.
Just talked to a fed officer at the entrance to PP rally. Everyone who enters is having their bag/body checked for weapons and explosives. pic.twitter.com/FjkG3t3wwf
— Alex Zielinski (@alex_zee) November 17, 2018
Once the rally dispersed, federal and local officers escorted Patriot Prayer members out of the park and down a sidewalk, as counter-protesters shouted from the other side of the street.
They weren't divided for long. A number of scuffles, a tossed water bottle, and what appeared to be a protester's firecracker resulted in PPB officers corralling counter-protesters on the sidewalk multiple times, yelling orders to disperse as members of Patriot Prayer sauntered past, heading to their parked cars. PPB also shot at least one "flash-bang" grenade into the crowd, which emitted loud popping noises and smoke.
This police tactic could also be seen as limiting the time and location of a protest (by telling people to leave and physically blocking them from moving in a certain direction). However, Portland police are allowed to "restrict access to certain areas" if officers believe there's a threat to public health or safety.
Yesterday's conduct also could be seen as Portland law enforcement favoring Patriot Prayer—a concern many have raised in city council meetings and echoed by counter-protesters at today's rally.
"They city needs to stop buying in to this both sides rhetoric and stop supporting hate speech in our city," said Effie Baum, spokesperson for Pop Mob. "They need to start supporting the people who are showing up to defend the people of Portland. Because they sure as hell are not."
Both rallies wrapped up by 5 pm, more than an hour after officers began telling attendees to disperse.
Wheeler took to Twitter to point out how today's tactics were legal and unrelated to his proposed ordinance. He did not explain how his proposed rules would have changed the outcome of today's clash.
The ordinance would have allowed for more tools for use outside of a park that don't already exist in code.
— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) November 18, 2018