Staff at Portland's Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) office Thursday were greeted with an unusual message spray-painted across their East Burnside headquarters: SMASH COMMUNISM. The phrase "ANTIFA HOUSE" marked another outer wall of the house, just underneath a freshly-smashed window.
While IWW spokesperson Jonathan Steiner was surprised to see the vandalism, it wasn't difficult to guess who might be responsible.
"It seems to be from the same group of people who've been trying to interrupt our meetings," Steiner said.
Last Thursday, members of Vancouver's right-wing extremist group, Patriot Prayer, attempted to crash a meeting being held in the IWW building by the Portland chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). According to DSA members in attendance, the visitors were told to leave. And, for the most part, they did.
A few in the Patriot Prayer group live-streamed the unwelcome visit via Facebook, broadcasting the IWW address in the process. This likely caught the attention of Portlanders who strongly oppose Patriot Prayer's alt-right ideals. As members of Patriot Prayer walked back to their cars, a masked group allegedly attacked the out-of-towners, sending two of them to the hospital. Detectives with the Portland Police Bureau are still investigating the brawl.
Patriot Prayer has accused IWW and DSA for the attack, which both organizations say they had nothing to do with. On Saturday, Patriot Prayer staged a rally in front of the IWW building, during which members yelled anti-Muslim sentiments through a loudspeaker and mobbed a pair of people filming the spectacle from across the street.
Steiner said it's not hard to assume the same group of people were behind Thursday's vandalism.
"It's concerning," they said. "But in all honesty, we're not going to let that deter us."
Since the overnight attack, neighbors and other community members have been sending flowers, snacks, and words of support to IWW. Ironically, Steiner said, the incident has only reflected the strength of their safety net. The group has already collected over $1,000 in supplies to repair the window and cover up the graffiti.
"All this has done has made us more embedded in the community," Steiner said. "[Patriot Prayer] wanted a confrontation, they wanted a way to have a really aggressive encounter, and we're not going to give them that."
Patriot Prayer, meanwhile, is blaming the vandalism on members of Antifa.