Alt-right protesters at an Aug. 4, 2018 protest.
Alt-right protesters at an Aug. 4, 2018 protest. KENTON WALTZ

Maybe you've heard: There's a number of big, unwieldy demonstrations taking place today in our fair city. With the rhetoric around what it might turn into or what's at stake all over the map, it's important to know the basics—and know where to get the facts throughout the day. Let's get you up to speed.

What is it?

The Proud Boys, a national far-right organization made up of self-described "Western chauvinists," are coming from across the country to Portland to protest the existence of local anti-fascist groups (commonly referred to as "antifa"). A slew of progressive organizations, including people who identify as antifa, are holding a simultaneous protest to oppose the right-wing demonstration.

Where will it take place?

Both the protest and counter-protest will begin at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. However, it's likely both events will spread into downtown Portland's sidewalks and streets.

When is it?

Counter-protest demonstrations are expected to start at 9:30 this morning. The Proud Boys protest has been scheduled to kick off at 11 am.

Why is this happening?

It's a long story. The short version: Years of clashes between far-right and antifa protesters in downtown Portland have led us into the national spotlight after a conservative writer was assaulted by members of antifa at a June protest. After goading by Senator Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and conservative pundits, the Proud Boys have decided to respond by hosting what they've called an "end domestic terrorism" rally in Portland.

How has the city responded?

Mayor Ted Wheeler has made several pleas—via op-eds, national TV appearances, and local press events—to people planning on committing violence today to stay home. Police Chief Danielle Outlaw has echoed Wheeler's call, going further to suggest alternative local events Portlanders can attend instead of joining in the demonstrations. Outlaw has said all of Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) nearly 1,000 police officers will be working today.

It's the most organized and calculated lead-up to a Portland protest we've seen from the city in a while. Counter-protesters, however, have raised concerns that city leaders are discouraging people from engaging in their constitutional right to protest.

In the days leading up to today's demonstration, PPB has arrested six different members of Patriot Prayer—the far-right group based out of Vancouver, Washington known for organizing violent rallies in Portland. All of the arrests stem from a street fight that took place on May 1 outside of Northeast Portland's Cider Riot pub. Of those arrested is Patriot Prayer's founder and leader, Joey Gibson.

How will it impact traffic?

According to the PPB, the Hawthorne Bridge will be closed in both directions to vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic on August 17 beginning as early as 4 am for an undetermined amount of time. Same goes for Southwest 2nd Avenue from Southwest Madison to Main Streets.

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Road closures and increased traffic may also impact public transportation. Check trimet.org/alerts before riding the bus or MAX today. According to Portland Bureau of Transportation, "If police determine an area has become unsafe, TriMet will adjust their service for the safety of riders and employees."

How can I follow what's going on?

The Mercury will be covering the protests on the ground; we expect the situation to be fluid and updates to be constant. Keep an eye on the Mercury's Twitter (@portlandmercury) throughout the day, which will feature regular updates from Mercury News Editor Alex Zielinski (@alex_zee), Mercury News Reporter Blair Stenvick (@BlairStenvick), and Mercury Arts Editor Suzette Smith (@suzettesmith). Check Blogtown later in the day for a comprehensive summary of the day's events.