Those visiting downtown Portland Sunday evening were confronted with an alarming scene: A man associated with far-right extremists strolling through the street, pointing what appeared to be an assault rifle at various members of the public. In several photos, the man is observed holding his finger on the rifle's trigger as he points the weapon at a photojournalist.
The incident followed a day of escalating street battles between far-right activists and anti-fascist (or, antifa) counter-protesters. The right-wing crowd was in Portland to serve as a security force for a pair of religious gatherings at Tom McCall Waterfront Park hosted by anti-LGBT pastor Artur Pawlowski and COVID-skeptic preacher Sean Feucht. The self-appointed security team included members of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, two far-right extremist organizations that have often used Portland as a battlefield to spar with progressive activists. Their intentions this weekend prove to be no different.
Sunday's religious event—featuring Feucht—attracted a crowd of counter-protesters who confronted the right-wing group at the event's edge. After the gathering ended, the groups clashed in the streets of Downtown Portland, spraying mace, throwing punches, and shooting explosives at each other. Both Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson and Proud Boy member Tusitala "Tiny" Toese were in attendance.
Toese was arrested for assaulting someone during a protest in 2018, and is prohibited from engaging in protests in Portland under probation until 2022. This ban hasn't stoped Toese from attending Portland demonstrations in the past year, however. (Editor's note: Toese is no longer on probation)
The clash drew no attention from law enforcement. According to Greg Pashley, a spokesperson for the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), officers did not show up because they were busy responding to two other 911 calls—a homicide and a robbery—on Sunday evening.
An unidentified man dressed in camouflage carrying a rifle was also in the right-wing crowd. Reporters on the scene say he walked through downtown streets for 20 minutes, pointing the all-black rifle at antifa protesters, members of the press, and random passers-by. The man then walked toward PPB headquarters, where he appeared to turn himself into the police. In Portland, it's illegal to carry a loaded firearm in public.
Yet, according to Pashley, he was not charged with any crime, as the rifle was determined to be an "air soft" gun, despite its barrel lacking the orange tip required for replica guns.
The incident comes as Portland grapples with a pattern of historically high gun violence, a trend coinciding with PPB's restructuring of its teams dedicated to gun crimes. Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as the city's police commissioner, did not respond to the Mercury's request for comment about the gun-toting man.