PORTLAND — The Proud Boys will hold a rally Saturday at a park near the Columbia River, raising concerns of another round of violence in Oregon’s largest city.
The Proud Boys, who have a reputation for brawling with anti-fascists (antifa), have billed the event to showcase the group’s “love for American and Western Values.” It was initially scheduled for the downtown area but last week was moved to Delta Park in North Portland to accommodate what organizers called “an overwhelming amount of interest from across the nation,” according to a statement released by the group.
The Proud Boys was formed in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice Media, as “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for the modern world.” In recent years, the group has gained a higher profile in the Pacific Northwest, including in Clark County in Southwest Washington. The members, clad in yellow and black shirts, often have showed up at rallies in Portland sponsored by another group, Patriot Prayer, that has also drawn white supremacists.
In both Oregon and Washington, Proud Boys have been involved in altercations, including an Aug. 23 melee in Seattle where punches were thrown and mace sprayed by both sides.
In New York, two Proud Boys last year were sentenced to four-year prison terms for their roles in a 2018 assault on anti-fascist activists outside an event where McInnes had given a talk.
Portland antifa activists and other protesters have been monitoring the Proud Boys’ Saturday plans, and have called for their own rally Saturday with music, food and speeches in another park about 4 miles away.
Both the Proud Boys and left-wing activists, in social media posts, say they are prepared to defend themselves, and past encounters often have quickly escalated into violence.
Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell is urging those who attend the dueling rallies to show restraint. “Due to the heightened rhetoric and many recent events where crimes occurred, we are developing a thorough plan to do everything possible to keep everyone safe,” Lovell said in a statement earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has lashed out at the Proud Boys. In a statement Wednesday, he said, “Some in these groups and many who associate with them embody and empower racism, intolerance and hate. Those are not Portland values, and they are not welcome. … We are working with a wide variety of partners from around the region and the state to keep our community safe this weekend.”
The Proud Boys also have been put an edge by something that happened earlier this month. On Sept. 5, in Vancouver, Washington, one of their members, Shane Moon, was seriously injured when hit by a driver and thrown up onto the roof of a vehicle before slamming to the ground.
A Vancouver man who later turned himself in was arrested on suspicion of first- degree assault and hit-and-run. He was released on $100,000 bail. The Seattle Times is not naming him because he has not been charged.
“The guy deliberately ran him over and left him for dead. Fortunately, Shane didn’t die,” said Flip Todd, a Pacific Northwest Proud Boy at a Trump 2020 rally on Sept. 7.
Todd and other Proud Boys say they recovered social media posts by the suspect that he took down before turning himself in to police. They say those posts indicate the suspect is an activist who identifies with antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jon McMullen, an attorney representing the man arrested, said his client is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, “as are millions of other Americans,” and he has no knowledge of any ties he has to the antifa movement.
“I would say there are definitely two sides to this story,” McMullen said.
Months of protest, violence
The upcoming Proud Boy rally comes deep into a difficult year in Portland.
In the aftermath of the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a white police officer who knelt on his neck, Portland has been the scene of a marathon of protests over racial injustice. Many early on were large and peaceful, but some protesters have set dozens of small arson fires and engaged in other acts of vandalism amid clashes with police that resulted in dozens of arrests.
These protests drew the attention — and ire — of President Donald Trump, whose administration in July deployed federal law enforcement agents in Portland, who sprayed massive amounts of tear gas, shot less-lethal projectiles and beat people with batons.
In August, Portland was the scene of a series of faceoffs between right- and left-wing protesters. The most serious unfolded Aug. 29 as a caravan of Trump supporters drove through the downtown area and engaged in skirmishes that included fist fights and firing paint ball guns and unleashing canisters of bear spray.
That evening turned deadly when a Patriot Prayer supporter, Aaron J. Danielson, was fatally shot on a downtown Portland street. The suspect in that shooting, charged with second-degree murder, was Michael Forest Reinoehl, a veteran of Portland protests who proclaimed his support for antifa and Black Lives Matter on social media.
Reinoehl was killed on Sept. 3 in Lacey from multiple shots fired by members of a law-enforcement team that had been conducting surveillance.
President Donald Trump, in campaign rallies, has boasted about Reinoehl’s death. “We sent in the U.S. marshals, it was taken care of in 15 minutes,” he declared during a speech last Sunday in Nevada.
The circumstances of Reinoehl’s shooting remain unclear.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, which is heading the investigation into Reinoehl’s death, has said that the suspect pointed a handgun at law enforcement officials.
One witness, Nate Dinguss, has said he did not see Reinoehl with a gun and that he did not hear law enforcement issue any commands before opening fire.
Hit-and-run of Proud Boy member
The hit-and-run that injured Moon happened two days after the Lacey shooting.
On Sept. 5, a contingent of Proud Boys were among the hundreds of people who attended a late afternoon memorial service for Patriot Prayer supporter Danielson at a Vancouver city park.
The group of Proud Boys then went for a drink at Charlie’s Sport Bar & Grill north of downtown.
A man began videoing the Proud Boys and was asked to stop, according to friends of Moon cited in a police report.
Outside the bar, things appeared to escalate. Moon began to take pictures of a man, who then got into his vehicle and stomped on the accelerator, according to witnesses cited in the police report.
Moon told police “the vehicle headed straight for me.” Witnesses said the man then fled in his vehicles at high speed.
Moon’s friends say that his injuries included a ruptured ear drum and bleeding from the brain. They say he remains in considerable pain and suffers severe spells of dizziness.
“He’s getting frustrated with his progress, and the doctors are concerned,” said Rex Fergus, a Proud Boy and friend of Moon.
The Proud Boys rally Saturday is supposed to be followed by a barbecue, with participants encouraged to bring beverages and food.
The Proud Boys applied Tuesday afternoon for a city permit to hold their Saturday rally at Delta Park. The application was denied Wednesday.
City officials cited the need to comply with state COVID-19 guidelines, which limit gatherings to no more than 50 people, and require the gatherings to break up into groups of 10.
Proud Boy chair Enrique Tarrio, in an interview Wednesday with The Oregonian, said the permit was submitted as a courtesy to the city, and he did not expect it would be granted. He forecast that anywhere from 800 to 2,000 people might attend.
Protesters against racial injustice have been meeting in city parks for months without permits, and in groups that often number in the hundreds. As of Wednesday, they had not applied for a permit for their Saturday event, according to Mark Ross, a spokesperson for Portland Parks & Recreation.