At least three people were arrested as far-right groups and far-left members of Antifa conducted dueling demonstrations in the center of Portland, Ore. Saturday.
Authorities did not immediately release details of the arrests. Earlier in the day, the Portland Police Bureau tweeted images of weapons it had seized from multiple groups, including bear spray, shields and metal and wooden poles.
Flag-waving members of the Proud Boys and Three Percenters militia group began gathering late in the morning, some wearing body armor and helmets. Meanwhile, black-clad, helmet and mask-wearing Antifa members were also among the several hundred people on the streets. The groups gathered on both sides of the Willamette River, which runs through the city.
Authorities used sound trucks and loudspeakers to remind demonstrators both sides to stay out of the streets or they would be arrested. They also set up concrete barriers and closed streets and bridges in an effort to contain and separate the rival groups.
“Over the course of the morning, several hundred demonstrators gathered in or attempted to move toward Waterfront Park and make contact with each other,” police spokeswoman Lt. Tina Jones said in a video statement posted to Twitter. ” … Portland Police and law enforcement partners continue to try to keep the opposing groups separate, although there have been limited interactions between individuals.”
Jones added that the demonstrators were “contained to a very small area of downtown.”
More than two dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, were in the city for the right-wing rally, which was expected to draw people from across the country. Portland Police said all of the city’s 1,000 officers would be on duty for the gathering that was hyped on social media and elsewhere for weeks.
Police formed a physical barricade beneath the Morrison Bridge in Tom McCall Waterfront Park to separate the rival groups from sparring. The Proud Boys and their supporters were on the south side of the divide while the counter-protesters remained on the north side, according to reports by The Oregonian.
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KPTV and The Oregonian reported that some of the demonstrators began to leave in the early afternoon, with authorities briefly re-opening the Hawthorne Bridge to allow them to pass. The Oregonian reported that a group of left-wing demonstrators attacked a bus carrying a group of Proud Boys out of downtown Portland, breaking some windows.
“The Proud Boys contacted us or contacted the units on the ground saying that they wanted to leave and so we facilitated for them to leave the area,” Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Brandon White told the newspaper. “It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t orchestrated. We had a request that they would like to leave the area and so we facilitated.”
Among those attending the demonstration was Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson, who organized similar rallies in 2017 and 2018 that erupted in clashes. Gibson surrendered Friday on an arrest warrant for felony rioting but was released on bail hours later.
“I’m just here for the ride,” Gibson told The Oregonian.
Organizer Joe Biggs told the paper that the demonstrators “wanted national attention and we got it.”
“Go look at President Trump’s Twitter,” Biggs said. “He talked about Portland, said he’s watching Antifa. That’s all we wanted … Mission success.”
President Trump tweeted Saturday morning that he is considering designating Antifa a domestic terror group.
“Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR,’” Trump said. “Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!”
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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said the message to protestors on both sides is “We don’t want your hatred, we don’t want your violence, but if you come here, we’re going to be prepared,” he said in an interview on Fox News’ “Outnumbered Overtime” on Friday.
“Again, when it comes to enforcement of our community standards, we support people’s rights to demonstrate, but we don’t care about who you are or your politics are,” he said. “If you engage in violence in this city, you will be held accountable.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.