Action Analysis Anti-Fascist Demo Repression

PNW-Antifascist Workers Collective Report Back From A4 in Portland

reposted from It’s Going Down

On August 4, 2018, Patriot Prayer held yet another rally in Portland Oregon with their band of bigots. This rally came off the heels of their June 30th revenge rally, where they imported violent bigots from all over the country, and their June 3 rally, where they were pushed back by antifascists.

Some very notable racist groups, including the Hiwaymen and the American Guard, attended in addition to their usual grouping of chauvinists. Patriot Prayer’s grouping is a casserole of racists and xenophobes, including the Proud Boys who, at the last rally, advocated “bashing immigrant heads into the concrete.” Nazis and white nationalists such as Identity Evropa and the PDX Stormers, and the violently anti-LGBTQ group known as the “Hell Shaking Street Preachers” were also there, to name a few of the sundry proto-fascist groups in attendance.

In the lead up to the August 4 rally, Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson continuously told his supporters that the rally would be considered a mutual combat zone and urged his followers to bring weapons, including guns, and to prepare to “cleanse” the streets of Portland. Many of his followers took it to the next level and openly posted on social media that this is the time to kill antifascists. National news outlets reported that the rally had the potential to be the next Charlottesville. We did not feel that was very far off base, after all many of Gibson’s followers posted extreme threats of violence. Many Gibson supporters, such as Proud Boy Russell Schultz, openly celebrate the murder of Heather Heyer who was killed by a fascist in Charlottesville.

As the day began heating up, Patriot Prayer bused their people in from Vancouver Washington from a Fred Meyer store. Fortunately, Fred Meyer had a tow truck in the lot and neighboring businesses had blocked their parking lots off from the bigots that planned to usurp their parking areas. Patriot Prayer then moved their bus location to another area in Vancouver and began sending their cadre of hate to Portland.

Once Patriot Prayer arrived in Portland they found that their location had a weapons checkpoint and they refused to enter the area until they later reached an agreement with Portland police to allow them to enter with weapons. Armed with weapons and many wearing shirts openly supportive of Pinochet’s murder and torture of political leftists. The slogan on the front of the shirts read “Pinochet did nothing wrong.” It must also be noted that the shirts were produced by the white supremacist-owned RWDS (right wing death squads).

Antifascists arrived and were blocked from the “protest area” by Portland Police. Antifascists then pulled back to Chapman Square and joined forces with community and labor groups assembled there. At around noon antifascists and the community coalition of over 1,000 Portlanders, far outnumbering the few hundred bused-in Patriot Prayer fascists, moved and marched from Chapman Square to Naito Parkway to face the fascists assembled at the Waterfront Park.

For a few hours the antifascist community coalition peaceful chanted and vocally condemned the assembled fascists. After a while the Patriot Prayer bigots began to march along the waterfront. The community followed and continued chanting antiracist messages. The police kept both groups separated. This was much different than June 30, when PPB allowed Patriot Prayer to openly charge and assault antifascist counter-protestors indiscriminately. Eventually both groups came to a halt a few blocks down from where it all started.

Nothing had changed and the antifascist side had remained largely peaceful, enjoying the sounds of a marching band and music piped in with a sound system provided by Portland Labor Against Fascists. At one point the police allowed Gibson to cross the four lanes of traffic that separated the group with two or three of his crew and enter our ranks in what was a very clear provocation from Gibson to entice a reaction that would start violence. Gibson was opposed heavily but left relatively unscathed despite his obvious motivation.

Not long after the police, who at the last rally allowed Patriot Prayer’s larger group to charge and attack us, decided to move in and disperse the antifascist contingent as they always do when we have such numbers. Police moved in with the same violent force that the fascists did on June 30, but with the power of the state and tax-funded weaponry such as flash bangs, which were shot directly at protesters’ heads, sending one person to the hospital with chemical burns and another with a flash bang lodged in his bike helmet, resulting in severe lacerations to his scalp and a concussion. The police, who launched these explosives directly at protestors’ heads, were seen and photographed smiling as they attacked the mixed crowd of antifascists, labor unions, Native American tribal members, immigrant rights coalitions, and passers-by. Despite their forceful attack, groups of antifascists held down the streets long enough for medics to tend to and evacuate injured comrades.

Shortly after the violent assault on the antifascist community coalition, the Portland Police allowed the fascist group to access to Portland streets for an unpermitted march.

Once the rally was over, groups of Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and the racist American Guard took to the streets assaulting every antifascist they could find. Skirmishes took place all over. Most notably at the forefront of these squads of Blackshirts was “Tiny” Toese, who is a Vancouver-based member of the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, and is known for his unhinged, violent assaults. Despite the fascists’ groups running through the streets looking to jump counter-protestors, Portland held it down and protected each other. Much of the Patriot Prayer contingent was seen leaving in worse condition than they arrived.

Much of the community reconnected later at a Rock Against Fascism concert that reportedly raised around $1,000 for the International Antifascist Defense Fund. This was a fitting end to a long day where Portlanders came together to stand against hate and endured an intense assault from the police, who took over for the fascists once it was obvious they were outnumbered by community members who refused to allow fascists and racist xenophobes a platform.

The lesson of the day was that there is no denying that we are in a protracted three-way fight against the militant advancement of fascism, bigotry, xenophobic reactionaries, and the state.

How Did We Get To This Point?

In the last year and a half we have watched Patriot Prayer morph from promoting “Trump” rallies, to “Antifa Watch” rallies where Patriot Prayer added an alliance with the Proud Boys to their already growing band of fascists, to where we are now with their so-called “Free Speech” rallies. With each new iteration their hateful militancy has risen. Their rhetoric has already caused at least two deaths in our city and a shooting of an antifascist in Seattle. We have witnessed Patriot Prayer and its allies move from the violence that they had previously reserved for rallies, to outright hit squads of primarily Proud Boys roaming the streets looking for and beating anyone that they can get to disagree with their provocations. Also during the last year we have very clearly understood and seen that the City of Portland and the state will give fascists free rein while at the same time suppressing the antifascist voices in opposition. On June 4, 2017 and August 4, 2018, antifascists worked with the community and built large coalitions of opposition, when those coalition numbers dwarfed that of Patriot Prayer the city violently attacked us on the fascists behalf.

Portland activists assembled a massive coalition on June 4, 2017. Portland Police moved into the crowd of antifascist protesters with a massive amount of force, including but not limited to flash bangs, tear gas, and pepper balls, followed by illegal kettling, while the fascists were free to roam the streets and attack stragglers. Soon after, that coalition disbanded. From June 4 moving forward, antifascists persevered and kept the pressure on the fascists. As a result we have seen their numbers locally and nationally severely dwindle. On June 3, 2018, Patriot Prayer brought in what was left of their local goons, attacked, and was largely routed. Police arrested antifascists but only gave a warning to fascists that if they just left, they would not be arrested. After this humiliating defeat they quickly moved to issue a nationwide call to action to get fascists and racists to their revenge rally scheduled for June 30.

On June 30, 2018, Patriot Prayer imported out-of-town bigots to come help them settle the score. For the very first time Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys were able to amass significant numbers—close to that of the antifascist opposition. With Patriot Prayer having the numbers, Portland Police stood back, and let the fight happen. In this situation there was no routing of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys by PPB. Feeling emboldened, Patriot Prayer planned yet another rally for August 4, and again put out a national call for reinforcements, bragging that the police told them they would stand back and allow “mutual combat.” No statements from Portland Police leading up to August 4 denied this assertion. Patriot Prayer and allies openly discussed coming armed, and in some instances posted about it being time to start killing antifascists, as Pinochet would have.

Much to the dismay of Patriot Prayer and the state, the community once again came together and built a massive coalition to oppose their crew of bigots. The coalition of multiple communities dwarfed Patriot Prayer’s crowd despite the hundreds they flew in. Once again Patriot Prayer was outnumbered and the state could not bear the thought of an antifascist success. Portland Police moved in on the antifascists in a violent attack against a peaceful protest bloc. Many protesters were injured and at least two went to the hospital—not inflicted by the fascists, but by the state, which was determined to uphold fascist violence. The state then allowed the fascists to march out of the predetermined area and into the streets. Even after a massive assault from the state, antifascists were busy rescuing comrades from roving squads of fascists that were looking for and attacking antifascists that had been scattered by the police.

Perhaps the most telling reminder that we are fighting a three-way fight is the state’s Orwellian response to accusations of heavy-handed and unjustified attacks on members of the general public. Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw has changed the story multiple times since Saturday, first stating that the police were justified in their violent attack because counter-protestors were throwing “projectiles” at police officers, a claim denied not just by activists, but also by multiple journalists on the ground. The police chief’s next excuse for use of “aerial distraction devices” (read that as explosives fired at antifascist’s heads from a gun) was that “weapons” and “explosive devices” were recovered from counter-protestors, referencing a Portland PD Twitter post nearly an hour after police attacked counter-protestors. The tweet showed a picture of a firework on a concrete background. It’s clear that the police attempted to cover their actions well after the fact and provided fabricated justification for assaulting community members, a tactic often used by state forces.

The police chief and Portland’s Mayor, Ted Wheeler, then had the gall to applaud themselves for “preventing violence,” as if shooting explosives at people, running them over, beating them with batons, and shooting pepper balls and mace at them isn’t violence. This is an important reminder that the state will never be accountable to the community and will always deny that their actions constitute violence. They will always fight to maintain state interests, and because fascist violence does not threaten state interests, they will always defend the fascists too.

What we know without a doubt is that we are winning. Since Charlottesville we have seen a steady decline in the fascist right’s ability to amass local numbers. During this time we have come to understand on a deeper level what we already knew: We cannot rely on the state. The state has shown that it will side with the fascists every time—not only recently, but historically.

We know that all successful gains in the fight for human rights have included a diversity of tactics of mass mobilization that has included non-militant resistance, militant resistance, and labor mobilizations to name a few. We must not be deterred in mobilizing a mass front of varying tactics, and we must always be united as one, side by side, despite how we choose to stand up.

We must understand that in every situation, when we as a community have the numbers to peacefully shut the fascists down, that the state will violently attack us. We must remain resolved and engaged. This is as true now as it was during the labor movement, as it was during the civil rights movement and every struggle before and after. Let us not forget who murdered Fred Hampton. Let us not forget that it was the state that shot striking workers and bombed the Move compound in Philadelphia. It was the police that worked with the KKK in the Greensboro massacre. Let us not forget that it was unity and diversity of tactics that won us every battle that we have fought for the people. This struggle is far from over, but we can win so long as we remain unified and resolved on all fronts.

The PNW Antifascist Workers Collective stands with our entire community in this struggle, along the following TORCH points of unity, and in community self-defense:

1. We disrupt fascist and far right organizing and activity.
2. We don’t rely on the cops or courts to do our work for us. This doesn’t mean we never go to court, but the cops uphold white supremacy and the status quo. They attack us and everyone who resists oppression. We must rely on ourselves to protect ourselves and stop the fascists.
3. We oppose all forms of oppression and exploitation. We intend to do the hard work necessary to build a broad, strong movement of oppressed people centered on the working class against racism, sexism, nativism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed people. We support abortion rights and reproductive freedom. We want a classless, free society. We intend to win!
4. We hold ourselves accountable personally and collectively to live up to our ideals and values.
5. We not only support each other within the network, but we also support people outside the network who we believe have similar aims or principles. An attack on one is an attack on all.

We will go where they go! We intend to win!
In solidarity,
PNW Antifascist Workers Collective.