Ore. braces for far-right rally and coun­ter­protest

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Gil­lian Flac­cus

PORT­LAND, Ore. — Port­land po­lice are mo­bi­liz­ing to pre­vent clashes be­tween out-of-state far-right groups plan­ning a rally here and the home­grown anti-fas­cists who op­pose them as Amer­ica’s cul­ture wars seep into this pro­gres­sive haven.

Satur­day’s rally — and the vi­o­lence it may bring — are a rel­a­tively new re­al­ity here, as an in­for­mal coali­tion of white na­tion­al­ists, white su­prem­a­cists and ex­treme-right mili­tias hones its fo­cus on Ore­gon’s largest city as a stand-in for ev­ery­thing it feels is wrong with the U.S.

At the top of that list are the masked and black-clad anti-fas­cists who turn out to vi­o­lently op­pose rightwing demon­stra­tors as soon as they set foot in town.

“It’s Port­landia, and in the pub­lic mind it rep­re­sents ev­ery­thing these (far­right) groups are against,” said Heidi Beirich, di­rec­tor of the In­tel­li­gence Project at the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, which tracks hate groups. “It’s pro­gres­sive, and even more of­fen­sive to them, it’s pro­gres­sive white peo­ple who should be on these guys’ side.”

The groups know they will get a head­line-grab­bing re­ac­tion from Port­land’s so-called “an­tifa,” whose mem­bers have is­sued an on­line call to their fol­low­ers to turn out to “de­fend Port­land from a far-Right at­tack.”

Port­land’s Rose City An­tifa, the na­tion’s old­est ac­tive anti-fas­cist group, says vi­o­lence against right-wing demon­stra­tors is “ex­actly what should hap­pen when the far-right at­tempts to in­vade our town.”

Port­land lead­ers are plan­ning a ma­jor law en­force­ment pres­ence on the heels of sim­i­lar ral­lies in June and last sum­mer that turned vi­o­lent, and the re­cent hate-driven shoot­ing in El Paso, Texas.

None of the city’s nearly 1,000 po­lice of­fi­cers will have the day off, and Port­land will get help from the Ore­gon State Po­lice and the FBI. Mayor Ted Wheeler has said he may ask Gov. Kate Brown, a Demo­crat, to call up the Ore­gon Na­tional Guard.

“There’s no winning for the cops in a sit­u­a­tion like this. There just isn’t,” Beirich said. “This is hard­core stuff, and I don’t think you can be too cau­tious.”

Ex­perts who track rightwing mili­tias and hate groups warn that the mix of peo­ple head­ing to Port­land also came to­gether for a Unite the Right rally in 2017 in Char­lottesvill­e, Vir­ginia, which ended when a par­tic­i­pant rammed his car into a crowd of coun­ter­protesters, killing one per­son and in­jur­ing 19.

The rally is be­ing or­ga­nized by a mem­ber of the Proud Boys, who have been des­ig­nated by the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter as a hate group.

Oth­ers ex­pected in­clude mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Guard, the Three Per­centers, the Oath­keep­ers and the Daily Storm­ers.

Amer­i­can Guard is a white na­tion­al­ist group, ac­cord­ing to the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, while the Three Per­centers and the Oath­keep­ers are ex­trem­ist anti-gov­ern­ment mili­tias.

The Daily Storm­ers are neo-Nazis, ac­cord­ing to the cen­ter.

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