UPDATED WITH THIS TWITTER VIDEO:
Dueling protests made their way through downtown Portland Sunday afternoon, with a few violent altercations but little police involvement. Three people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges.
The protests began about 2 p.m. at Salmon Street Springs in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, with about 150 supporters of President Trump waving American flags and wearing red Make America Great Again caps.
Joey Gibson, leader of the conservative Patriot Prayer movement and organizer of the rally, said the aim of the march was to promote “freedom and tolerance for people who think differently.”
But nearby, anti-fascist protesters in similar numbers characterized the Patriot Prayer group as white supremacists, chanting, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Many wore black bandanas to cover their faces and at one point gathered in a smaller group to burn an American flag.
As Gibson used a megaphone to rally the crowd, skirmishes began to break out.
In stark contrast to recent protests, where Portland riot police formed a virtual wall separating protesters from each other, the police presence was minimal. Reporters spotted one police officer standing nearby shortly after the protests began, and a van of police officers in riot gear was spotted several blocks away on stand-by.
In videos posted by various media on Twitter, no police appeared near the fighting that had broken out.
Punches were being thrown and bodies slammed to the ground in a number of fights along the path. Pepper spray was being used, but not by police: It appeared that protesters were spraying each other. Freelance journalist Mike Bivins reported on Twitter that an antifa protester had used a skateboard as a weapon.
Both groups began marching through the waterfront park, almost alongside each other, stopping and facing off again under the Morrison Bridge. Breaking into small groups, protesters from both sides took part in heated arguments about issues ranging from illegal immigration to white privilege.
Several fist-fights occurred during the first hour of the protests, though it was difficult to tell who was instigating the conflicts. A few people were being treated for injuries and exposure to pepper spray. Police from a lone police car warned the crowds to disperse.
“You are ordered to stop any and all criminal activity at waterfront park,” police warned over a loudspeaker.
Police arrested at 16-year-old male for disorderly conduct in the second degree, as well as a felony probation warrant for burglary. The juvenile was booked into a detention home
Police also arrested Jonny Perez, 24, and Tusitala Toese, 21, both on charges of disorderly conduct in the second degree. Perez was taken to the Multnomah County Jail and will be arraigned on Monday. Toese was issued a criminal citation instead of being booked in jail due to an injury from the protest that required treatment at a hospital.
Members of the Patriot Prayer group maintained they were marching for freedom of speech and patriotism, not hate. Beaverton resident Jonathan Zimmerman, donning a Make America Great Again t-shirt, said, “white supremacist ideology is not allowed here.”
Other participants of Gibson’s rally, like Toese of Vancouver, blamed the bursts of violence on the antifa groups. “We don’t throw the first punch,” he said prior to his arrest.
But anti-fascist protesters, like Portland resident Nathanael Gonzales, who is Mexican-American, said he felt threatened and demeaned at several points during the protests. Jose Sanchez, who marched Sunday holding a Mexican flag, said several members of the Patriot Prayer march told him to “go back to Mexico.”
Near police headquarters, downtown streets were quiet. There was no evidence that police were staging. One officer in partial riot gear was spotted smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk.
Police issued a series of tweets around 3 p.m. saying they were “observing groups fighting in Waterfront Park at Southwest Morrison Street. … People fighting are subject to arrest for state and city law violations. … If you are injured and able to walk meet medical personnel at Ankeny Square at Portland Fire Station 1.”
But on the streets, any police presence was still hard to find.
Around 3:15 p.m. marchers started up Salmon Street toward the city center. A van of riot gear cops was spotted on Southwest First Avenue by the World Trade Center.
The Patriot Prayer group headed toward Chapman Square around 3:30 p.m. After early skirmishes, the groups were mostly shouting at each other, with several face-to-face confrontations taking place.
Salem resident Joey Nation stood on a bench and rallied members of the Patriot Prayer march, shouting, “Where are my patriots at?” The group soon began chanting “USA! USA!” while a few yards away, antifa groups shouted “Go Home Nazis,” and banged on makeshift drums.
Shortly before 4 p.m., the groups moved back to Waterfront Park. Protesters on both sides appeared to attempt to provoke and taunt each other. But the violent episodes that marked the early parts of the protest seemed to wane as the protests entered the third hour.
Both groups congregated back at the Salmon Street Springs fountain, where a few children were playing in the water — a smaller number than you would normally see on an afternoon with temperatures in the mid-80s.
Sabrina Schroader, who is visiting Portland from the Bay Area, watched the protesters while her children played in the fountain. “I’m a little bit shocked,” she said, observing the crowd. “I didn’t know there would be so many Trump supporters in Portland.”
By 5 p.m., face-to-face confrontations continued, but the crowd had diminished. Protesters from both sides said they plan to come out again in the future for their respective causes.
There are 61 photos of the day’s events in Portland, including this one.