Violence erupted at a pro-Donald Trump free speech rally in Portland on Sunday after a counter protest was shut down over anarchists attacking law enforcement.
— Gadi Schwartz (@GadiNBC) June 5, 2017
— A K T I C S (@aktics) June 4, 2017
Unlike the counter protest, the permitted pro-Donald Trump free speech rally was not declared to be an unlawful assembly — and was allowed to remain until their event concluded.
The dispersal order for the counter protest came around 3:30 p.m. local time as police announced that anyone who did not leave would be subject to arrest. Over a dozen flash bangs and possibly other law enforcement tools, such as pepper balls or tear gas, were heard erupting in the square as smoke filled the streets.
Journalist Tim Pool confirmed that police had deployed some type of chemical irritant, though he was unsure if it was residue from pepper balls or tear gas. An activist that he spoke to after the event claimed that the police had been using sting grenades — which explode and send small rubber pellets flying in all directions.
The activist confirmed to Pool that he had seen protesters throwing bottles and cans at officers.
During his livestream, Pool collected several of the small rubber pellets and a larger silver one, which he explained felt like it was some type of thick foam.
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After a minor skirmish, an antifa protester was heard saying “it’s violence against violence — that’s just the way it has to be.”
“This is one of the biggest black bloc’s I’ve seen for one of these events, hands down,” Pool observed. He also noted that while there are often small groups of white nationalists that attend these types of rallies, he did not believe that specific ideology was the focus of the free speech event. In fact, Pool spoke to one of the men who was labeled a “white supremacist” in one of the flyers put out by antifa — and he not only said that wasn’t what he believes, but he also spoke out against it.
Shrunk Plaza, the park where the free speech rally was taking place is federal property so it was protected by the Department of Homeland Security. The counter protests, which surrounded the entire plaza, were on public property so they were being policed by local law enforcement.
“We were surrounded the entire time. It was crazy. Antifa tried to rush us a few times, but the police held them back,” Brittany Pettibone, a free speech advocate, author, and co-host of the Virtue of the West podcast told Big League Politics.
We asked Pettibone if she was concerned for her safety, particularly when attempting to exit the plaza.
“I attended the rally alone, so yes, I was concerned for my safety the entire time. The Antifa were bold enough to challenge the police a few times. I met two guys who were punched in the face by Antifa and another who punched an Antifa in the face in self-defense and the Antifa’s tooth got knocked out and stuck in his hand,” Pettibone told BLP. “I was given a police escort from the rally, so I made it out safe. The Antifa are getting even more radical. Wouldn’t be surprised if someone gets killed one of these days.”
Pettibone added that while she expected this rally to be big, it was by far the largest she had been to — which includes the Battle for Berkeley.
Tim Treadstone, better known as ‘Baked Alaska’, had received violent threats and was placed on a “bigot list” that was posted around town and sent to hotels and other establishments urging people not to service them prior to Saturday’s event.
Treadstone told Big League Politics that during the rally people were throwing balloons filled with feces and urine, eggs, and bloody tampons.
Treadstone, who spoke at the event,told us that he saw people on the roof of a building — and it was later revealed that police had confiscated bags of bricks there that were stashed there by the protesters. Treadstone confirmed to BLP that the leftists were throwing bricks at law enforcement, which is when they were given the dispersal order.
“Antifa got pretty humiliated by the police,” Treadstone said, explaining that they were being stopped by police, arrested, or pepper sprayed each time they attempted to advance on the pro-Trump crowd. He said that he personally witnessed at least seven arrests.
“One Trump supporter was arrested as antifa was burning a flag and he had attempted to grab it back, other than that we were incredible peaceful and there was nothing violent coming from our side,” he said.
In addition to DHS and local law enforcement, there was also private security that had volunteered their services to the free speech activists — including members of the Oathkeepers.
“The free speech side is chanting ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ while the antifa side is chanting ‘A-C-A-B, All Cops Are Bastards,’” Pool noted during his livestream — while observing that there were more riot police blocking the anarchist side. He also stated that for the most part, the free speech side was compliant with police when given orders.
— Mike Bivins (@itsmikebivins) June 4, 2017
— Andy C. Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) June 4, 2017
Hundreds of people were gathered on either side of the park hours before the rally was even scheduled to begin, with large amounts of police dividing the groups. While the groups began similar in size, the amount of antifa present grew rapidly by afternoon, and quickly outnumbered the free speech activists. It wasn’t just black bloc anarchists surrounding the event, however. Other counter protests on each side of the plaza included communists, democratic socialists, and unions.
— Cassandra Fairbanks ✌️ (@CassandraRules) June 4, 2017
“They can come over here and nobody would bother them, but if I was to go over to their side — or anyone in a red MAGA hat — it would be violent,” someone attending the rally told Pool.
— Andy C. Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) June 4, 2017
Inside the little free speech island, away from the rage surrounding them, people were casually tossing around beach balls, walking around, playing music and peacefully hanging out. The contrast was jarring.
“It’s mostly peaceful. A few shouting matches. But those are outside of the POTUS/free speech group. Very heavy police force on the perimeter. Not so much in the crowds,” Miles Rudduck, a free speech advocate who was at the rally told Big League Politics.
— Andy C. Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) June 4, 2017
When we asked Rudduck if he was concerned about violence breaking out when the rally ended and the free speech activists attempt to disperse, he said that “it depends.”
“Earlier the entrance was open. No Antifa. They were on the other side. But it could go either way. Antifa is agitated,” Rudduck explained. “Antifa is on northern perimeter. Pro union is on the eastern perimeter. And it appears to be a pro immigration group on the west side. South perimeter is clear.”
Rudduck told Big League that once the dispersal order was issued for the anarchists, many of the free speech activists began to leave as well over concerns of escalating violence.
Portland journalist Mike Bivins, who was covering the rally, also expressed concerns about what would happen once the free speech event ended — not just for members of the two different protest groups — but for journalists as well.
“I heard from another protester that they’re concerned that as the numbers dwindle things could spark up, cops have things pretty contained right now,” Bevins told Big League Politics. “Getting ambushed as you’re leaving a protest is always a concern, especially today — for antifa, alt-right and journalists.”
At least six journalists, or people claiming to be, were caught up in a mass detention following the dispersal order.
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