Anti-White Supremacists Overwhelm White Supremacist Rally in Numbers, Suffer Violent Police Suppression

 

Photo by Pete Shaw

Story by Pete Shaw

Refusing to back away from a city in emotional upheaval in the wake of a white supremacist murdering two of three people trying to stop his verbal assault on two young black women, 400 fellow white supremacists from around the country converged on Portland on June 4th for a “Free Speech” rally. More than 5,000 anti-white supremacy groups and individuals turned out in opposition.

The white supremacists were protected by many brands of law enforcement, including the Portland Police Bureau, Oregon State Police, and the Department of Homeland Security, the latter of which worked in tandem with at least one of the rallying white supremacist groups to arrest anti-white supremacy protesters. Near the end of the event, as was the case on two other occasions–a rally against Donald Trump’s inauguration and the May Day parade–the Portland police violently attacked people protesting the rising tide of fascism.

The white supremacists began gathering in Terry Schrunk Plaza a few hours before their rally’s 2 PM scheduled start, and likewise, opponents also congregated early. Clearly the most militant of the counter protesters–people belonging to the anti-fascist group Antifa and similar anti-fascist groups–assembled across the street in Chapman Square. Dressed in black and wearing garb masking and protecting their faces, they amassed many deep along the sidewalk facing Schrunk. A largely labor contingent gathered in front of Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building on the south side of Schrunk, while to the north pretty much everyone else opposed to white supremacy crowded into front of City Hall. It was an impressive showing, one that, due to the layout of Schrunk Plaza, effectively surrounded the white supremacist rally.

Photo by Pete Shaw

The anti-white supremacy protest was an interesting and somewhat unsettled display of solidarity, not least for the fact that Antifa has caused consternation among some people because of its willingness to engage in more militant actions against white supremacists and also has become associated with occasional property destruction at rallies, such as at May Day. Some protesters also have not wanted to risk association with Antifa if only because the Portland police have a habit of committing violence against it and escalating that violence indiscriminately against all people in the vicinity.

The gatherings outside City Hall and the federal building saw responses that while hardly muted, had a more tepid mood than the one in Chapman. In front of City Hall, the crowd extended well into 4th Avenue while a small group of white supremacists, protected by Department of Homeland Security police (Schrunk is on federal land) verbally sparred with their opponents. Eventually the police closed off the sidewalk on 4th abutting Schrunk, although the war of words continued.

Around 3 pm, while sitting with my better 99% on a bench in Chapman she asked, “What’s going to happen when their rally is finished?”

“I assume they will go home,” I replied.

But how are they going to leave the park?”

I had not considered the question, and had no answer, but I was sure it would not happen easily. I began making another loop around Schrunk, and when I got to City Hall I heard the Portland Police order people in Chapman Square to move away from the sidewalk on Madison to the center of the park. You do not need to be around too many of these type events to get a feeling for when the police have started on the slope toward wholesale collective violence. I quickly made my way to Chapman, telling some people that I thought the police were soon going to attack, before checking to make sure my better 99% felt reasonably safe. She did not, and she wanted to leave. About two minutes later, we’d only made it a couple of blocks away from the park when we heard the first of many concussion grenades. Once at home, we saw online footage that has become all too familiar: militarized police haphazardly assaulting Portland citizens.

As always, the police had an excuse, saying some people threw bricks and a balloon filled with some fetid liquid. Aside from the fact that so far no video has been produced showing this, how does this justify such an indiscriminate attack? But just like on May Day, they assaulted the whole crowd in Chapman, opening fire with rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and tear gas, as well has beating people with batons. As the Portland police assaulted anti-fascists in Chapman, people reported that some white supremacists began attacking counter-protesters, something that was ignored by the police.

In order to be surprised by this, you either have to be completely out of touch with the news and history, or as Noam Chomsky would say, extremely well-educated. Just sticking to recent events, in late April, Portland police coddled a white supremacist rally and march in the Montavilla neighborhood in Southeast Portland. Two weeks later, TriMet police chased down and murdered Terrell Johnson, a 24-year-old Black man who was allegedly menacing people on a MAX platform, later saying they killed him because he pulled out a box cutter, which he apparently did not wield while on the train platform.

Photo by Bette Lee

Yet, when on Friday May 26th, Jeremy Christian, who’d attended the Montavilla event, abused two young Black women and then brutally murdered two of the three people who intervened, police did not hunt him down. Rather, upon finding him, they let him yell a bit, wave his knife, and finish whatever booze he was swilling. The night before, Christian had been threatening people on a Blue Line MAX train, but he suffered no consequences.

Again, this should be no surprise. The police are the spiritual children of the slave patrols, the Ku Klux Klan who helped enforce Jim Crow laws, and the police who sicced dogs on, shot water cannons at, and often oversaw lynchings of Black people demanding equal treatment as humans. They have always supported white supremacy.

That is of particular significance to me.

My better 99% is Chinese. Being downtown on Sunday, she was understandably worried. For these white supremacists, she is less than human. She is garbage. She does not belong here. She is not worthy of life. While the Portland police defended white supremacists and their hateful ideology, it was Antifa and the other anti-fascist groups that had her back.

Photo by Bette Lee

No doubt people are going to blame the Antifa folks for something. In fact, some already are doing so. But I want to thank them, as well as all the other people who showed up to reject these white supremacists, because the ugly fact is that the Portland police, along with the other police forces, defended the white supremacists and stood tall for white supremacy.

Mayor Wheeler recently proclaimed Portland a Sanctuary City, a very nice term that does not seem to have much meaning. Wheeler made the declaration in response to the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigrants and refugees, but it is difficult to find any discernible effect this has had on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s aggressive persecution of immigrant communities.

What does, however, seem  abundantly clear is that the events of June 4 reinforce the fact that if any group of people can find sanctuary in Portland, it is white supremacists. It is one thing to protect people’s First Amendment right to free speech and assembly. It is entirely something else to defend that right only for white supremacists, while police brutally attack anti-white supremacists exercising those same First Amendment rights.

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  6 comments for “Anti-White Supremacists Overwhelm White Supremacist Rally in Numbers, Suffer Violent Police Suppression

  1. magpie
    June 11, 2017 at 9:28 AM

    My experience was very similar to yours. It could not have been make more clear that the police (whose salaries we pay) were there to protect and uphold white supremacy.

  2. sonny
    June 11, 2017 at 2:08 PM

    you exaggerate the numbers, the were no more then 300 white supremacist and no more then a 1000 protesters

    • Pete Shaw
      July 13, 2017 at 10:31 PM

      While you may be correct about the number of white supremacists, you are way off regarding the number of those gathered in opposition. I arrived at the parks at about 11:30 and was milling around for the next four hours. By 1 PM, on the street in front of City Hall alone, there were at least 2,000 people. The sidewalks across from Schrunk and Shemansky were even more tightly jammed with people. The white supremacists were vastly outnumbered by the anti-fascists.

  3. Mckenneth
    June 12, 2017 at 8:41 AM

    “Citizens of Portland”? Haha these scumbags denounced their citizenship when they started burning American flags. Now they are complaining that cops aren’t being neutral. Well cops aren’t gonna be your referees when you stand against the law and the police and promote ideas such as Sharia Law in this country. Just be happy you are getting your asses handed to you by cops with rubber bullets, because if you had tour way without the police, you would be getting shot by real citizens with real bullets when you try that stupid anarchy sh1t

    • Pete Shaw
      July 13, 2017 at 10:22 PM

      Hello Mckenneth,

      I assume you mean “renounced,” but regardless, the Constitution makes no mention of citizenship having any relation to how one treats a US flag. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson that flag burning is protected under the First Amendment.

      Cheers,

      Pete Shaw

  4. Dutch
    July 3, 2017 at 4:48 PM

    Thanks for this.

    Having been present on both 6/4 and 6/30 when this group of white supremacists, bigots, and collected violent rightwingers have made appearances, I can say without reservation that there was no evidence that the police’s claimed predicate for collective punishment of the anitfascist groups, but that their notable absence on 6/30 from the waterfront park rally also had a notable lack of wholesale violence.

    The police continually have attempted to ramp up violent activity, then place the blame of the fallout on antifascists ad activists to justify their misbehavior. What occurred in their absence – the early removal of a few hardcore fascists and ensuing small scuffles with the low-key white supremacists – shows how overstated the threat s from the citizen activists toward the out-of-town provocateurs is, and how empty the claims of victimhood from the police and Gibson’s gang have been. All of the scuffles of the day originated with the Patriot Prayer group, and all of them were over within seconds as each group’s cooler heads pulled people apart.

    The police have a vested interest in de-legitimizing protest movements, certainly in a city in which they are vastly outnumbered by engaged, mindful activists. The exception this weekend to the police-generated violence shows this rule.

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