Far-right rallies in and around Portland descended into violence on Sunday, as groups of demonstrators clashed — with one man, in a harrowing echo of Charlottesville, reportedly attempting to drive his car into a group of counter-protesters.
The clashes started in Portland, where the far-right group Patriot Prayer had scheduled a “Peaceful Portland Freedom March.” At the last minute, the event was moved to Vancouver, Washington, on the other side of the Columbia River.
As the counter-protesters marched through downtown Vancouver, a Chevrolet pick-up truck with two large American flags and a Confederate flag decal drove up towards them. According to Willamette Week the crowd behind the truck started pelting it with rocks and water bottles. Suddenly, the driver then put the truck in reverse and sped down the street, narrowly missing several people and causing others to jump out of the way.
— Aaron Mesh (@AaronMesh) September 11, 2017
Counter-protesters changed their march’s path and proceeded a street over to avoid the truck, but it re-appeared and cut marchers off. At this point police arrested the man. Local television station KGW reported that he was driven away in cuffs but then released without charges.
Meanwhile, police in Portland made seven arrests during the protests there, while two others were taken into custody in Vancouver. The city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, had said in a statement in the run-up to the protests that he would not tolerate acts of violence from either side.
“Around the country, we’ve seen demonstrations that have involved arrests and illegal acts,” he said. “My hope is that we are better than that. We can do it better. We can do it the Portland way. In Portland we celebrate diversity, we stand up for others, we promote unity, and we practice non-violence.”
“Portland Police will focus on ensuring that people’s right for freedom of expression and speech is protected. However, illegal behavior is not acceptable,” he added. “We will not tolerate acts of violence. We will not tolerate vandalism. We will not tolerate criminal behavior. I call on everyone who plans on demonstrating here to do so peacefully.”
Along with Berkeley, Portland has been one of the cities the center of clashes between the far right and antifa counter-protesters. In May the commuter rail stabbing, when Jeremy Joseph Christian fatally stabbed two people who tried to stop him yelling racial slurs at two teenage girls, drew national attention. Christian had previously attended “free speech” rallies in Oregon with other White Nationalists.