Discovering a far-right group stationed on a rooftop with a stockpile of weapons, overlooking a major demonstration, might rattle most people, especially if that group has a documented history of clashing with counterprotestors. But evidently not the Portland Police Bureau.
On Monday it was revealed that, prior to a major protest in the city on August 4 — which ended in brutal clashes between far-right and anti-fascist demonstrators — Portland officers “discovered individuals [affiliated with the group Patriot Prayer] who positioned themselves on a rooftop parking structure with a cache of firearms,” including long guns. No arrests were made, and no one outside of the police department, not even the mayor, was informed about the incident until now.
The news comes after a weekend of far-right violence on both the East and West Coast. On Friday, the Proud Boys, a far-right group which has repeatedly worked with Patriot Prayer, attacked several people near the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City, shouting on one occasion “Are you brave now, faggot?” And on Saturday in Portland, Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson organized a “Flash March for Law and Order,” which ended in brawls between the group and counter-protesters. According to reports, police at that demonstration did not intervene to stop the violence.
In response to the attacks in New York, the NYPD announced Monday evening that it was looking for 12 individuals — nine of them Proud Boys, three of them counter-protesters — allegedly involved in the brawls. Police said they believed they had evidence to bring charges against them. Officers arrested only three people the night of the attack, however, all of them counter-protesters.
We continue to investigate the violent incident on the UES on Friday night, and need information regarding these persons-of-interest. No complaints have been filed. If you were the victim of a crime, or have information about the incident, please call 1-800-577-TIPS. @NYPDTips pic.twitter.com/IXyUXMkORn
— Chief Dermot F. Shea (@NYPDDetectives) October 15, 2018
The revelation that police in Portland kept quiet about the rooftop protesters and their cache of firearms is only likely to reinforce the sense among counter-protesters that police have adopted a biased approach toward dealing with the two sides. This was further emphasized during the August 4 demonstrations in Portland, when a counter-protester was nearly killed after he was shot in the back of his head by police with a flash bang grenade, and was only saved by his helmet.
During a Proud Boys brawl in Providence on October 6, a witness who spoke to ThinkProgress also claimed law enforcement gave the Proud Boys a huge amount of leeway, despite the fact the the far-right members threw the first punch. Law enforcement finally intervened after a counter-protester aimed a fire extinguisher at the Proud Boys.
Mainstream Republicans are also working overtime to help normalize Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys — most clearly emphasized by the fact that their founder, Gavin McInnes, was invited to speak at the Metropolitan Republican Club to begin with.
Fox News’ Laura Ingraham hosted Gibson on Monday night for a softball interview. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial last week decrying the “Leftist Mob” which had allegedly taken over Portland. And as the Daily Beast has pointed out, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) have posed for pictures with Proud Boys in the past.
Meanwhile, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has proposed new regulations that would limit how and where protests can take place, with the option of restricting them if there is “a substantial likelihood of violence.”
The ACLU has said it has “serious concerns” about the regulations, arguing there are already laws on the books about violence at protests and that the new rules had been sprung on the public with little notice.