Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, holds a press conference following Saturday’s chaotic affairs, but what does each group stand for?

“This is our city. This is our home,” Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler said Saturday in a press conference. “We do not tolerate violence here and those who engage in violence will be held accountable. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of the police bureau and our associated law enforcement partners, we did just that.” 

Nearly 1,200 demonstrators labeled “far-right” and “far-left” by mainstream media clashed in Waterfront Park, Portland on Saturday. Among the protesters were the Proud Boys, American Guard, Oathkeepers, Three Percenters and Anti-Fascists (Antifa). According to Wheeler, “millions of dollars” were spent in preparation for the protests. Every state law enforcement was on duty Saturday with help from local police and federal law enforcement departments, including the FBI. 

From approximately 8:30 a.m. when protesters began gathering until roughly 6:00 p.m., law enforcement seized weapons from Antifa which included chemical spray, bear spray, metal and wooden poles, stun guns, knives and shields.

“We spent several weeks preparing for today’s events,” Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said. “We are grateful for everyone who stayed focused on the mission without regard to politics or ideologies.” 

Many Democratic politicians were critical of the “far-right” groups who came from different parts of the country and claimed the groups’ main purpose was to cause violence and instill fear into Portland residents. This rings contrary to the official name of the Proud Boy protest, which was to “Protest Against Domestic Terrorism.”

Wheeler vocalized his concerns leading up to the rally and referenced the “escalating rhetoric creating tensions throughout our country” as a parallel to his perception of conservative groups’ ideologies. 

The mayor has yet to confirm any Antifa arrests made in the case against independent journalist Andy Ngo on June 29 that left him with a brain hemorrhage. 

“To those coming to inflict violence on our city, we don’t want you here,” Wheeler said in a video just 10 days before the protests on Aug. 17. 

According to Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, their mission was not one of violence, but rather, the opposite. 

“The theme of the rally today is end domestic terrorism,” Tarrio said Saturday. “There are a couple objectives there, the first is to label Antifa the domestic terrorist group that they are. The second objective is to raise awareness for mass shootings, like what happened in El Paso and Dayton, the firebombing that happened in Tacoma, Washington and the shooting that just occurred two days ago in an ICE facility in San Antonio.” 

Enrique Tarrio in the frontline of the Proud Boys march. Courtesy of Jorge Ventura

Shortly after noon, the Proud Boys asked law enforcement to escort them across Hawthorne bridge so they could leave, as Antifa became increasingly violent toward opposing groups. Many civilians were pepper-sprayed, jumped, beaten and had objects thrown at them by Antifa members. Police Chief Outlaw said law enforcement “facilitated a de-escalation of potential conflict,” as Antifa continued to protest in the streets for the next six hours. 

Footage from independent journalists shows Antifa members screaming expletives at different groups and civilians, taking objects from them, pepper spraying, throwing concrete slabs, and smashing food items on their heads. 

At the end of the demonstrations, 13 arrests were made for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of weapons. Tarrio confirmed with Scriberr News that none of the arrests were Proud Boy members. 

Where did this all begin?

The Antifa group in Portland, known as “Rose City Antifa” was founded in 2007 and is one of the oldest functioning Antifa groups in the U.S. 

After the presidential election in 2016, Antifa broke away from a more peaceful demonstration and took to the streets of Portland for a three-day riot in opposition of President-elect Donald Trump. Antifa destroyed property, lit trash on fire, and threw objects – including firecrackers – at law enforcement. 

Since 2016, Antifa has committed violent acts each year while demonstrating, covering their identities with black apparel. Masks, bandanas, black umbrellas, hoodies and ski masks are normal attire for Antifa protesters. This scare tactic is known as “blac bloc,” dating back to the Cold War-era West German Anarchists.  

After the 2016 riots, the Proud Boys clashed with Antifa in Portland the next three years in an attempt to send Wheeler a message about domestic terrorism on his own soil. Media coverage on the Proud Boys has been extremely controversial, with many citing Proud Boys as part of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville where the KKK and other white supremacist groups were present. According to Proud Boy members, their chapter was not present that day.

Who is Antifa fighting against?

Antifa is considered an anti-government regime who are anti-capitalism, anti-neo-fascism, anti-neo-nazis and anti-white-supremacy. To Antifa, the Proud Boys fall under these categories and consider them a “white supremacist neo-nazi” group. They fiercely oppose the current presidential administration and consider it a fascist, racist leadership. 

Antifa members on Aug. 17. Courtesy of Elijah Schaeffer

In an interview prior to the protests on Aug. 17, two Portland Antifa members explained their stance is to defend their city from hateful groups.

“When fascists come to our city to attack people we are going to put our bodies between fascists and the people they want to attack,” one Antifa member said.  

“Fighting fascism with physical militancy” is one of the official positions Antifa takes – regardless if they are attacked first – they will take action against individuals and groups they believe to be oppressive. 

“We see ourselves as engaging in self-defense from groups who want to do our communities harm, whose ideology is the ideology of genocide and mass murder, so in the sense of reaction, we see fascism as an inherently violent ideology, so when we disrupt its organizing we saw that as self-defense,” the Antifa member said.    

Antifa does not rely on law enforcement or the legal courts to deal with white supremacy, instead, they take it upon themselves to fight against groups they think are fascist. In the U.S. legal system, reacting violently as a preventative measure toward presumptive actions from other groups is considered assault. In the eyes of Antifa members, they are fighting against the fear these groups place on their communities. 

Who are the Proud Boys?

The controversial group founded by former Vice Media Co-Founder Gavin McInnes label themselves a “Western chauvinist” fraternity where they gather, drink and talk about politics. In its origin, chauvinism meant an aggressive form of patriotism, but the Proud Boys have given it a new meaning – an “unapologetic” approach to patriotic brotherhood. They have independent chapters across the country. 

In a CNN interview from the protests Saturday with Cuban Proud Boy chapter leader of Miami, Tarrio, a reporter mislabeled the group “male chauvinists” before Tarrio cut her off to say “Western chauvinists.”

“She actually corrected herself, she said ‘Western chauvinist’, she knew she had that in her pocket – so why would she play the ‘male chauvinist’ card if she wasn’t trying to play a narrative? I don’t think she was prepared and I don’t think she knew exactly who I was,” Tarrio said about the CNN interview to Scriberr News. 

The CNN reporter has been facing backlash online for the interview Saturday, with 13,000 dislikes on YouTube compared to 3,700 likes.  

“It was like I was invisible to her in that interview. She wasn’t interviewing me, she was interviewing her narrative,” Tarrio told Scriberr News. “They’re going to do what sells. But the one thing they can’t say is that we were violent.”

According to one of the earliest and most controversial Proud Boy members, Creative Director of Proud Boy Magazine, Pawl Bazile, the only requirement for the men’s club is that “you have to be a man and love western culture, defined as the culture founded by America – of freedom and ideas.” 

“We have absolutely no rules based on race,” Bazile said. “Our charters even plainly declares the group stands for ‘anti-racism’. Race doesn’t factor into the thinking of the Proud Boys and if someone joins the group and feels different, then this club clearly isn’t for them and they will be shown the door.”

Proud Boys march in Portland on Aug. 17. Courtesy of Jorge Ventura

In the past, there have been Proud Boy members with ties to white nationalism who encouraged violence against protesters, but have since been kicked out, both Tarrio and Bazile confirmed.  

“In the beginning when we weren’t so clear cut on things, it was easier for them to try to get in, but now we have a more focused group and I don’t think we have that problem anymore,” Tarrio said. 

In an effort to combat Antifa’s violent tactics, Proud Boys took it upon themselves to bring awareness on the group’s violent protesting methods and called for the U.S. government to label them a domestic terrorist organization. President Trump tweeted that consideration would be given to these claims, while many argued the Proud Boys should be labeled a domestic terrorist organization as well.  

“They are misusing public taxpayer resources and I hope they think about that,” Mayor of Portland said Saturday about the Proud Boys. “More importantly, I hope that he [protest organizer, Joe Biggs] understands that this national environment … is an environment of fear. That is not unique to Portland, that is national.”

Proud Boys vowed to re-visit Portland every month until Wheeler takes action against Antifa and names them a domestic terrorist organization.

Both Antifa and Proud Boys are disliked by many – some Democrats believe Antifa does not represent their views, while a majority support their message in the ultimate fight against President Trump, who they deem a white supremacist. Republicans have mixed opinions on the Proud Boys and limit their coverage to avoid labels the controversial group often brings.

“We’re a pretty complicated group to understand. We’re not liked by the left at all, and the establishment right doesn’t f**k with us,” Tarrio said. “We’re not really Republicans as much as we are conservatives – we have libertarians and we have liberals. We’re hated by members of Antifa just like we’re hated by the alt-right.” 

The next appearance from Antifa is expected on Aug. 31 at Boston’s “Straight Pride” parade, marshaled by Milo Yiannopoulos. It is not confirmed whether the Proud Boys will be at this event. 

WHAT THE LEFT IS SAYING:

WHAT THE RIGHT IS SAYING:

Written ByJamie Joseph

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