Anti-fascists setup perimeter in anticipation of Proud Boy / “patriot” violence while police choose not not to engage. (Photo by Mac Smiff)
Throughout the month of August, self-proclaimed “patriots”–a collection of mostly right-wing homophobes, incels, anti-vaxxers, white supremacists, school board meeting bullies and police apologists from across the region–publicly planned to invade Portland with no other purpose than political intimidation. In response, the City of Portland rolled out a hashtag campaign, #ChooseLove, and held a Zoom conference the preceding Friday in which (former mayor and) assistant to the current mayor, Sam Adams, disrespected journalists who questioned why the police were promising not to intervene in the scheduled hate rally.
While nobody seemed to expect that Friday’s Zoom event would do anything to stem the inevitable violence that was going to occur, it was clear that the City was trying to push I Choose Love, a prop of a community group formed by former assistant chief of PPB, Kevin Modica, on us. As they have in prior events setup by Sam Adams, they brought out the Brown Sisters (a Black gospel group) to sing about love and tranquility.
Despite astonished reactions from news outlets and activist groups alike, the police nor the City changed their tune about their “hands off” approach, providing a new talking point for those actively working to unseat the mayor.
By Sunday afternoon, the “patriots” decided to change their meet up from the downtown waterfront to an abandoned K-Mart parking lot on NE 122nd, which is about 9 miles from downtown in the Parkrose neighborhood, allegedly in order to avoid violence. Last summer, during a similar event they changed to location to Clackamas Mall at the last minute before driving into downtown Portland to assault people, and as such, anti-fascist demonstrators still showed up downtown on Sunday to confront and defend against the threat, if it should arise.
By mid-afternoon, reports of clashes near Parkrose were circulating and some anti-fascists were contemplating a massive move towards Parkrose. This had people on edge. At one point someone yelled, “Shots Fired!” and everyone started running. It was then clarified that the “shots” fired were from a paintball gun 8 miles away. Everyone calmed down. There was also a report than an older man downtown had flashed a gun and ran off.
At about 5:40, after another false alarm that sent people scurrying, I observed an older man following two Black teens with his phone just outside the larger crowd on Naito. As they approached I could hear the boy pleading with the older man, “Sir… Please stop following us… you’re making me and my girlfriend uncomfortable… we don’t want to see what you have on your phone.”
At that point, the older man belted out, “Fine! You don’t have to be an asshole! Just because YOU don’t want to see pictures of your brothers and sisters hanging from trees in the MOTHERLAND!”
That seemed to get him the attention he wanted. As people started to approach to find out what was going on, the older man pulled a pocket knife, which didn’t really slow the crowd that was slowly advancing towards him. Walking backward up the block and away from the crowd, he then pulled a loaded silver handgun clip and waved it at the crowd.
Someone yelled, “Gun!” and by the time some one corrected them, the man had dug in his pockets, found his gun, and proceeded to load it.
The gunman then ducked around the corner on First Avenue, and the crowd went to follow, before turning back quickly as the gunman reappeared. (Activist Dustin Brandon later explained that the gunman pointed his gun at him when he bent the corner, prompting his to reverse course.) From there the gunman seemed to get and flag someone down before zigzagging to the West.
As the crowd following him grew and word of a gunman spread like wild fire, the gunman walked North, right past a group of very official press dudes.
“Which way did the gunman go?” I asked.
“The dude in the hat?” Press dudes ask.
“Yeah that’s the – ”
“That’s the gunman? Jesus Christ!”
At that point, the crowd grew larger as the press joined in the slow chase and more anti-fascists from the larger group started arriving. Suddenly, the gunman got behind a garbage can and started aiming his weapon, I’m not sure what at. I started recording but when he fired I almost dropped my phone and took cover.
After about 8 shots were fired, the gunman’s gun seemed to jam, and he ran down the side street by MOD Pizza. Naturally, we followed. As he turned North onto Second, two cars rolled up the street with their lights on and the police hopped out as people pointed to the gunman, who then dropped his weapons and laid down face first on the sidewalk.
After telling the press to get back, the police took the gunman into custody and started looking for witnesses who wanted to press charges. I overheard at least one witness saying they would file a report if it would keep the gunman in jail, but I am unsure if they followed through.
Needless to say, between the violence that occurred in Parkrose (Proud Boys flipped a med van over, injured a journalist and attacked a pastor?) and the bonafide shootout downtown, the City’s plan to #ChooseLove ended in gunfire.
Now who could have seen that coming? Stay dangerous.