A counter-protest to the #MeToo movement was met with backlash from Portland protesters in a demonstration that resembled the type over which the city’s mayor sought more power.
Left-leaning Portlanders came to protest a so-called #HimToo rally, which was billed as the antithesis of the #MeToo movement and was started by people who believe that men are victims of false accusations of sexual assault.
Saturday’s protest marked the first demonstration since Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed protest ordinance failed in City Council. That ordinance would have given Wheeler discretion over when and where protests between groups with a history of violence could take place.
Absent the ordinance, officers closed Chapman Square Park as a method of crowd control to separate protesters and counter-protesters. Portland Police utilized city code to block an entire portion of the park, effectively dividing the two factions of protesters. Portland City Code 20.12.190(B) allows the mayor, director or an officer of the Police Bureau to close any park “whenever it is in the interest of public health or safety to do so.” Police announced several times that certain sidewalks surrounding the park were closed, and that protesters were not permitted to stand there.
Right-wing group Patriot Prayer obtained a permit for a rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza according to a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The plaza is located across from Chapman Square Park.
Opponents of the mayor’s proposed protest ordinance were critical of the sweeping powers it would give him. In casting his ‘no’ vote on the ordinance, Commissioner Nick Fish said he was not convinced the city had done everything it could “with the tools already at our disposal.”
At the tail end of the protest, Wheeler tweeted that the city closed a portion of the park using “an existing tool under City Code.”
“And we can use it here because of the location of the planned demonstrations,” he said.
The mayor then defended his failed ordinance, saying it would’ve expanded powers mirrored in city code to other areas of the city.
“The ordinance would have allowed for more tools for use outside of a park that don’t already exist in city code,” he tweeted.
Though left-wing protesters were there to counter right-wing groups’ planned protest, tensions boiled mostly with police. A line of officers in riot gear attempted several times to move protesters off of the sidewalks on Southwest Madison between 2nd to 4th avenues and back into Chapman Square. Police faced retort from protesters who questioned their demands to get off a public sidewalk.
“This is my constitutional right to be here,” one protester yelled at an officer.
Just as it appeared right-wing protesters were preparing to leave, chaos ensued.
The Portland Police Bureau threatened citations, arrests and potential use of force after officers say they observed people with weapons. Shortly after, police say projectiles were thrown, ordering the crowd to disperse.
Local media outlets reported seeing Portland Police surround antifa protesters. Police also deployed flash bangs and smoke bombs.
The demonstration stemmed from the September confirmation hearings of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. A woman named Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her while they were in high school in 1982. The organizer of the event, Haley Adams, has expressed white supremacist beliefs online.