Portland Police will put extra officers on the street Sunday afternoon to protect against violence between dueling protests.
The group Patriot Prayer is planning a “Freedom March” downtown from 2-5 p.m. At the same time, Rose City Antifa has organized a counter protest called “Stand Up! Community Defense Against Patriot Prayer.”
The dueling protests are the latest in an ongoing series of showdowns in West Coast cities between far-right and far-left groups, which at times have devolved into street fights.
Portland Police Sgt. Chris Burley said the city will have a significant presence because of past violence.
“Our primary focus is going to be monitoring behavior and those actions that put other people’s lives in danger, their safety in danger and potentially even property in danger,” he said.
The Police Bureau said attendees should not bring firearms, knives or anything that could be used as a weapon to the events. Those items will be confiscated and anyone carrying them could be arrested.
Mayor Ted Wheeler also issued a statement Friday, saying Portland rejects racism, white supremacy, violence and vandalism, but that police will focus on ensuring the freedom of expression.
“Messages of hate are not welcome in Portland. We have seen — far too often — how these words of hate can quickly turn to acts of violence. Portland also rejects violence,” Wheeler said.
Several other rallies are planned Sunday, including a demonstration by Portland Stands United Against Hate. The coalition of groups has said they intend their rally to be free from violence and an environment of inclusiveness.
The events are expected in Waterfront Park, Pioneer Square and Terry Schrunk Plaza.
Wheeler said he is hopeful the weekend demonstrations can remain peaceful, unlike recent violent rallies — including one in late August that took place in Berkeley, California.
“My hope is that we are better than that. We can do it better. We can do it the Portland way,” Wheeler said. “In Portland we celebrate diversity, we stand up for others, we promote unity and we practice non-violence.”
Whether or not the mayor’s plea will have an effect remains to be seen.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, has taken to social media in the days leading up to Sunday’s rally to call for non-violence. He has said he sees it as a way to draw liberals and moderates to Patriot Prayer’s cause.
Gibson has also portrayed himself and his followers as victims of left-wing violence after the fights in Berkeley.
“I am beginning to realize that a lot of people don’t understand the philosophy of non-violent resistance. I just assumed most people understood the revolutionary history behind it. Jesus and MLK jr.,” Gibson wrote to his group Aug. 30.
However, members of Patriot Prayer and people who have come to their rallies have also often engaged in violence against counter-protesters.
For their part, Rose City Antifa has said it is also ready to fight on Portland’s streets.
“Many leftists have taken up arms throughout history against fascism and tyranny,” the group wrote in a Sept. 6 Facebook post.
The group went on to criticize Gibson for comparing himself to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying it is “not only ludicrous but extremely offensive.”
Rose City Antifa also criticized the mainstream media, which widely portrayed far-left groups as the instigators of violence at the most recent Berkeley rallies.
“We have been asked by allies if we are planning on switching gears for the 10th based on this latest media manipulation by Gibson,” Rose City Antifa wrote. “While there is quite a lot to this discussion that we can not address here, the short answer is ‘No.’”
Past rallies in Portland have drawn a significant number of people, with the number of left supporters significantly outnumbering far-right demonstrators.
But Sunday’s social media reservations for each group appear to be down compared to past events, with only a few hundred people from each group saying they plan to attend.