Demonstrators spar in Portland after opposing gatherings

Police Chief Chuck Lovell had said that police would not be getting in the middle of it but would instead keep an eye out for law-breakers


By Noelle Crombie
oregonlive.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — Far right-wing demonstrators and left-wing protesters clashed Sunday in Portland, a conflict that was punctuated with gunfire on a downtown street.

Dustin Brandon Ferreira, 37, a left-wing activist, said he was with other activists Sunday evening when a man used a slur against a Black man in the group and fired multiple rounds in their direction. Portland police said in an email that “the entire incident” is under investigation.

A van that was driven by anti-fascist protesters is pictured flipped on its side with all windows smashed after it was attacked for trying to drive into a Proud Boys rally Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Portland, Ore.
A van that was driven by anti-fascist protesters is pictured flipped on its side with all windows smashed after it was attacked for trying to drive into a Proud Boys rally Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Alex Milan Tracy)

Dennis Anderson, 65, was charged with unlawful use and possession of a firearm and booked into the Multnomah County Jail shortly after the shooting, according to jail records. Anderson’s bail was set at $7,500. Portland police Sgt. Kevin Allen confirmed Anderson was the shooter.

A video taken by one witness showed shots being fired toward the shooter at Southwest Yamhill Street and Southwest 2nd Avenue at one point, though it is unclear whether he was fired on first.

No one was injured.

Before the shooting, the suspected shooter, who had been standing at the fringes of the downtown protest for hours Sunday, told an Oregonian/OregonLive reporter that the left-wing activists were “the real fascists.”

The day began at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where an estimated 300 demonstrators gathered to protest planned gatherings by right-wing groups who decided to move their event to an abandoned Kmart parking lot off Northeast 122nd Avenue.

By mid-day, splinter groups from the left arrived at the right wing gathering, prompting verbal skirmishes, followed by roving street battles that were marked by bear mace and bursts of fireworks that shrouded a stretch of Northeast 122nd Avenue in thick smoke.

Members of both sides were heavily armed. Bats, paintball guns and wooden spears were among the weapons observed on the left and paintball guns and bats were seen among members of the right. People on both sides carried large shields.

A person clad in black was seen at the waterfront early in the afternoon carrying what appeared to be a rifle and bullets. It was not immediately clear whether the rifle was a replica.

Portland police took a mostly hands-off approach during much of the day. Officers were conspicuously absent even as left-wing activists erected barricades on downtown streets. On Twitter, the bureau said it was monitoring the situation.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Friday that police would not be getting in the middle of dueling groups and would instead keep an eye out for law-breakers.

About 4 p.m. Sunday, a white van leading left-wing demonstrators drove into the Kmart lot in Northeast Portland and crashed near the entrance. Members of the Proud Boys, the right-wing activist group, shot it with paint balls and smashed it with baseball bats.

The conflict escalated with dozens streaming onto the four-lane roadway in Northeast Portland. Bear mace was used by some protesters, though the source was unclear.

After the street skirmish was over, some Proud Boys returned to the parking lot and flipped over the van. The group also slashed the tires and smashed the windows of a silver truck.

The moving conflict ended up in the parking lot of Parkrose High School.

By late afternoon, left wing activists downtown had erected barricades on city streets using construction materials and fences. The groups blocked the intersections of Southwest Salmon Street and Naito Parkway, as well as Southwest Taylor Street and Naito.

Then about 5:45 p.m., shots rang out at Southwest 2nd and Taylor downtown, prompting a police response. Officers picked up bullet shells where the shooting took place.

Allen said in an email that arrests stemming from Sunday’s events “may not happen in the moment” but after an investigation.

“Just because arrests are not made at the scene does not mean that people are not being charged with crimes later,” he said.

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The bureau asked for help identifying victims of crimes tied to the events and witnesses to those crimes. It encouraged people to contact the police non-emergency line at 503-823-3333 or submit information to crimetips@portlandoregon.gov.

The right-wing group that gathered in Northeast Portland earlier in the day was comprised of about 100 people, many associated with the Proud Boys. They congregated in the parking lot of the former Kmart in front of a stage with a backdrop that featured a large American flag and an image of the Statue of Liberty.

The group hung a sign reading, “Free our political prisoners” from the former store, referring to insurrectionists arrested for their participation in the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

Proud Boys member Tusitala “Tiny” Toese said the group did not plan to go downtown and had moved the event to avoid clashing with left-wing groups.

“We relocated the rally to avoid the altercation and the violence between us and the people on the left, but if they do show up here, we’re going to defend ourselves,” Toese said.

Toese, who has been a fixture of right-wing demonstrations that have led to bloody brawls in Portland and other cities, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in January 2020 stemming from a 2018 beating in Northeast Portland and was sentenced to six months in jail last fall after violating his probation. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office confirmed earlier this month that Toese is not currently on probation.

Early in the day, a speaker at the waterfront urged left-wing demonstrators not to go to the former Kmart lot, saying protesters had done their job just by showing up.

Some in the crowd wore helmets or donned protective gear labeled, “ACAB” or “antifa.” People in the group held up signs reading, “Goodnight White Pride” and “No Love 4 Nazis.”

Members of the Portland interfaith clergy resistance, an interfaith collective of Portland faith leaders, gathered with the group as part of their mission to “accompany those who seek justice in the streets.”

“(I hope) that everyone’s right to assemble and speak freely can be respected peacefully,” said Rabbi Ariel Stone, “and that the city will uphold its obligations to support and protect and serve its citizens by keeping any violence, or anyone who chooses to bring violence into the city away from the people who live here.”

Sunday’s planned gatherings were spurred by a similar event one year ago where right-wing demonstrators, including some affiliated with the Proud Boys, faced off against anti-fascist counter-demonstrators in downtown Portland. The two groups pelted each other with paintballs, mace and rocks as Portland police stayed largely out of the way.

A week after last year’s demonstrations, Michael Reinoehl, an anti-facist demonstrator, fatally shot Aaron Danielson, a member of the far right group Patriot Prayer, after a pro-Trump rally in downtown Portland.

— Oregonian staff reports

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