As Far-Right Groups Incite Violence on Both Coasts, Officials Struggle to Respond
On the East and West coasts over the weekend, far-right demonstrators clashed with police and counterprotesters. These were the latest in a series of incidents that left local law enforcement officials unprepared to address the fallout.
In a highly publicized incident, nine members of the far-right group Proud Boys and three counterprotesters were arrested in a clash after a speech by Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes at New York’s Metropolitan Republican Club.
During his speech, McInnes “waved a sword at anti-fascist protesters and celebrated the assassination of a socialist Japanese politician. … [McInnes was] dressed up as the Japanese assassin who killed the politician, complete with glasses that made his eyes into a racist caricature of a Japanese person’s eyes,” according to the Daily Beast.
The incident, writers Kelly Weill and Will Sommer observe, “highlights how the Proud Boys have managed to insinuate themselves with mainstream Republicans, even as they increasingly make the news for their violence.”
Weill and Sommer continue:
Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Devin Nunes have posed for pictures with Proud Boys on the campaign trail. Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson posed in a Fox green room with two Proud Boys and Republican operative Roger Stone earlier this year.
Stone has himself taken steps to be initiated into the Proud Boys and made headlines in March, when he used the Proud Boys as a security force at the Dorchester Conference, a Republican event in Oregon. By then, the Proud Boys were already notorious in Oregon for a series of bloody Portland brawls.
A number of members of the Proud Boys are also in Patriot Prayer, another far-right group involved in clashes with protesters in Oregon this week. Members came to downtown Portland for a rally Saturday on one day’s notice. Billed as a march for “law and order,” it quickly escalated into bloody fights. According to Oregon Live, members of the militia and anti-fascist protesters “used bear spray, bare fists and batons to thrash each other” before riot police waded into the violence.
The incident made national headlines, but it wasn’t the first time an extreme-right group incited violence in downtown Portland. In fact, during a similar rally in August, members of Patriot Prayer were stationed on top of a building with a cache of weapons, a fact that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler admitted only Monday, over two months later.
Wheeler told a news conference that before the start of the August rally, “the Portland Police Bureau discovered individuals who positioned themselves on a rooftop parking structure in downtown Portland with a cache of firearms.” Those weapons included long guns. Splinter explains in its coverage of the incident that “the term ‘long gun’ typically refers to a rifle with a lengthy barrel for shooting at distance. It’s a blanket term that can also include shotguns.” However, writer Jack Crosbie observes, “it seems unlikely to me that it refers to a shotgun in this case.”
Wheeler held the news conference to introduce an emergency ordinance that, Crosbie writes, “will give the police greater authority to separate groups during a confrontation, if it’s voted through by the City Council this week.”
Wheeler emphasized he “will not allow continued, planned street violence between rival factions to take place in Portland,” adding, as Willamette Week reports, that he has asked his staff “to evaluate options to hold accountable those who recklessly drain our public safety resources by using our city as a venue for planned street violence.”
Saturday’s violence, and the delayed disclosure of the weapons cache at the August rally, is “raising questions about why Portland police and political leaders are allowing the violent dueling clashes to continue month in and month out,” Gordon R. Friedman writes in Oregon Live.
Asked by reporters why the weapons weren’t mentioned sooner, Portland Chief of Police Danielle Outlaw said, “Hindsight is always perfect.”
As these groups continue to work themselves into mainstream Republican circles, it will take more than an ordinance from a local government to fight back.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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