Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys again face off against Antifa in Portland

For the third time this summer, Patriot Prayer's Joey Gibson brought his group to Portland to exercise their freedom of speech in a city that doesn't believe in that basic right.

As with the two previous demonstrations, the group was confronted by a coalition of far left groups, including many masked members of Antifa, who don't think the citizens of Portland should be exposed to alternate viewpoints. There were a few fist fights and some rock throwing at police by both sides, but few arrests and no widespread damage.

New York Post:

Among the things police confiscated were long sticks and homemade shields.

Just before 2 p.m., police in riot gear ordered people to leave an area downtown, saying demonstrators had thrown rocks and bottles at officers.

“Get out of the street,” police announced via loudspeaker.

Gibson’s insistence on bringing his supporters repeatedly to this liberal city has crystallized a debate about the limits of free speech in an era of stark political division. Patriot Prayer also has held rallies in many other cities around the U.S. West, including Berkeley, California, that have drawn violent reactions.

But the Portland events have taken on outsized significance after a Patriot Prayer sympathizer was charged with fatally stabbing two men who came to the defense of two young black women — one in a hijab — whom the attacker was accused of harassing on a light-rail train in May 2017.

A coalition of community organizations and a group representing more than 50 tribes warned of the potential for even greater violence than previous rallies if participants carry guns. It called on officials to denounce what it called “the racist and sexist violence of Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys” and protect the city.

Gibson, who is running a long-shot campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, said in a live video on Facebook earlier this week that he won’t stop bringing his followers to Portland until they can express their right-wing views without interference.

Self-described anti-fascists — or “antifa” — have been organizing anonymously online to confront Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys in the streets.

Organizers say that while Patriot Prayer denies being a white supremacist group, it affiliates itself with known white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazi gangs.

“Patriot Prayer is continuing to commit violence in our city, and their events are becoming more and more violent,” said Effie Baum of Pop Mob, a coalition of community groups organizing the counter-demonstration. “Leaving them a small group to attack in the streets is only going to allow them to perpetuate their violence.

Patriot Prayer is a fringe right group, but expressly anti-violence and does not espouse white nationalist views. But the "alt right" continues to show up at Patriot Prayer rallies, which makes the group a ridiculously easy target for the far left. 

Gibson's heart is exactly in the right place but his naivete (or disinterest) in not disassociating his group from the violent far right groups that show up at his rallies severely damages his cause. His point is very simple; citizens should be able to express their views, even in the most liberal cities of America, without fear of having their heads bashed in. But giving the Antifa thugs an excuse to commit acts of violence against them by not eliminating the crazies from his demonstrations only makes it easier to lump the issue of free speech in with the toxic white nationalist agenda. 

Portland, Berkeley, Seattle - all of these cities and more need more diversity of thought. And if the only way to accomplish that goal is to risk life and limb then more power to the protesters. But as a practical political matter, Patriot Prayer will not accomplish much as long as they leave themselves wide open to attacks from left wing thugs who are desperate to silence alternative viewpoints at all costs.

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