PORTLAND: A far-right rally and leftist counter-demonstration in the city of Portland, Oregon wrapped up Saturday amid a heavy police presence with no major incidents, following fears that violent clashes would break out.
President Donald Trump had tweeted that the city was “being watched very carefully. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!”
Police were out in force, keeping the opposing camps apart as demonstrators converged on a waterfront park. Authorities arrested at least 13 people, but there were no serious injuries, a police spokeswoman said.
Authorities had seized batons, homemade shields, bear repellant spray, even curtain rods.
Following the dispersal of the rallies, small groups of opposing demonstrators broke into scuffles, attacking each other with their fists and pepper spray, according to witnesses.
Saturday’s far-right gathering was organised in part by a group that calls itself the Proud Boys and says its members are young, “Western chauvinist” men.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a major civil rights organisation, has classified the Proud Boys as a hate group.
Its leaders say the goal of the Portland rally was to have the so-called Antifa movement declared a domestic terror organisation, news reports said.
Antifa stands for anti-fascist and refers to a loose international coalition of activists and protesters who oppose far-right ideology. There have been scattered incidents of violence purportedly involving Antifa members.
Trump tweeted that “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” He did not elaborate.
Portland, one of the most liberal US cities, is an Antifa stronghold and the local Rose City Antifa had urged people “to defend Portland against far-right attack.”
More than 1,000 people gathered in downtown Portland for the rally and counter-demonstration, according to police.
Authorities shut down downtown streets. Scores of riot police kept a close watch over the events as boats patrolled the Willamette River dividing the city.
Right-wing activists including the Proud Boys brandished American flags, while others sported red caps with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan from his 2016 presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, the counter-demonstration included Antifa members dressed all in black, many wearing masks.
They were joined by ordinary citizens of Portland protesting the far-right demonstrators in their city, including one wearing a unicorn costume and a marching band dressed as bananas.