A critical and reflective look back on the mass mobilization in Portland against the Proud Boys. Cover photo from Rose City Antifa. Support those arrested, here.
The red herrings (and some blatant lies) about who was milkshaked, and what was in those milkshakes after the June 29th antifascist mobilization in Portland comes as no surprise. The fash and the pigs are trying to overshadow the real story, which is that we won the day! We have learned, grown, and increased our capacity.
I arrived downtown around 11:30 am to walk around and see what the situation was like before hand. A few people from PopMob were starting to set up in the park, and no small amount of bike cops were already at the perimeter, with more armored cops a couple blocks South by the “Justice” Center. The cops tried to set a tone of intimidation early as they sauntered through the park closer to noon when the party was scheduled to begin. At one point they grabbed a person who was masked up. This person was able to shake free and back away, as members of the National Lawyers Guild, as well as others, gathered around.
The police sort of slowly herded this person around the edge of the park for a minute until finally dispersing. Shortly after, when a bloc assembled with the Rose City Antifa banner the cops surrounded them. Again, NLG members were quick to show up, and the cops moved on. Music was playing, people were dancing, and milkshakes were being given out. There are plenty of great pictures and reports on social media from this event. The energy was high and for a moment it felt like a rad summer block party.
“It felt like everyone there was fed up with fascist intimidation and violence, and ready to stand up.”
When the bulk of the bloc began to march towards the Waterfront Park where the Proud Boys were said to be, the people gathered in the park wasted no time in falling in right behind them. By the time an organizer got on the sound system to say we were marching half of the group was already in the street, and the other half was only still in the park because the march wasn’t moving fast enough to have hundreds of people exited by then.
I was present during the August, 4th 2018 mobilization, and helped with PopMob’s aim of creating a place to rally that was a block or two removed where more people would feel safe, and then helping to facilitate the merging of the two groups, thereby creating more safety with increased numbers.
On that day when the PopMob contingent fell in behind the bloc an organizer turned to me and said, “We did it. We got them here.” This sentiment came to mind on the 29th, because there was no such surprise. It felt like everyone there was fed up with fascist intimidation and violence, and ready to stand up. There were youth and elders, people who were at their first street action and people who have been around, differently abled people and currently abled people, people in bloc and people in glitter–in short Portland showed up to defend each other. To me the Rose City Antifa banner captured the mood very aptly, “Enough is enough.”
Similarly to the 4th, it wasn’t long before the cops had a line in front of us preventing the march from getting to the Waterfront Park. Unlike on the 4th, we didn’t stay in this stand off for long. We doubled back, and turned South. After some maneuvering through the streets, we headed down a side street adjacent to the Morrison bridge, which has a freeway on-ramp. Riot cops pulled up onto the bridge, but we made it passed the police line by cutting through the side street, crossing over the Max train tracks, and through a pedestrian walkway under one of the on-ramps to the bridge. This walkway leads through a parking lot under the bridge, and we were then one street away from the park. With no cops besides the ones on the bridge looking down on us, we took the park.
Two points stood out to me here. First, it seemed like the cops were forced to gamble on where to block, and chose the more valuable target of the bridge and access to the I-84 freeway, thereby giving us the clear path to make it to the park. This is an interesting consideration, and could be useful in the future if we are able to head in a direction that has multiple strategic goals forcing them to spread themselves thin, or choose one over the other.
Second, not only did we out maneuver the cops in this instance, but showed really impressive trust and teamwork. The small side street we went down has a sharp turn and a cement barrier to block from the train tracks, so visibility is very limited walking up to it. It felt risky to enter a small space with limited visibility, however it worked to our advantage being on foot. It was not easily accessible to police vehicles. Multiple comrades stood at the corner motioning people on, and telling those behind them that it was clear and the group ahead was making it through. This immediately worked to quiet the murmurs I was beginning to hear of, “This isn’t going to go well,” and “Where are we going?” In addition, when crossing the tracks and the street before the park people formed a line to hold any traffic, and kept the route clear for those behind them.
When we all gathered in the Waterfront Park the energy was once again celebratory, and the fact that the sprinklers turned on right where we gathered only served to cool off those who needed it and illustrate the futility of the authorities to deter us. There were no fash in the park, so after a hydration and snack break we began marching again – this time towards Pioneer Courthouse Square where Haley Adams and crew were. There is no proof of this YET, however I’m sure nobody would be surprised if communications were released that showed the cops gave the Proud Boys a warning when they knew we were going to make it to the park. If the cowards even waited around that long to begin with.
On our way to the square anti-I.C.E.chants were included with antifascist ones – keeping at the fore the three way fight we are in, as well as the necessity of fighting white supremacy on every front. There were also written sentiments to this effect. As many deaths and assaults as the fascists are responsible for in recent years let’s remember that the State has caused many more. The fash are envious of the State’s monopoly on “legitimate” violence, and are often cheerleaders for State violence against us. The State is a bigger threat to our collective safety, and our long term survival, and it will not stop killing us voluntarily.
Arriving at Pioneer Courthouse Square an important factor was that it is in the heart of the downtown shopping area, the main mall is a couple blocks away, and the MAX train runs on the North and South side of the square with major banks on either side as well. On this clear 80 degree Saturday there were a ton of people walking around who were very confused at why riot cops showed up with a crowd of hundreds of people. However, I have no doubt that this mixed situation gave the cops a little pause in unleashing the normal barrage we’ve experienced before. There were fash in the square, and though it has been said many times before, it must be clearly reiterated until it is no longer a factor, if it weren’t for the protection provided by the cops there is absolutely no way that a few dozen fash would hold any space against a crowd of several hundred. The police protected this small vulnerable gathering.
“The U-Haul truck equipped with a sound system stopped in the intersection that people were moving towards, and I saw tons of projectiles hit the side of it. Pulling up in that moment allowed much needed cover for people. I also heard from a medic that they were able to treat someone due to the protection provided by the comrades in the truck.”
The cops had a strong line at the intersection bordering the square, and were playing the usual recording telling us to, “Disperse or you’ll be subject to arrest.” Right when one cycle of this recording ended, as if on cue, the U-Haul truck with the sound system pulled up on the street directly behind the cops. Not only did this rejuvenate the crowd, which erupted in cheers and laughter, but poked a huge hole in the facade of total control that the police do their best to portray. For in that moment, if even symbolically, they were surrounded, we were behind their lines–we are everywhere. I had a similar feeling of excitement on the 4th when I was retreating from the police as they opened fire on us, thereby nearly killing a comrade, and allowing the fash to march into the city. The U-Haul truck equipped with a sound system stopped in the intersection that people were moving towards, and I saw tons of projectiles hit the side of it. Pulling up in that moment allowed much needed cover for people. I also heard from a medic that they were able to treat someone due to the protection provided by the comrades in the truck. This tactic has been hugely useful on multiple occasions, and is one I would encourage other people to consider if it makes sense in your context.
Once again, not wasting time in a stand off, people tried to thin the police lines (and further trap the fash), by splitting off into smaller groups and holding multiple intersections. At some point, enough people circled the block and advanced from enough points (while still maintaining a large enough group to take space) that we were able to break into the square, at which point there were no lines. Assistant Police Chief Davis described the event as, “geographically disparate in nature,” which made it difficult to handle. I’ll translate that as we’ve gotten better at moving together through our city towards a common goal, and the cops lost control.
It even took us a minute to realize how surrounded we had the fash. Someone ran to the section I was in, and informed us, “Hey, we got Haley Adams and some people cornered over here. Come on we could use more people.” To which someone responded, “We have some Proud Boys cornered over here.” The first person replied, “Oh really, cool do that than,” and ran off.
As skirmishes broke out, a lot of us were finding ourselves in smaller and smaller groups. The police noticed this too, and started to close in. This is an area for growth that I see from the day. We need to get better at quickly coming back together, or acting autonomously while maintaining group cohesion. During this time, I saw a handful of people run into a closed food cart pod to de-bloc, and a ton of bike cops swarmed in after them. I don’t know what you did comrades, but shout out to you, because I was so happy to hear there was a total of only three arrests that day, which means you made it out. As a kettle seemed imminent the people I was with decided it was time to go. Although, a sizable group was able to stay in and around the square for a while after this point. I hope to read more accounts of this, because a lot happened all at once. I think it would be important to have many perspectives represented, in order to have a more complete picture.
“They can take selfies in their living rooms with weapons, and make as many online threats as they want, but in the street they got out organized.”
We are getting stronger, and less intimidated by the police (people didn’t trickle out at early standoffs, or leave as soon as events got hectic). The fash are getting weaker, and barely turned out enough people to call it a rally. They can take selfies in their living rooms with weapons, and make as many online threats as they want, but in the street they got out organized, and subsequently wrecked.
I was debriefing with some comrades, and we agreed that the skills we have collectively amassed are a solid enough foundation to build on for community defense from other threats like the cops and I.C.E. This is also a strategic time to put pressure on some fissures that are widening.
While we all know that cops and klan go hand in hand, it isn’t a completely unified front. As the previously cited article states, the mayor and police are under heavy scrutiny from the larger right and obviously continuously from the left. They are feeling this pressure as they are caught in the middle. Furthermore, with Portland Police failing their probation at double the rate of previous years, the department lowering their standards to try and compensate for a shortage of recruits, and neighboring counties withdrawing from their mutual aid pacts with Portland our enemies are vulnerable. The last few years have taken a toll on the local government as well. With these current conditions in mind, let’s celebrate our victory, support those arrested, and realize that we are only beginning to witnessed the extent of what our community defense efforts can accomplish.