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Portland police issue hands-off strategy during violent protests involving paintballs, guns and bats

As far-left and far-right rallies continue to rattle Portland, Antifa and Proud Boys were seen fighting each other with paintball guns, bats and chemical sprays on the city’s streets after Portland police decided to employ a hands-off strategy on protests earlier this week. 

The violent scene erupted at the same time as the Oregon city was playing host to a Summer of Love conservative event said to have been attended by far-right groups including the Proud Boys. 

Both groups squared off with paintball guns, bats and chemical spray as they clashed in Northeast Portland on Sunday – despite officials and police asking protestors to remain peaceful.  

‘People were lighting fireworks and dispersing chemical spray, as well as firing what appeared to be paintball and/or airsoft guns,’ police said in a statement. ‘Some property destruction was observed.’

Fireworks, paint balls and smoke bombs were a common scene in Sunday’s clashes

Members of the Proud Boys shoot paintballs out of the back of a truck during an altercation with anti-fascist activists

Members of the Proud Boys shoot paintballs out of the back of a truck during an altercation with anti-fascist activists 

Men armed with paintball guns sit behind the back of a pickup truck during the altercation that happened between the Proud Boys and Antifa

Men armed with paintball guns sit behind the back of a pickup truck during the altercation that happened between the Proud Boys and Antifa

Above, members of the far-right Proud Boys attack a counter-protester inside a vehicle

Proud Boys and anti-fascist protesters spray bear mace at each other in Portland on Sunday at a separate skirmish

As fireworks were going off, Antifa members were spotted throwing smoke bombs and firing paintballs, while right-wing rioters broke windows of Antifa advocate’s trucks.

Police were ordered not to intervene and to observe the fights from a distance, even as local residents were caught up in the mix of the conflict.

However, gunfire was exchanged downtown eventually giving police no choice but to intervene for the first time, according The Oregonian. 

A male protestor was arrested after the firearm exchange ceased, but it’s not clear as to whether the incident was tied to the earlier clashes, police told Fox News.

The day’s disturbances fell on the anniversary of last year’s clashes between Trump supporters and counter-protesters that included baseball bats and firearms.

Police arrest a man who exchanged fire with two men. It's unclear if he was part of the protests

Police arrest a man who exchanged fire with two men. It’s unclear if he was part of the protests

Some of Sunday's violence took place in downtown Portland, where people took cover behind cars as gunshots were heard in the background

Some of Sunday’s violence took place in downtown Portland, where people took cover behind cars as gunshots were heard in the background

In a statement published on Monday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler doubled-down on his strategy to only let police intervene if gunshots are involved. He also argued that every time he, the police, or other city officials sent out messages condemning hate speech, and bigotry – as well as the hands-off approach – in the past then at least one of the groups would relocate to a different area in the city.

He added that the fights on Sunday mostly stayed between the two political groups.

‘With strategic planning and oversight, the Portland Police Bureau and I mitigated confrontation between the two events and minimized the impact of the weekend’s events to Portlanders,’ Wheeler said.

‘In the past, these same groups have clashed with extremely violent and destructive results. This time, violence was contained to the groups of people who chose to engage in violence toward each other. The community at large was not harmed and the broader public was protected. Property damage was minimal,’ he continued.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, above in August 2020, held a virtual 'Choose Love' event ahead of planned demonstrations. He called out groups with 'white supremacist predilections'

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, above in August 2020, held a virtual ‘Choose Love’ event ahead of planned demonstrations. He called out groups with ‘white supremacist predilections’

A large chunk of Sunday's incidents took place in the parking lot of an abandoned K-Mart

A large chunk of Sunday’s incidents took place in the parking lot of an abandoned K-Mart 

Portland police say there were no arrests Sunday, but that, 'arrests do not always happen in the moment,' and that they're, 'conducting follow-up investigations, gathering evidence'

Portland police say there were no arrests Sunday, but that, ‘arrests do not always happen in the moment,’ and that they’re, ‘conducting follow-up investigations, gathering evidence’

Wheeler and other city officials were worried that a large police presence would encourage Antifa activists to pickup fights with local police as well as vandalize local property, according to The Oregonian.

Officials told the paper they wouldn’t send police into the rallies unless people were getting seriously hurt or a ‘life safety emergency’ occurred.

However, many of Portland’s residents are overwhelmed and concerned about the public violence, which continues to be promoted on the streets. 

‘Your city terrifies me,’ tweeted Tanny Martin, an out-of-towner from Austin, Texas, ‘These aren’t protests, they are planned violence. And your leaders just let them keep doing it, the police tacitly support it. Horrific.’

‘Counter protestors going to confront Proud Boys are NOT making things more safe, they’re actually making it worse,’ tweeted Lakayana Drury, a member of the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing. 

A left-wing activity got himself surrounded by members of the far-right Proud Boys during rival rallies

A left-wing activity got himself surrounded by members of the far-right Proud Boys during rival rallies

Members of the far-left got in a brawl with far-right members of the Proud Boys (right) during rival rallies

Members of the far-left got in a brawl with far-right members of the Proud Boys (right) during rival rallies

A member of the far-right group Proud Boys and a left-wing counter protester fight in a truck which has its window smashed

A member of the far-right group Proud Boys and a left-wing counter protester fight in a truck which has its window smashed

Amy Harzfled-Coppy, deputy director of programs and strategic initiatives at the Western States Center, a Portland-based non-profit watchdog that monitors right-wing extremism, told the Oregonian that the riots only ‘reinforce the lawlessness and fear that anti-democratic groups thrive on’ unless a rule of law and law enforcement intervene and protect public safety is put in place.

‘It’s time for city and county officials and communities outside Portland to take responsibility for countering such violence,’ Herzfled-Copple said. ‘Portland isn’t an island. It requires support from all levels of government.’

Wheeler noted the city will continue to investigate criminal behavior and will ‘press charges when possible.’

Portland descended into chaos last year after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked massive Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country.

In Portland, 100 days of protests ended in 675 arrests and 30 official riots, according to a tally published by The Oregonian in September 2020. 

Men armed with guns and shields walk through the streets during the altercation that happened between the two groups

Men armed with guns and shields walk through the streets during the altercation that happened between the two groups 

Members of the far-right group Proud Boys attack a van and smash the back window during a clash with anti-fascist activists

Members of the far-right group Proud Boys attack a van and smash the back window during a clash with anti-fascist activists 

Last August, self-described Antifa supporter Michael Reinoehl was killed by police while they tried to apprehend him for shooting and killing Trump supporter Aaron Danielson, according to the Washington Post.

Danielson was part of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer. He had driven through the streets with Trump banners during Floyd protests.  

Soon after the chaos ascended on Portland, an ‘autonomous zone’, known as the ‘Red House occupation’ due to its location in a red foreclosed home, had been been built by Antifa activists and other criminal agitators in North Portland. 

Similar to Seattle’s ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ (CHAZ), the Red House occupation scaled about two and a half blocks. Dozens of criminal activists set up homemade booby traps, including spike strips, to keep police vehicles out from the area.

Layers of chainlink fence and wood block the entry to the Red House on Mississippi Street

Layers of chainlink fence and wood block the entry to the Red House on Mississippi Street

An aerial view shows the area and road around the home cordoned off, graffiti scrawled on the road and tents pitched

An aerial view shows the area and road around the home cordoned off, graffiti scrawled on the road and tents pitched

Crime has spiked in the Portland neighborhood where armed activists have set up an 'autonomous zone' protected by booby-traps to protest the eviction of a black family

Crime has spiked in the Portland neighborhood where armed activists have set up an ‘autonomous zone’ protected by booby-traps to protest the eviction of a black family

There were stockpiles of weapons, Portland Police reported, and strategically placed piles of rocks around the interior and exterior for activists to use as weapons should police make an attempt at entry. There were guards protecting the zone, a stocked kitchen serving two free meals a day, and a nearby coffee shop supportive of the movement providing free coffee, Fox News reported.

Numerous attempts from police to barge into the house proved to be unsuccessful, but the autonomous zone had been dismantled after Portland’s mayor brokered a deal with protesters — and apologized to them. 

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office confirmed a deal had been struck, though it was not clear if the house was being sold back to the Kinneys, the family that was evicted after defaulting on a second mortgage taken out to pay a relative’s legal fees in a criminal case, according to the Red House on Mississippi, a group of social justice activists.

The Red House on the Mississippi group say the family, pictured, were evicted from their home at gunpoint three months ago

The Red House on the Mississippi group say the family, pictured, were evicted from their home at gunpoint three months ago


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