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Antifa Versus The Alt-Right in Portland, Oregon

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On August 4th in Portland, OR, political group Patriot Prayer and an affiliated group known as the Proud Boys gathered for a conservative rally (similar to the infamous Charlottesville, VA rally), in a park near the river. The rally was met with hundreds of counter-protesters, including Members of the far-left group, Antifa. Police kept the groups separated on either side of Southwest Naito Parkway in an attempt to keep the gathering peaceful. Joey Gibson, conservative activist and wannabe candidate for the Washington state senate seat, crossed the barrier to walk on the side with the counter-protesters and was attacked by Antifa members.

Joe Gibson Attacked At Protest in Portland, ORSource: YouTube
Members of Antifa attack alt-right advocate Joey Gibson in Portland, OR after he crossed a police barrier.

What really happened in Portland

An Ultius eyewitness was on the ground and able to observe the event and what occurred during the protest and riots. Our witness reported that both sides of the rally were dressed in militant gear, making it very difficult for police and civilians alike to distinguish between the two.

Both sides were openly carrying guns despite police orders to not bring firearms to the rally. Despiste a heavy police presence, protesters on either side of the street were openly smoking marijuana and some were obviously intoxicated (Marijuana is legal in Oregon, but consuming in public is not legal).

Portland Marriott Downtown WaterfrontSource: Google Maps
The protest and riots occured around the Marriott in downtown Portland, OR

Both sides had peaceful protesters participating in the rally but those participants were often circled and aggressively harassed as the day wore on. Many media outlets provided coverage that ended up being rather one-sided, but the violent outbursts and opposition to police were equal on both sides. Throughout the event, many protesters attempted to climb over the barriers and police wall to face each other and many people were arrested for violence on either side of the rally.

Eder CampuzanoSource: Oregonian
Reporter Eder Campuzano for The Oregonian was struck by a projectile and pictures of his bloodied face quickly flooded the media.

As a precautionary measure, all Portland branches of Starbucks were closed all day. Many other businesses eventually decided to lock their doors— some with people still inside, when the riots began spreading through the city. According to multiple reports, police had to confiscate various weapons, including firearms, flagpoles, and homemade shields. Eyewitnesses stated that several protesters began throwing rocks and bottles at police officers. Police were then forced to use rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash-bang devices to disperse the rioting and gain control of the crowd. Four protestors were arrested and several were treated for injuries.

Police Use Force to Contain Antifa Violence in Portland, ORSource: YouTube
The video shows protesters on the right-wing side cheering as police attempt to contain Antifa members on the Portland waterfront.

Joey Gibson, Antifa, and the Alt-Right

Joey Gibson is a far-right activist from Washington state and the founder of the group Patriot Prayer, which participates in protests and political rallies in Portland, Oregon and other major cities in the United States. Though the media often describes Gibson as a member of the alt-right, he calls himself a ‘moderate libertarian’ and disavows the white supremacists who frequent his rallies (KGW, 2018). Despite the media’s categorization, Gibson supports both same-sex marriages and the decriminalization of marijuana, along with a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Joey GibsonSource: Wiki
Joey Gibson organizes and participates in protests and political rallies across the nation.

He speaks often about the heavy influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the United States healthcare system and the need to separate the two. Gibson announced his intention to run for a Republican congressional seat in the 2018 Senate election early in the year. In March, he noted his opposition to the anti-fascist group Antifa, who often protest Patriot Prayer events.

Who is Antifa?

Antifa is a militant group that utilizes direct action to protest those they identify as conservative extremists, racists, and fascists both in real-life situations and on the internet. A far-left group, Antifa is composed mostly of anti-capitalists and includes those who support anarchy, communism, and socialism. Rather than fighting white supremacist and alt-right groups ideologically, Antifa prefers violent protesting methods that have led to damage of property and people during past events.

‘Antifa’ is actually a term that includes a collection of far-left militant groups and networks that seek out physical confrontations with targets they presume to be fascists or racists. They believe that the government and media are heavily controlled by elite conservative extremists and aim to make loud statements against those political groups.

AntifaSource: FR
Antifa (anti-facists) are a far-left group that often uses violent tactics as a response to the alt-right.

Antifa organizers have noted that the idea is for their violent acts to get extremist right rallies shut down so that hate speech cannot be spread or encouraged but that these physical confrontations are not the most important item in their manifesto. They also target these individuals by trying to identify them as white supremacists publicly, get them fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes, and prevent them from having the platform to voice their hate speech. Antifa groups also commonly engage in mutual aid initiatives like natural disaster response.

Members of the alt-right are the main targets for Antifa groups. It includes right extremist groups like neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, white supremacists, neo-confederates, and Holocaust deniers.

According to a report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center this February, more than one hundred people have suffered injury or death in more than a dozen attacks by those affiliated with alt-right groups since 2014 (SPLC, 2018). Specific attacks attributed to these groups are the Charleston church shooting, the Umpqua Community College shooting, and the Quebec City mosque shooting (SPLC, 2018).

Though the term alt-right itself is a little bit vague, the term encompasses those concerned with preserving the white race in the United States, restricting governmental power, and limiting rights for minorities.

A nation divided

This kind of confrontation is becoming regrettably commonplace in America ever since the 2016 presidential election. The political discourse seems to be more about dislike for the other side rather than the actual political issues and ideologies.

For example, a study conducted by the Pew Research Center noted that the majority of Americans associate negative characteristics with members of their opposing political party (Doherty & Kiley, 2016).

Furthermore, more than sixty percent of both Democrats and Republicans reported that the main reason for their political affiliation is that the opposing party’s views are harmful to the wellbeing of our country as a whole (Doherty & Kiley, 2016)- today’s politics are more about the other side being wrong than your side being right.

Antifa and the alt-righ clashSource: CT
Alt-right and Antifa protesters clash in Portland, OR.

Another political trend affecting the dynamic between the parties in the United States is that more people report negative feelings towards members of their opposing parties than ever before. For the first time since the collection of this data began in 1992, the majority of both parties expressed ‘very unfavorable’ feelings towards members of the other party.

At the time of the report, in 2016, more than ninety percent of Republicans reported feeling unfavorably towards Democrats, while fifty eight percent reported feeling very unfavorably, seeing a twelve percent increase over two years.

Comparatively, eighty-six percent of Democrats reported feeling unfavorably towards members of the Republican party and fifty-five percent said they felt very unfavorably. Both parties saw a twelve percent increase in the number of participants reporting very unfavorably (Doherty & Kiley, 2016). Americans are judging their countrymen based on political affiliation and the numbers seem to be growing significantly.

As Democrats and Republicans continue to debate over America’s racial problems, immigrant rights, and aid to the poor, the gap between them grows ever wider. Carroll Doherty, the director of political research for Pew Research Center

“the fact that Democrats and Republicans differ on these fundamental issues is not a surprise, but the magnitude of the difference is striking, and particularly how the differences have grown in recent years and where they’ve grown.” (Taylor, 2017).

These trends, already at an all time high, continue to grow as the country becomes more politically charged and combative. As tensions rise, so do incidences of violence like the recent riots in Portland. 

Interested in learning more about extremist views? Check out more examples of extremism in everyday life.

Works Cited

2017: The Year in Hate and Extremism. (2018, February). Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2018/2017-year-hate-and-extremism

Doherty, C., & Kiley, J. (2016). Key facts about partisanship and political animosity in America. Pew Research Center.

Dumont, T. (2018, August 4). Twitter: Tyler Dumont FOX 12. Retrieved from https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/08/im_the_reporter_you_saw_bleeding_at_portland_protests.html

Report: Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson to run for Senate. (2018, February 26). Retrieved from https://www.kgw.com/article/news/politics/report-patriot-prayer-founder-joey-gibson-to-run-for-senate/283-523305041.

Taylor, Jessica. Republicans and Democrats Don’t Agree, Or Like Each Other- And It’s Worse Than Ever. (2017, October 5). Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/10/05/555685136/republicans-and-democrats-dont-agree-dont-like-each-other-and-its-worst-than-eve



Ultius, Inc. "Antifa Versus The Alt-Right in Portland, Oregon." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 23 Aug. 2018. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/antifa-versus-the-alt-right-in-portland-oregon.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2018, August 23). Antifa Versus The Alt-Right in Portland, Oregon. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/antifa-versus-the-alt-right-in-portland-oregon.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Antifa Versus The Alt-Right in Portland, Oregon." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 23, 2018. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/antifa-versus-the-alt-right-in-portland-oregon.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Antifa Versus The Alt-Right in Portland, Oregon." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 23, 2018. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/antifa-versus-the-alt-right-in-portland-oregon.html.

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