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Opposing groups clash in violent protests near downtown Portland; 3 arrested

Rallies in downtown Portland on Sunday, Aug. 6 (KATU News photo)

Several opposing marches and rallies quickly turned violent Sunday afternoon at Portland's Waterfront, as police appeared to take a hands-off approach.

Participating groups included "Patriot Prayer," which is led by Joey Gibson. They gathered at the Salmon Street Springs Fountain at 2 p.m. while a peaceful event, the Rally for Freedom, Solidarity, and Justice, was held at the Oregon Memorial Marine Park nearby at the Waterfront.

Members of "Antifa" initially showed up the peaceful rally, but quickly made their way to the Patriot Prayer "Freedom March" several blocks away. The two groups quickly clashed. Several violent fights were witnessed by KATU News crews throughout the area, but as opposed to previous protests, there was little to no police presence breaking up the groups.

Clashes between Antifa and Patriot Prayer moved toward the peaceful rally further north on the waterfront. Organizers quickly moved across the street to avoid any conflict.

"We are not a hate group, we are people who love, this one, and we are people who exercise their right to free speech, this is the way we do this here," said Romeo Sosa, a member of VOZ Workers Rights Education Project.

While they were forced to move to avoid conflict, organizers with the peaceful rally say their message of denouncing hate speech was not lost.

"Hate based on where people were born, based on language, skin color. We're here to say that's not the Portland want, that's not the Portland we deserve," said JoAnn Hardesty, president of the NAACP Portland Chapter.

"Everyone knows about the killing on the MAX, but that is just the tip of the iceberg, the most extreme example. There is hate graffiti, there are people getting shouted at," said Rabbi Debra Kolodny with the Portland Clergy Interfaith Resistance.

The clashes had mostly subsided by 4 p.m., with the Patriot Prayer group marching by themselves throughout downtown Portland.

Portland Police now say they've made three arrests related to the protest; a 16-year-old boy was arrested for disorderly conduct and a felony probation warrant for burglary, reckless burning, and criminal mischief; 24-year-old Jonny Perez was arrested for disorderly conduct, interfering with a police officer and escape; and 21-year-old Tusitala Toese was cited and released for charges of disorderly conduct. Toese was cited and not arrested because of an injury he suffered during the protest that required medical attention.

BACKGROUND

The Patriot Prayer group has been behind several other right-wing demonstrations in the Portland area, most notably, a large protest in downtown on June 4 in the wake of a fatal stabbing of two men who tried to stop another man's anti-Muslim tirade on a MAX train.

The man accused had attended a Patriot Prayer rally less than a month before the killings.

The group on June 4 was met by hundreds of counter-protesters organized by immigrant rights, religious and labor groups. Fourteen people were arrested.

"The more hatred we see the more we have to stand against it," reads the Freedom March Facebook page for Sunday's event. "The more threats that we get the more we have to come out to show no fear... We will continue to come into Portland with a simple message that is focused on truth, love, and freedom."


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