October 17, 2018

[Cross-posted from Hatewatch.]

PORTLAND, Ore. – The strategy of the far-right Patriot Prayer “flash marchers” Saturday was much like that of their Proud Boy counterparts the night before in New York City: Assemble a ready-to-rumble crew with out-of-town street brawlers, then troll through the urban center in hopes of confronting left-wing protesters, ensuring violence eventually will break out.

It worked, as it almost always has for Joey Gibson and his Patriot Prayer crew.

Though the “Flash march for Law and Order in PDX” was hastily thrown together in a day or so, Gibson and Co. managed once again to force a massive police presence into downtown Portland, and once again managed to provoke violence as multiple brawls broke out near the march’s end.

Not bad for a bunch of guys from across the river in Vancouver, Wash., as well as elsewhere in southwestern Washington and western Oregon. Only a handful of Patriot Prayer participants actually hail from Portland proper or pay taxes there.

Nonetheless, Gibson’s pretense this time out was again claiming to represent “the citizens” of Portland, standing up to “radical leftists” who make the streets unsafe for motorists, all because of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s weak-spined policies.

The news peg on which they hung this narrative was a story that had emerged a few days previously involving an elderly driver who forced his car through a crowd of people protesting the police killing of a black man in Portland earlier this year. Video of the incident went viral, sparking a public debate (mostly on right-wing channels such as Fox, which described the protesters as “antifa”) over the tactics of street protesters who block traffic.

Once again, he brought with him a cluster of polo-clad Proud Boys, many wearing their red Make America Great Again Hats, and all seemingly looking for a fight. Eventually, they found it.

Initially, the march was mostly peaceful. Gibson’s right-hand man, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, organized everyone on a downtown corner with a megaphone, leading them in chants before setting off through the city’s streets with the apparent intent of finding radical leftists who would fight them. One of the men in Patriot Prayer’s crew wore a shirt with the words “I hunt antifa cowards” scrawled across the chest in sharpie.

Eventually, Gibson’s marching group, numbering around 100 – which ostentatiously did not block traffic, staying to the sidewalk and waiting for “Walk” signals – encountered a group of protesters holding a vigil for the same black man whose death had sparked the earlier protests. That crowd chanted “Black Lives Matter!” at the Patriot Prayer group, but when the marching “Patriots” crossed the street and confronted them directly, no fighting broke out.

Instead, a few minutes later, someone pepper-sprayed a Patriot Prayer marcher. Shortly after that, outside a popular Portland pub called Kelly’s Champions, Proud Boys and Patriots began mixing it up violently with a variety of black-clad protesters. One of them appeared to get kicked and stomped by a cluster of Proud Boys, including Toese.

Portland police broke up the melees almost as soon as they broke out. Eventually, the Patriot contingent wandered back to their cars and drove to their homes outside of Portland. There were no arrests.

This is becoming a well-established recipe, not just for Patriot Prayer but for other similar right-wing street-fighting groups such as Proud Boys and American Guard. The latter recently were involved in fighting in Providence, R.I., as were Gibson, Toese and other Patriot Prayer brawlers. Friday’s Proud Boys attack in New York City has drawn national attention.

These events have had various causes as the guise for being organized in the first place, ranging from “free speech” to opposition to Portland’s immigration “sanctuary status”. Patriot Prayer’s events have been held not just in Portland (on multiple occasions), but in other urban areas as well: Seattle, Olympia, Vancouver, Berkeley, San Francisco and Austin.

Its events have been heavily populated for most of the past year by members of the Proud Boys, and at a rally in Seattle, Gibson pledged his allegiance to them. It’s been reciprocated. In the Pacific Northwest, multiple members of the Proud Boys have been celebrated for assaults, and the highest “degree” of Proud Boy membership is awarded to those who have fought with a left-wing protester.

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