The Non-Battle of Portland

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In the morning when I’m on the elliptical machine, I’ll usually flip between CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Then I’ll get disgusted and switch to AMC to watch the Three Stooges. It seems apporpriate – swapping one set of three stooges for another.

In the week leading up to yesterday’s protests, CNN and MSNBC had nothing to say about the upcoming showdown between the far-right woofers and far-left tweeters that has become a too-frequent hallmark of life in Portland during the Trump regime. Fox was beating the drum about how poorly Portland mayor Ted Wheeler had handled the previous woofer/tweeter dustup in late June. There were ominous overtones of violent retribution and payback, along with the dog-whistle suggestion that Fox viewers could still get a piece of the action if they hurried.

The way these things normally shake out is that right-wing woofer groups from out of state announce that they are coming to Portland to exercise their First Amendment rights. The most frequent culprit in this respect is a group called Patriot Prayer, whose leader, “Joey,” live across the river in Vancouver Washington. They are frequently joined by a group called the Proud Boys, an SPLC-designated “hate group” based loosely in Florida. Fox News incorrectly reports Patrior Prayer as being- POrtland-based, when they in fact are headqurtered in another state. This didn’t stop “Joey” from using his candidacy for a Washington Senate seat as an excuse to hold a rally in Portland. Which is located in Oregon, which is a state that is not Washington.

The right-wing troublemakers gin up excuses to hold rallies in Portland, and the local left-wing troublemakers – the so-called “antifa” – respond in kind. The black-clad and masked anar-kiddies usually turn up in large numbers and are more than willing to give the woofer troublemakers the fight they’re looking for.

That’s what it usually boils down to: two groups of pissed-off people looking for a fight. There is a thin patina of hard-right and hard-left political rhetoric over the whole thing, but it’s really just the Sharks versus the Jets. Neither group has anyone’s best interests in mind. They just want trouble.

Portland has a long history of left-wind agitation, strchting back to the early 20th century. In the early 90’s George H.W. Bush’s staffers nicknamed Portland “Little Beirut,” after the super-charged demosntrations that occurred during his visits. Local author Chuck Palahniuk tells a story about how a group of protesters used mashed potatoes, food coloring and Ipecac to provide Bush the Elder with a patriotic red-white-and-blue mass puke upon his arrival downtown.

Portland (and Oregon) also has a long and ugly history of bigotry and racism that also feeds the violent conflicts between extreme right and extreme left. Back in the 80’s, the moniker “Skinhead City” disgraced the city. One attendee of several Patriot Prayer rallies stabbed two men to death and severely wounded a third on a commuter train, when the men attempted to protect some teenage girls the “Patriot” was harassing.

Sadly, this history makes Portland a likely flashpoint for extreme fringe groups to meet, greet and beat. I’ll give antifa this: they haven’t really been the instigators in these clashes. They have done some low-down instigation in the past, however – with the May Day riot in 2017 being a nadir in behavior, resulting in millions of dollars in damages to downtown businesses.

I have yet to see one of these confrontational events that coalsced around an antifa event; it’s always the right-wing woofers who roll in from out of state to stir up confrontation. However, their response gives the right-wingers oxygen to create a big publicity stunt out of what would otherwise been an unremarkable protest of a couple dozen yobs in leather jackets and flag regalia.

In my opinion, both groups are pretty much a collection of buttheads, with the right-winger woofers getting extra-special butthead credit for bringing their shit-show in from out of state. Fox News and even Turd-Stirrer-in-Chief Donald Trump seemed to be determined to blow the confrontation up as big as possible. The woofers had been on the prod for Portland and mayor Ted Wheeler since the last woofer/tweeter dustup. An alt-right “journalist” named Andy Ngo got roughed up by the antifa goons. Not cool. Even worse than the violence was the excuse this gave Fox and Fiends to dump on Portland and Wheeler for not having the entire antifa organization rounded up and chain-ganged. Even Dumb Donald tweeted in on the fracas, stating that “Portland is being watched very closely,” and admonishing that Wheeler had better “properly do his job.” (Irony alert: this while Trump was burning taxpayer bucks at his golf resort in New Jersey.)

WE were pretty apprehensive as Saturday dawn, but fortunately Wheeler and the Portland Police Bureau did an amazing job of keeping the Sharks and the Jets separated. They blocked off a number of downtown streets and a bridge or two, and kept both main groups moving and apart. At one point, they were routing one group east over one bridge, while directing the other west over another bridge. It was like a Scooby Doo hallway chase scene.

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At the end of the day, there were a dozen or so arrests, a like number of injuries – only one of which required a trip to the hospital. The right-wing jerks were tired and dispirited when things petered out in the early afternoon. After cheerfully being given wrong directions by friendly Portlanders, many returned to the grocery store where they had parked their calls, only to find they had all been towed. The antifi jerks presumably hopped on the next convenient bus or MAX train and went home.

In the end, it was handled admirably by the city, and the message that future woofer protesters who may contemplate again traveling to the Rose City to start trouble is thus:

  • Welcome to our city
  • Spend some money
  • Don’t cause any trouble
  • Go the hell home

And steps 1 through 3 can be omitted without anyone here getting upset about it.

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