PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With the Waterfront Blues Festival in progress just blocks away, what started as a demonstration billing itself as a “peaceful prayer” erupted in violence downtown Friday evening.
Two clashing groups of protesters faced off once again — each claiming their First Amendment right of free speech. Punches were thrown, fights broke out, people were tossed on the ground and American flags were burned and used as weapons over the course of 2 hours.
The Vancouver-based group Patriot Prayer organized a “Freedom March” to “promote freedom and courage” that began at the Salmon Springs Fountain at 6 p.m. But a counter-protest — “Enough: Stop Patriot Prayer Now!” — arrived to engage and shout them down.
“I wish they could be open to engaging in a conversation because I think that we have several things in common,” Trump supporter Greg said.
“There’s a pretty shocking level of hypocrisy,” counter protesters Nate told KOIN. “They say they’re just trying to be peaceful and whatever yet they’re the ones calling for open season on counter demonstrators.”
The pro-Trump group began to march and the Antifa followed. Soon, tensions took over and violence began: A US flag was used to beat people. Someone had a baton, which led to the pepper spray.
Pepper spray was used on the crowd but not by any police officers. Someone with pepper spray unleashed a stream that hit many people in the face, including KOIN 6 News reporter Andrew Dymburt.
Some of the counter-protesters wore masks, while others chanted “Nazi f—- go away!” and “No Trump, No KKK, no Fascist USA” while playing drums.
Tempers flared among the people who mingled in close quarters, while hundreds of people stayed nearby and took cell phone video.
Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, used a bullhorn to address his supporters as they marched toward the Morrison Bridge. A large group from each faction stopped at the Maritime monument, yelled at each other for a few minutes and then kept marching through the park.
A confrontation escalated into a fist fight and a skirmish that included dozens of people. Minutes later, members of the Antifa burned American flags and others stomped on one on the ground.
It was unclear which group started it, but both sides appeared to engaged equally in the violence. Many of the people left the area after the violence began, but the tensions remained high.
The groups moved further into downtown near Old Town/Chinatown but eventually circled back to the waterfront area where things started before the demonstrators broke up.
During the demonstration, Portland police gave the protesters their space. Officers sat in their patrol cars on the street and watched the groups interact.
Organizers from the same groups gathered for dueling protests on June 4, which remained mainly peaceful despite 14 arrests.
Patriot Prayer/Antifa, part 1 Warning: Graphic language
Patriot Prayer/Antifa, part 2 Warning: Graphic language
Patriot Prayer/Antifa, part 3 Warning: Graphic language