On June 4th in Terry Schrunk Park in downtown Portland, Joey Gibson, his newly-minted Warriors for Freedom group, and a couple hundred “Trump Free Speech Rally” attendees found themselves surrounded by thousands of local antifascists and their supporters. After white supremacist Jeremy Christian, who had attended one of Gibson’s recent rallies, allegedly murdered two people and critically injured a third aboard a MAX train on May 26th, a widespread movement against Gibson’s activities grew, opposing these opportunties for racists to gather and condeming the disingenuous veneer of defending “free speech.” The broad show of support and solidarity by the community this last Sunday was powerful and invigorating. But the number of white supremacists who did gather at Gibson’s rally was damning, and the dangerous armed assault by the Portland Police Bureau against anti-fascist activists was all too expected in the current political climate.
Neither Gibson nor the Warriors for Freedom paid heed to the community they were invading, focusing only upon the celebrity generated for them by the controversy. Gibson used the tragedy as one more opportunity to redirect blame for violence onto the “extreme left,” a view echoed by many mainstream media outlets and conservative groups.
Rose City Antifa has made it abundantly clear that it does not believe the average Trump supporter or conservative is a fascist. Yet they stood on the sidewalk of Terry Schrunk behind the armored protective cordon of riot police and militia groups waving American flags with a “what me, racist?” look fixed upon their selectively bewildered faces, frowning at the audacity of the thousand anti-fascists gathered across the street in Chapman Park. What these perennial patriots fail to understand is that standing next to them, behind them, gathering around them, and speaking on stage, was a tide of alt-right, white supremacists, crypto-fascists, and Nazis. They were simply disguised– on good behavior, carrying American flags rather than swastikas, and blending into the red, white, and blue background so that they could gather in public under the protection of the far-right. Rose City Antifa and its allied groups were not fooled by this strategy, however.
The day began in stark enough terms, as the far-right’s protest sign reading “Jeremy Christian is NOT with us!” was immediately refuted. Not minutes after anti-fascists arrived in Chapman Square, “Brian Fife,” a local white supremacist who defended Jeremy Christian online, tried to make a move into Chapman Square, followed dutifully by far-right video bloggers. When he was repulsed, he retreated back to the far-right rally with his American flag. This is a man who publicly stated online that “Jeremy Christian is a hero. If only we had 10,000 exactly like him.” Yet he was allowed to rub shoulders with other members of the far-right for the rest of the day.
Brian Fife chatting with III% security in Terry Schrunk park
Brian Fife defending Jeremy Christian on Twitter.
Brian Fife spreading Holocaust memes on Facebook.
A number of members of the Traditionalist Workers Party in Oregon showed up, displaying their banners next to the Warriors for Freedom rally, and also were inside chatting with attendees. The TWP is an anti-Semitic, racial separatist organization, allied with many other neo-Nazi groups. They recently held a joint rally with the National Socialist Movement in Kentucky.
A member of the Traditionalist Workers Party in the rally
Traditionalist Workers Party disseminating propaganda just outside Terry Schrunk park.
A large contingent from Identity Europa showed up. Their main figure, Jacob Ott, was not allowed inside the Warriors for Freedom rally, because anti-fascist activists had spotted him at Joey Gibson’s previous rallies and publicized his attendance. At the rally on 82nd Avenue on April 29th, Ott was filmed shaking hands with the accused murderer, Jeremy Christian. However, his young followers were allowed to congregate at the rally and enjoyed unfettered access. They were decked out in American flag gear and body armor that allowed them to easily blend with the crowd.
Ott shaking hands with Jeremy Christian after he gives the Nazi salute, at Joey Gibson’s 4⁄29 rally
Ott stands with Identity Europa members outside Joey Gibson’s rally
Affiliates of the Identity Europa group inside Joey Gibson’s rally. Note the rune sticker on the helmet– this rune has replaced the swastika as the symbol of the National Socialist Movement.
A number of pagan racists were also seen inside the rally. They have connections to white supremacist groups, such as the Wolves of Vinland. Raul Gonzalez, a local Nazi, was seen at the rally, listening to the speakers and mixing with the crowd. Other local Nazis, such as those associated with Jimmy Marr’s group in Eugene, were seen. In the morning, on their way into town to attend the rally, they hung an anti-Semitic banner over I-205 in Southeast Portland.. Members of Cascade Legion, a fascist, Washington-based fighting group, were in attendance, with some wearing their rune-marked hoodies and others preferring to go incognito. This was a regular convention of white supremacy within the confines of the park.
Raul Gonzalez openly displays nazi paraphernalia at Joey Gibson’s rally on 6/4/2017
And these are just the most obvious, clear white supremacists. There was a long list of crypto-fascists, alt-right, nationalists, and other white supremacist enablers, such as the Oath Keepers, the III%, the Proud Boys, the Warriors for Freedom, the homophobic and Islamophobic street preachers, and various unaffiliated internet bigots. Not to mention the street-fighting celebrities like Kyle Chapman and Pat Washington who were invited by Warriors for Freedom.
How best to sum up what happened inside the Warriors for Freedom rally, walled behind the armed protection of the cops and militia groups? Perhaps it is this photo of anti-Semitic media personality Tim Gionet, who was invited to speak at the event by Joey Gibson, giving an alt-right hand gesture with Identity Europa member Jacob Ott. Gibson claims ad nauseum that his rallies are about “love,’ and Nazis would not be welcome. And yet, here is his invited headlining guest posing for a photo with a member of a local hate group, all smiles, under the protection of Gibson’s hired muscle and the police.
Baked Identity Europa
Or perhaps it is this picture from inside the rally, featuring Angela Roman of the III%, an Oath Keeper, a Proud Boy, bonehead Raul Gonzalez, and, lurking in the background, members of the fascist Cascade Legion? This gathering of far-right, alt-right, and fascists under the auspices of “free speech” is exactly the outcome that anti-fascist activists warned about in the weeks leading up to this rally. Anti-fascists were derided as alarmists, as overly-aggressive, as “crying wolf.” But here are the wolves. Who, if not anti-fascists, are willing to stop these groups from gathering in our communities?
From far-right, to alt-right, to purely fascist
Nominally, the First Amendment of the US Constitution claims to defend freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom to peaceably assemble against any infringement by the government. These “free speech’ rallies expose the shortcomings of those civil rights by recruiting the government to attack our communities in concert with white supremacists. The only free speech that is honored is that of far-right nationalists, as those with conflicting opinions were forced out by armed militias and/or delivered to the police for arrest. Freedom of religion withers under the rampant Islamophobia of the Street Preachers and other WFF members, who encourage the sort of hate speech that two citizens of Portland died interrupting on May 26th. Freedom of the press is limited to those who agree with Joey Gibson’s politics, or those far-right individuals who engage in ceaseless doxxing and harassment of anti-fascist activists. And freedom to assemble is granted to white supremacists and far-right groups only, while anti-fascist activists are confronted by heavily armed state and non-state guards, and subject to attack by chemical weapons and arrest.
The complicity of the police and city in protecting white supremacists on our streets was the overriding theme of the day. Despite that, protesters had the small group of far-right nationalists and white supremacists surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, there were not attacked by anti-fascists. A few cocky Proud Boys and other brawlers attempted to invade the anti-fascist protest zone, shouting insults and attempting to thwart the activists protective anonymity. They were quickly shown the exit, which they found with their feet beneath them, though they might easily have been carried out the other way around.
But as soon as the far-right rally was about to conclude, police attacked the protesters with grenades and chemical weapons, driving them back across the parks so that the far-right could be escorted to their vehicles without their delicate snowflake sensibilities mussed. The police injured a number of anti-fascists, all to prevent the possibility of injury to the far-right. Then, as is so typical in Portland, the protest was declared illegal. The massive crowd had no choice but to flee from the police assault into downtown Portland streets. They were then kettled, detained, and individually searched and photographed with their IDs by police prior to release. This is not only a violation of Portland Police Bureau policy, but a direct affront to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
The police’s pathetic excuse was that “criminal activity’ by protesters forced their hand. But no such crimes occurred. The police released media photographs of weapons seized, and use this as evidence that the protesters were violent. But if those weapons had been intended for anything other than defense, why are there no injured among the small group of white supremacists or police vastly outnumbered by anti-fascists?
Meanwhile in the ultimate irony, we have learned that Angela Roman of the Oregon III% (pictured at the rally above) has been charged with providing a gun to felon Matt Heagy, another III% member who was arrested in Salem on March 25, after he pepper sprayed a state trooper and was found with a concealed firearm. Members of the III% and the Oath Keepers militia groups were armed at Joey Gibson’s rally despite federal law prohibiting weapons in Terry Schrunk park. Why didn’t the police depict a photo of all the weapons seized from the far-right protest? Because the police never searched them, allowing them to illegally carry weapons throughout the day.
Rose City Antifa and our allies made the strategic decision to remain away from the rally in Terry Shrunk Park. Of the thousands of activists who participated in the protests, the vast majority came unarmed, following the arbitrary and unconstitutional rules set by the police, resigned to the double standard that allowed militia members to go unsearched while anti-fascists were rounded up like cattle. This decision was made in consideration of the safety of the crowd, who contained many people from all walks of life, most unprepared to defend themselves against the combined aggression of private armies and militarized state soldiers. The police, as usual, took no heed of this restraint and put countless lives at risk in order to protect the safe space of the far-right. The value of anti-fascists’ personal safety is nothing to the state, when weighed against the privilege of the far-right to walk back to their cars without having to hear taunts and jeers.
Meanwhile, the far-right, who clutch their unread copies of the Constitution like security blankets, cheered on the assault. Joey Gibson said during his rally, that if the free speech of counter-protesters was threatened, he would be there to support them. But he did not, because Gibson is a liar. Just as he lied when he said that Nazis would be removed from his rally. Just as he lied when he claimed he is for love and understanding, when in fact, his invited guests are only famous for anti-semitism or for their violent assaults on anti-fascist activists.
Joey Gibson: you may have escaped to Vancouver on Sunday with the help of armed police. But remember what you saw that day. When you opened your eyes, blinking through your false tears and outright lies, you saw a city rise up to oppose you. You saw thousands of organized, militant activists, gathered to defend their community. You, your followers, and your guests are not welcome in our city. We do not forget who invites fascism to our door. And though you may think you are safe with militias, cops, and a river between you and us, the friends of fascism are never safe in our community.
The tide of fascism is rising. But this is only the beginning.