So a lot happened Sunday, this is being written Tuesday, and Twitter is aflame with the discourse. So let’s have an actual report back with what happened from people who were both downtown and in Northeast Portland that day. Warning: This report back has opinions.
Prelude I – Historical Matter
(If you keep a close eye on events in Portland/Oregon this should be a mostly skippable section.)
Just about every August there is some fash rally in Portland since the Trump administration. There was a big counter and brawl 2018 that ended with someone almost dead from a police tear gas canister to an anti-fascist’s head, a huge counter in 2019 where mostly nothing happened because cops kept both groups apart and ferried the Proud Boys and other affiliates across the river before anything could happen, and then there was last year, Aug 22 2020. Fash actions had been escalating in response to BLM and ACAB protests in Portland that had gone on for months nightly, and a large rally ended in a massive street brawl that the cops did not want to or could not interrupt (if they couldn’t interrupt it that was probably due to the fact they’d have to tear gas their buddies, too). The fash were eventually routed in a great defeat that still did not deter them from entering Portland, as a couple weeks later they hosted a car caravan into downtown where they shot people with paintball guns and mace, almost ran many people over, and then one of them got shot by Michael Reinoehl. Another fash rally happened in late September, and many feared a lot of violence and yet nothing happened due to a split event between liberal and radical segments on what to do and where to rally. Fash went mostly unchallenged but also did not do much and their numbers were pretty bad. While most years before fascist violence has (kinda) subsided some in the colder months (not always, but a trend), this past year that did not hold. With the election being contentious and their need to worship Trump there was fascist violence in Olympia in December, resulting in one Black anti-fascist shot (thankfully not life threatening, though still a bullet wound), and in Salem on January 6th (as well as the fascist violence across the country surrounding the election). In Oregon fascism has continued to grow, and there were anti-fascist actions in Salem in Spring and during the Summer, and there were two failed actions in Oregon City (which we are still bitter about and pissed at the organizers over). Proud Boys have become a national thing and have a lot of recruiting, and so do other fascist groups.
Prelude II – Lead Up to August 22nd
While Oregon had a lot of fash activity, Portland was mostly quiet in 2021. Some graffiti and some harassing of homeless camps, but no large concerted actions. The closest they got was some shit around Pride in Sandy, a town to the East, and the aforementioned Oregon City flag waves, a Portland suburb to the South. The Oregon City flag waves were held in a parking lot, and there was a completely failed counter-protest in late May. In mid-June a slightly more successful but still bad counter protest occurred where anti-fash were clearly bloodied, and a riot was declared, but Oregon City pulled all flag-waving event permits for fash events, so a tiny victory? (Boo the state doing any of our work for us.) These two defeats for us no doubt emboldened fascists, though.
A flyer was posted by a fascist “leader” (who I don’t think was even there this past Sunday? lol, what a coward) in July about a flag wave on August 22nd, 2021, the anniversary of their defeat. People got excited and anxious about a “round two”. However, this event did not look like it was getting traction in fascist circles for a long time, and looked like it maybe would not happen. At least not in the size that was present last year or even the year before, when thousands of fascists and alt-righters turned up from across the country.
Some fascist violence at the beginning of August, the nights of the 7th and 8th, around some religious “Christian” rallies, was really the first organized fascist violence in Portland since 2020 (that we recall), and seemed to cement that the 22nd would indeed be some sort of confrontation, at least in many of our minds. Thus anti-fascists began organizing and planning. Some people, who had also “organized” the failed Oregon City rallies, tried to “organize” and were shouted down, thankfully, by those with a little more willingness to listen to criticism and not just put a flyer out and hope people show up (organizing is not just tweeting a location out, for fuck’s sake).
A location was chosen for a rally, Salmon Street Springs, a part of the water front, and it was right down the road from where the fash wanted to rally, which was over by the Burnside Bridge/Battleship Memorial area. With about a third of a mile of freshly grown grass in between, it seemed like it was shaping up for a good ol’ fashioned scrum on some turf. All the sports fans would be happy. Bring your cleats.
People prepared for the day. Plans were made, people who had burnt out on BLM/ACAB protests from last year were convinced to come back out in bloc, and we got ready to kick fascists out of town. Many of us were scared of violence. Fascists were making their usual threats of mass slaughter online, but this one seemed a lot more real than their other threats. Power of the imagination, I suppose, but street fascists do have a large body count (it’s something like 300 to 1 since the late 1990s. I believe, not to speak of the US government itself), so fear is warranted and caution necessary.
August 20th and 21st
Two nights before the brawl we had all been gearing up for the fucking fash, to use the technical term, chickened out. They withdrew their downtown location in a grand announcement on the 20th and said they would publish a new location at 10:00AM the morning of, for their 2:00PM rally. This of course would leave anti-fascists with little to no time to move everyone to a different location, and so a lot of people made the call to “stay the course” and “stick to the plan” of rallying downtown. After all, if the fash chickened out from a downtown rally, then “clearly we won”. If they came to us from wherever they decided to relocate to, then we would be on terrain we had prepared, and terrain we knew, as downtown is familiar to most people after years and months of protests and counter-protests. In addition, the short notice and appearance of cowardice would probably hurt their numbers.
Most importantly for that Saturday was probably the act of moving all of the Chapman Square homeless residents to a motel for two nights, so as to secure their safety. Because of their proximity to the (in)Justice Center, to jail support services, and their high visibility camping in a downtown park, the Chapman camp is often the target of fascist violence. Moving the residents to safety was a chief priority to many, and one accomplished that Saturday.
Morning of August 22nd
Some people held ground ahead of time at Salmon Street Springs, just in case fash tried something. Nothing to report.
At 10:00AM, the promised location of the fash rally was announced: an abandoned KMart parking lot in Northeast, at 122nd and Sandy. There’s a joke that Mayor Ted Wheeler thinks that Portland stops at Cesar Chavez Blvd, which is 39th, and that city council forgets the street numbers go above 82, so this was out there, but still Portland. Just because city council forgets about it does not mean we should, too. If fascists decided to rally on Staten Island or down by Midway Airport it would still be New York City and Chicago, respectively, and I hope people would kick them out regardless of if it was not the downtown of those cities. The fash location was also right off of Interstate 84, and a 15-minute-or-less drive from downtown, especially with Sunday traffic.
On the anti-fascist side of things people began gathering before 1:00PM, the official start time, and by the hour there were over 500 people in that section of the waterfront, with a high proportion of them being bloc. I do not know how many of them were ready-to-fight bloc (as opposed to drop umbrellas at the first sign of trouble bloc), but I saw very little of the shitty bloc I have become so used to from the stand-around-cop-shops-for-hours crowd. Most everyone looked ready to have some role in expelling fascists, whether in a shield wall, with fists, or with medic/logistics work.
Yet also before the 1:00PM start time discussions were happening. Mostly spearheaded by one AG, the proposition was made that the bloc move to Northeast Portland and fight the fash over there. This went counter to what a lot of the “old heads” had been saying on twitter, which was “stick to the plan”, and stay downtown, so it ran into what a lot of people thought was the consensus.
The argument for the “stick to the plan” position was as follows (sorry if I got it wrong, I am a little biased against it):
Fash were/are too chicken to fight us downtown. They do not have the numbers, they know they will get their asses handed to them if they come near us. We have a good, and scouted, defensible position on the Waterfront. People are already here, moving them somewhere else would be hard, especially together (not entirely true). We do not want to split the bloc incase fash move downtown. We have already warned other camps in the area of 122nd/Sandy of possible fash presence. Our support structures are in place for downtown and “we” will not move them north (this one is a problem). A non-scouted position chosen by the fash is bad, especially one near big roads when they like car attacks so much.
In addition, many people expressed some willingness to go but no confidence in the plan of the crew pushing the idea. There was no communication about how to do it safely, as many people were concerned. What safety meant was different to many people, but those specifications were not very high.
The argument for the “move to Northeast” position was as follows (I am a little more biased for it):
We meet fascists where they go, if they decided to hide in a KMart parking lot we go there. Parkrose is Portland, so we should kick them out, the waterfront is not more valuable to protect. What are we gonna do downtown, hang out for six hours? (Which is exactly what happened, btw.) Will this be like the Feb 2020 “KKK rally” where we’ll just chase a fash streamer for some hours? Or like 2019 where, after one alleged hammer incident, nothing else happened that day? That’s not really a victory. The homeless people in the vicinity may be at risk while we sit in downtown. There were already people up there getting attacked (more on this later), we should be there to defend them. There is no evidence that the fash will come downtown, so if we are going to oppose them we need to go to them.
As for the fash, they were busy getting drunk during all of this. They shot paintballs at some lib preacher in a truck who decided to roll by (none of the people in the truck had protective equipment that I know of, so paintballs could have seriously injured them), and shot paintballs and maced lib sign-holding counter-protesters. They were split on going downtown. Some of them wanted to, some of them did not, the latter included most of their leaders. They set up a stage to hold speeches. They were not coming downtown. (Apparently there also may have been some sort of deal with the city to stay in the KMart parking lot, so as to not turn downtown into a mess for poor Mayor Wheeler?) They co-mingled with lib and not-so-lib-but-pretending press (fuck you Ford Fischer). Many of them were itching for violence. How can we be sure they would not have taken it out more on some of the lib people, or some random passer-bys, or the homeless (as they are known to do)? Maybe they would have drunkenly run around a parking lot for hours talking about all the zines they stole from our fair as they went “undercover”, maybe they would have killed someone in their quest to identify “antifa” in the passing cars. Nobody knows. But by 3PM-ish 45-60 people in bloc had decided to head to NE to fight them in case they did try to kill someone.
The fash had small numbers, looks like 200ish max, with maybe 70-100ish combatants? They were drunk. They were also scared shitless of “antifa”, but that made them extremely aggressive.
August 22nd Mid-Afternoon
The crew that had started the discussion on moving the bloc to northeast were some of the first to leave. Apparently they told someone to get fucked because that person didn’t want to leave. They were quite a lively crew, I will say, and not the most… tactful, but they did make some good points. They definitely generated a lot of chatter, and people were split on the decision, although most elected to stay.
When our crew left we heard talk in the signal chat of the day of people leaving, and it sounded outraged. Why? We’re autonomous people. Maybe we were fucking bored and didn’t want to waste our afternoon in a park in heavy gear when we could be chilling, since clearly no fash were going downtown. The outrage seemed to stem from a lack of control over us. Fuck that. We’ll go where we want to go, and we follow no orders. What the fuck happened to no megaphones? At least the crew that started the conversation didn’t hog a mic and order us somewhere, they engaged us in conversation and when it looked like we for sure disagreed they went and did their own thing. When we chose to follow later that was on us.
I have no concept of time for Sunday, but some (not-so-friendly-)press inform me that the fight started at around 4PM, so it means that around 3:30PM most of the Northeast bloc had gathered at Parkrose High. When we got there someone was yelling about people already being attacked. Someone else spoke up about making sure we were all gathered and geared up, since it wouldn’t help to rush in unprepared and get ourselves beat up in the process.
There was no one that was a marked medic in the bloc, no press, no clergy, no nothing else. Some of them were medics, just unmarked, and there were two important vehicles: a pickup truck with water and other simple supplies, and one of the three ambulance/evac-vans the Portland protest scene has access to. This is the only non-hierarchical medic van, and they decided to go north autonomously, to support the bloc. Another important and good idea was a little hand-drawn black cart someone had brought and filled with seltzers that sadly we did not get to drink, oops. So around 4-ish the bloc moved along the sidewalk of NE Shaver half a bloc to 122nd, and then down 122nd to the intersection at Skidmore. The bloc crossed the road, and that’s when shit hit the fan.
August 22nd 4:00PM
Let’s talk about the libs and the people getting attacked. The entrance to the KMart parking lot is like a half-block north of NE Skidmore and 122nd, on the east side of 122nd. It dips down from 122nd, and there are bushes on both sides. Like 5 libs had decided to stand outside of this entrance facing 122nd with some “anti-hate” signs, or some bullshit. Some 5 people in bloc had also decided to stand at this entrance, and, of course, got attacked.
DO NOT BE THESE FIVE PEOPLE STANDING AROUND GETTING BEAT UP
In first-response there is a rule 1: I am number one. It means do not put yourself in a position of danger, since you will likely endanger others who come to rescue you, and you cannot help others if you are hurt, thus you become a liability. It is sometimes spectacularly broken by medics risking life and limb to come to people’s aid, but it is also usually heeded, and is a very good rule to keep around in general. Sometimes risking yourself is important, but if it creates a situation where others may be put in danger having to rescue you, you fucked up.
There are always people like this in blocs and protests, and I fucking hate them. Don’t go stand right in front of the police line, and don’t go stand right in front of the chuds, unless you are sure you can beat them when they inevitably attack you. Those five people in bloc could not. I do not think I saw them do a single thing to defend themselves. This is not victim blaming, because those five are fine, mostly. Yeah some mace, whatever, but they got other people hurt.
The driver of the evac van courageously drove ahead of the rest of the bloc and positioned their vehicle in the parking lot driveway such that those people getting shot at by paintballs would have some cover. This of course pissed of the chuds, who attacked the van. To clarify: the van never threated to run anyone over. This is visible in video of the event (which someone compiled here, https://twitter.com/downstrings/status/1429869039363379210?s=21). When the van moved up like five feet to stop the paintballs, the paintball shooter then turned all his attention to the van driver. The PB rushed the van, forced the door open, shot into the van pointblank at an un-armored driver (they can be seen running away five seconds later and are completely un-armored). The driver defended themselves with pepper spray and then rushed out of the passenger side door when they realized they were surrounded and under heavy attack. It was a split second interaction that fucking sucked, and most of the bloc didn’t even know it happened, because the front of the van was hidden by the afore-mentioned bushes.
All we saw was the rest of the van disappear as it rolled down the slope before stopping, and then the van driver running at us through a crowd of chuds, a cloud of mace, and a hail of paintballs.
The van driver ran towards the bloc, which was still advancing on the sidewalk on the east side of 122nd, where they were taken in by a medic and treated. They are doing mostly fine, I am told. Donations to replace the van can go to $GenialAnarchist, who is fronting the redistribution.
Meanwhile the five fucking people who HAD NOT TAKEN THE CHANCE TO RETREAT FROM THE CHUDS DURING THIS started to yell for a medic while still being under attack. Another rule for you, this one without a number: MAKE SURE YOU MOVE AWAY FROM THE THING THAT IS MAKING YOU ASK FOR A MEDIC BEFORE OR DURING YOUR CALL FOR A MEDIC! Yes a medic goes to you, but you should not endanger the fucking medic, jesus fuck. (I am angry at literally everything that happened that Sunday, bite me.) A medic ran to them (without bloc to protect them), and hopefully extricated them from that situation. I do not remember much about that interaction because during that the fash came out from around the van, onto the east side of 122nd (the north-bound lanes) and started shooting paintballs at us, so we responded.
There were a lot of fireworks, some seltzers were thrown, someone had brought a paint-filled extinguisher, and the fash pushed us back south from 122nd and Skidmore to 122nd and Shaver. On video they can be seen yelling to regroup, and they do, giving us a breather. They went back to their parking lot, and this is when I think they flip the van. Unsure about that.
This is, however (after the first advance and retreat), when the bloc get pissed at the press. The press had been hanging around downtown and the fash rally in their own little cliques, and as soon as they heard of a brawl brewing they all flew up to that fucking parking lot and perched themselves like the fucking vultures they are. Fuck the press. Smash cameras.
The press were told multiple times to stop filming, livestreaming, and photographing the bloc. Some of them were obstinate about it, this includes Maranie Staab, who was probably the most combative and petulant about her right to photograph anti-fascists who wish to remain anonymous while they fight fascism. “Progressive” press love to put anti-fash in prison while giving good press to cops and fash (look at Sergio Olmos’s coverage in the NYT: all of the photos are from behind the PB line. I wonder who he’s buddy with).
The fact that Maranie Staab, problematic and shitty as she is, was singled out to be attacked is a problem though. There were maybe 15+ press there, almost all of them men, most of them white. Why not smash one of their cameras? Or throw them to the ground? Why did Ford Fischer leave with a working phone and camera?
In addition, the use of “slut” as a derogatory term for Staab was disgustingly misogynistic and beyond the line, and it is definitely correct to call it out and say that that is unacceptable.
Of note that PBs also attacked press, though of course there was less media attention given to that since Ford Fischer conveniently didn’t publish that. Maybe it’s because he was literally chumming it out with the fash during their little rally? Any crew that sees Fischer at anything should smash his shit.
There was a lull after that conflict where the bloc was standing around for a bit before committing to a march again.
This second advance was still on the sidewalk.
I don’t think I noted it but 122nd is a fucking wide street. It has four lanes of traffic, a turning lane in the center, and two bike lanes. It is a lot of asphalt. The bloc was too small to take up the entire thing, having lost some to injury by this point, or fear. And in addition taking up a road is always a risky proposition. Someone did get angry at the crowd and drove around us aggressively. The first clash did take up some of the northbound lanes but there was literally traffic rolling by the entire time. Some of it really big trucks and such.
Between civilian traffic and the fear of chud car attacks from behind, the bloc stayed on the sidewalk. Maybe if we’d been 100+ we would have taken to the road. Maybe if we’d had a car caravan or the van behind us and blocking off 122nd and Shaver on the northbound lanes we could have taken the road (rip the van).
After some arguing with the press and hyping ourselves up we moved up the sidewalk again. We made it to 122nd and Skidmore again when the fash came out with their paintballs and ready to brawl. Some of us were ahead of the main bloc and thus north of the intersection, but most of the bloc refused to cross Skidmore and 122nd fully. Why? Because Proud Boys outflanked us. A tiny shitty section of Skidmore curved north a half-block east and was another entrance to the parking lot. Ten-ish PBs took that route and outflanked the bloc. Thankfully the bloc noticed it, formed a really good umbrella line, and began to retreat.
Someone, pretty sure it was one of the people who had been ahead of the bloc and confused as to why it began to retreat from 122nd and Skidmore, called out “Why are we retreating? Why are we retreating?!” Someone else responded “Because they’re scary!”
This is a crucial point. Fash tend to be men, and all of their combatants are, and they’re usually taller, heavier, and quite macho and very scary men. They were afraid of antifa, and drunk as fuck, but that has never made a large man less scary, especially when they have unofficial legal protection. Most of the bloc crowd was on the smaller side, many of us are skinnier, and most of us are not macho. Yeah some of us are, but we were scared at that point. We were outnumbered and outgunned and out of seltzers. We got pushed hard. Fireworks just are not really that scary to fash, and we had no good ranged weapons beyond fire extinguishers with paint and seltzers. They had paintball guns and lots of them. They had men with sticks and lots of them. We were about halfway down the block between Skidmore and Shaver when I realized this second retreat was seconds from a rout. Other people had figured it out a second before me. Our crew dipped. We sprinted to the parking lot and fash were not far behind. We were about middle of the pack, most people running away in an extremely disorganized fashion.
We know people got evacced, we helped some get out. Sadly there was one person who got trapped in a white truck and beaten up pretty badly. I feel like shit for abandoning that person, I think we all do. I do not know who they are, but I helped evacc one of their friends and then take that friend back to the lot, where they reconnected, so I know at least that they could walk.
The clash started around 4PM and ended around 4:30PM.
August 22nd After 4:30PM
We dipped for a while. Took care of some injuries, then went back to the SE parking lot of Parkrose. Dropped some of those evvacced, off, as we said, and met some of the “rescuers”. People who came to evac and were late, I assume. Also some really fucking smarmy and self-aggrandized medics who arrived with pomp an hour after everyone had needed them. Won’t drop names, but if you’re a big shot medic, deflate your ego some.
Most crews had left. So had the fash. Apparently after 5PMish they decided to leave and go to Vancouver to drink.
People rolled in late, some who had said they would show up to fight, some medics and evac people who had nothing to do except stand around and look like idiots.
Apparently they were “sent” up, as in ordered. Why are people being ordered around?
One of our crew said: “We made the right decision but I never want to be in that position again.” Pretty much sums it up.
It is pretty clear that we lost, and fuck anyone who says we won. Yes, fash were scared of us, yes, they did not get the thousands they used to get, it is clear they are struggling, but when they are struggling they get desperate, and extremely violent. I am extremely surprised we did not see a murder, or a car attack, and am really glad the person in the truck survived. I do not think anyone who went to Parkrose on Sunday will tell you that we won, even if we think we made the right choice.
It may have been some sort of tie. Fash were pretty scared of us and those paint extinguishers did piss and hurt a lot of them. Some of them got bonked, too, so I hear. I do not know if fash will be back, but if they are, we should 100% make sure we push them out next time. This felt a lot like “Oly 1” (Olympia December 5th, 2020) with outnumbered and beleaguered bloc. Let’s make sure we have an Oly 2 style victory without the gunshot wound, if it comes to it.
On the topic of discussing the decision: I think the crew that tried to convince everyone should have said “Bloc, let’s go meet in this field, we’ll talk about what we want to do, and then the ones of us that want to go will stand here and the ones that do not will stand there”. Yes, this could have opened the plan up to infiltrators and press photos, but I think the way that things were discussed were extremely haphazard and not likely to convince anyone. The crew that was adamant went around trying to convince and getting into arguments, when it could have been discussions. When my crew went around to discuss they were met with people stonewalling because all the isolated crews were “sticking to the plan” and/or afraid no one else would go. A vote by standing in groups could have convinced more people to go.
As noted above, too, some people could have been convinced if a little more planning was put forward than “meet at the high school”. Some semblance of “We have car caravan protection” or “We have a medic crew going with us” or “We’re thinking of meeting at X time and moving at Y.” Things like that.
At the same time fuck “stick to the plan”. Plans are good, but must be flexible. Nothing ever goes according to plan, one of the rules of war, get your heads out of your asses and work with what you have.
“We can’t coordinate rides to move everyone”. Yes we can. Literally saw multiple people hitch rides out east with strangers. Risky? Sure, but they made a choice. You can easily coordinate rides, come on. That was a bullshit excuse.
Demands for unity are stupid. Some authoritarians/statists are going around complaining that we should have unity of plan and strategy, and that people should have listened to the people in charge. Nah. We’re autonomous. We go where we want to. Yeah I know I railed against that earlier with the people that put the van driver in danger, but there is smart autonomy and stupid autonomy and you gotta let people fuck up. If it had ended up only the fifteen crew of adamant “let’s go to Parkrose” people had gone and gotten their asses handed to them, well, they fucked up but they also made a choice. Unity can only exist under authority, and fuck authority.
Speaking of authority: There are two things I have alluded to, people getting “sent” places (mainly support, i.e. medic and logistics people), and information being withheld. Apparently of the three ambulances/evac vans, the two that stayed downtown were not autonomous, but under some sort of hierarchy. Medics and other evacc people are, too. There was some sort of centralized chat annoyed that people weren’t doing as they were told and sticking to the plan. Obviously for opsec reasons there will always be some information that will need to be withheld from some people, maybe a lot of people, but things like “Hey some people are going to Parkrose to fight fash” should not fall under that category. People should be informed to their ability to make decisions about their involvement, and no one should be sent anywhere they are reluctant to go. No one went up to Parkrose under coercion (our crew, at least, did not, and I find it hard to believe any other crew did either, with the enthusiasm we entered combat with). Maybe more people would have gone if they had been informed there was some semblance of a plan (from the crew that started the conversation), or confirmed logistical support like medics and car caravan. I know car caravan support will be something I will personally be checking in on in the future. I don’t know if car caravan is under hierarchy like other groups, but if they are, they should do something to fix that shit, like medics and logistical support should, too.
Speaking of information: communication sucked. Rumors were rampant, and misinformation abounded. Having a way to discuss things and clarify veracity is something we should work on in our networks.
Hand drawn carts with seltzers and other snacks (and umbrellas) were a great idea.
We need to train with flagpoles more, someone start like a ren-faire fight club or something.
We need big banners, to protect from cameras and paintballs.
Fash are not stupid. They are big, and often drunk, but it is both dangerous to under- and over-estimate an enemy. They knew their terrain better than us. They knew how to flank us on that side road. They are making deals with the city and with cops. Do not assume that they are stupid.
Fash are scary, and we are all traumatized. Many of us are accustomed to not being able to fight back against big armored men (riot cops, or worse). Explosions can send us running due to trauma. We need to work on our ability to fight. Some of us are awful at sticking with the bloc, we need to work on sticking together to fight together, and to be reachable by comrades in the case we need help.
We only have each other.
We protect us.