Under a gray sky the vast abandoned parking lot documented the waves of consumers that once sustained the boarded-up department store set back in it like a temple. These ruins of the suddenly but definitively ended pre-woke era made for a locale ideal metaphorically as well as geographically for the Proud Boys’ “Summer of Love” demonstration in Portland last Sunday.
Exposing the division of personality types represented by antifa and patriots (my preferred catch-all phrase for such as the Proud Boys and others who are not white nationalists), the intellectually aspirational anarchists leapt all over the supposed irony of the patriots rallying in the parking lot of a derelict K-Mart, while the patriots, I’m pretty sure, didn’t notice. Reconnoitering the grounds for defense they found no potential irony traps.
It’s too bad for them. Antifa’s standard “losers” take looks a little facile. Addressing the modest ruins about the patriots might have made for a good sobering starting point in a speech building up to an inspiring call to renewal. As it was speakers chose to stress Democrats are the Real Racists and We’re More Diverse Than Antifa and the program, naturally, featured speakers of color. No one seems to be paying attention but the patriots make their point–that they’re hardly fascists–by failing in their argument. Whatever movement they represent, it doesn’t have what used to be called a “political analysis”. What they are at this point is an apolitical resistance to the most political of movements, the radical campaign rapidly remaking America; what they don’t have are friends in any position of power or any level of political sophistication.
But they do have a cause; and somehow a sobering speech by an advocate on behalf of the January 6 political detainees came as a welcome break from the happy talk about the patriots’ diversity and wholly misguided demonization of the anti-white “Democrat Party” as the scourge of minorities.
The antifa/patriot divide often feels like a process sorting inherently political from inherently apolitical people.
Antifa had over a month to prepare for the event, provocatively scheduled for the anniversary of a patriot-black bloc brawl last August 22, and its social media was reaching a fever pitch as the date approached. After the city announced it would not send police in to intervene the anarchists protested a bit too much this refusal of the police to “defend” the city from “attack” by “fascists” (standard narrative humbug) while appearing to very much relish the coming battle.
In relocating ten miles out the patriots calculated correctly that antifa, with their reliance on public transport (while the patriots always caravan in their cars and trucks), wouldn’t be able to move enough bodies to outnumber them at the new location. Only a small intrepid group of antifa showed up late, and was chased off after a failed assault. The rogue group, which acted in defiance of antifa leadership content to stay downtown waiting for patriots to appear and engage there, giving the appearance they are “defending the city” from fascists, gives an after-action report here, arguing they went where the threat was, protecting nearby Parkrose High School, the “most diverse” in the state. From wilding fascist brownshirts. On Sunday. During summer vacation.
The meaningful level of organization for Portland anarchists seems to be the informal small crew of under ten; the above-mentioned “report back” from “several” crews making up “about two dozen people” explains their heavily criticized attack on the patriots:
We arrived at the waterfront a little before 1 PM. We had agreed to talk to other crews on the ground to reach consensus about going to meet up in Parkrose to oppose the fascist rally there.
Parkrose is a working-class neighborhood that’s home to many immigrants and people of color. The white nationalist rally was planned just blocks away from Parkrose High School, the most racially diverse high school in Oregon, and there are multiple large homeless camps in the immediate area. We stand by the old Anti-Racist Action mantra that “we go where they go”. We will never let fascists rally in our city unopposed.
Parkrose ranks seventh in violent crime among Portland’s ninety neighborhoods, and appears to be well-armed. The Proud Boys might need protection themselves, if the anarchists’ characterization of their rallies was true–the notion the patriots rally and then sate themselves attacking their hated targets around town is pure projection, and an accurate description of black bloc tactics. As for the targets the patriots have never attacked homeless or black people, yet antifa treats it as a given. Still, the patriots can be counted on to push their provocation, and I thought they might attempt a car caravan through the city but that never happened.
The notion the patriots represent a threat to anyone other than antifa is laughed off even in antifa circles now (where the frenzy of anticipation before Sunday has given way to a frenzy of recrimination this week):
This same anarchist-friendly Twitter account just said what I’ve been saying for years:
Well, yes and no. Portland doesn’t have a “far right problem”–it has a “far right” grift perpetuated by antifa. If antifa ignored the patriots so too would the city, and they would have had their meaningless flag waves and “back the blue” demonstrations and gone home. Whatever patriot intentions, they haven’t the option antifa has established, the implied sanction from the city to engage in some level of violence and encroach on the state’s monopoly. The patriots have been deliberately provoking antifa into repeatedly attacking them for years now, having begun with the ascent of Trump. When they started they could be forgiven for thinking fairness will out and their exposure of antifa would lead to its demise. Obviously the rules have changed, but the patriots should have succeeded and a sane country would have been appalled by the dynamic, played out repeatedly and reaching the intensity of last Sunday, of anarchists attacking what are in fact “peaceful demonstrations”.
The patriots are a useful compliment and foil for the anarchists; they just energized them immensely this weekend after a summer of quiet. The patriots’ scuffling with the anarchists exposes the patriots to selective prosecution as well, by a federal government faking a “right wing domestic terror threat”; that false narrative is supported in turn by its own questionable prosecutions and the domestic terror lie generally is supported by the raw image the patriots provide and a biased media molds into a useful caricature. I suspect antifa can’t help but hate the patriots, but the patriots have been very good for antifa–and for state actors pushing “domestic terrorism”. Again, antifa doth counter-protest too much.
In their encounters the two sides have the same two goals: to win the fight and to be seen as acting in defense. The latter is far more important to antifa than the former, and they’re able to maintain the fiction they’re playing defense against right wing aggression just enough with the help of a friendly media. But they’ve been pushing this evident absurdity so long even some anarchists are exhausted of carrying it.
On arrival at the patriot rally I found leader and street fighter Tiny Toese holding court from a flat bed trailer carrying a holiday-sized US flag mounted on a wood frame. Rumor was antifa had offered a bounty for the flag; fortunately for the patriots the wind didn’t pick up too much–a few gusts revealed the potential for disaster making antifa’s bounty unnecessary. A diminutive Statue of Liberty raised her lantern at one end of the stage. Tiny towered over what he at one point called “my girlfriend”. It wasn’t quite dwarves capering about a miniature Stonehenge, but that came to mind.
The ground was well chosen for defense, and about half of the crowd of little more than a hundred looked to be committed to security, with many Proud Boys in original black and yellow garb on the scene, patrolling and constantly eyeing the perimeter. Walking about unmasked in non-committal civilian clothes I drew a few stares but for the most part I felt nicely invisible.
The mood at the rally was of a tense party; beers were passed around and a keg was quickly emptied. Celebration of the sensible choice to relocate the rally competed with bravado at the prospect of an antifa assault, and less than a dozen counter-demonstrators on a sidewalk well away from the rally were harassed verbally by patriots in tense encounters that spilled into the street. Toese at one point came out and urged the growing patriot crowd there back toward the stage–the potential disaster was also drawing energy from the flagging demonstration.
A local man and political activist who identifies as clergy inserted himself and his minivan, appropriately white to convey woke purity, into the scene briefly. Reportedly later the patriots shot him with paint balls in the mayhem.
Thinking the rally would end without incident I left Parkrose for downtown around four in the afternoon, only to later learn of the ill-advised antifa assault. That bold Doolittle-esque raid failed on the two vital counts–antifa lost the fight, and in the role of aggressor. In the mayhem antifa stripped a liberal reporter (and technically a “woman of color”) of her camera, knocked her to the ground and pepper sprayed or maced her, while calling her a slut (in, I think, Hindi because of her ancestry).
Maranie Rae works for Matt Taibbi’s substack outlet and has given antifa favorable coverage, even writing an homage to the Floyd riot season celebrity Trumpet Man (who vanished from the scene at one point; I’m sure I last saw on video brandishing a knife and bouncing on his heels backward of of CHAZ, with ghetto youths in furious pursuit). Taibbi wrote what passes for a scathing rebuke of antifa and its media enablers, which is being ignored. It’s really kind of tepid considering the outrage (which is very much of a long time practice of assaulting journalists); no vivid vampire squid metaphors to describe what’s happening, no letting go, yet, of the handrail of anti-racism.
The mass of black around Salmon Springs Fountain at the downtown waterfront was visible from a good distance; notable also was the quarter mile or so of chain-link fence running north between the riverfront lawn and Naito Parkway, where the street is being replaced whole in sections. To cross Naito to get to the riverfront you must weave your way through the poured-in-place concrete around the trenches where the road is to go; painfully sharp looking is the corner between what will be the visible gutter and the part due to be submerged beneath the street. A large brawl migrating north from the open park at the fountain would be confined to the relatively narrow grass lawn (rotten with goose droppings) between the street construction on one side and the railing over the steep drop into the river on the other.
I approached the gathering from the south along the riverfront walk. Graffiti marking antifa territory and warning away fascists seemed to cover as much available space as not. Antifa in small groups were stationed about the perimeter as per usual keeping watch. Making a pass through the gathering (I didn’t dare record) was very different from moving through the patriot rally, of course, and drawing the stares of people masked in black bloc has an added unsettling effect in that they’re indistinguishable and you can’t actually see their eyes often. Still, I was clearly an outsider and able to walk through unmolested.
A sound speaker was set up but there seemed to be no formal demonstration going on; a brother with a ghetto accent had taken the microphone–I couldn’t see him in the mass of black–to demand the return of an alleged lost item; “yo this is real shit here yo” or something he said in what sounded like a taunting tone; I’m not sure he wasn’t trolling antifa, who milled about, listless and tense. At the disabled intersection of Salmon and Naito Parkway Plexiglas shields were laid out rows forming a box; antifa was in the same tense defensive posture in which I’d left the patriots.
And for a second time Sunday I left before the action occurred; a gunfight happened downtown later in the day; it sounds like armed anarchists chased a suspected right winger they saw taking photos, who then took cover and fired a single shot. Antifa fired back. The suspected patriot was taken into custody; antifa vanished from the scene safely and have launched the rumor they’d been protecting black youths from assault by the man.
Antifa-allied media is feeding this back into the Narrate-o-Matic to come out as outrageous police inaction–no time to point out, and no point in pointing out, the absurdity of police abolitionists doing this, but the conscious overriding goal always at work now is to implicate police in the “right wing violence” of the “fascist” patriots when they protect them from antifa attack or, as now, when police stand down completely–citing, with some justice, new restrictions limiting riot control measures passed by the state legislature last year to protect BLM and antifa; these rules lay like intentionally laid traps now for the police, which is probably a fair description. The season of anarchist rioting did not materialize this summer–and we don’t know how fortunate we are, to not have been submitted to a repeat of last summer with the police’s hands tied, unable to even deploy tear gas.
The end goal of the abolitionists is to take police out of the business of street crime and into the business of political repression of patriotic resistance–not your local cops, who ideally will be disbanded and replaced by wokesters, but feds; the FBI is stepping eagerly into the role–as it must be whenever a new cause presents a government agency with a whole new area of power and funding. Maybe they even believe it, like CIA analysts imagining the creaky old Soviet Union a robust power, up to the point it fell apart as if overnight (like us now, maybe). Here’s the self-satirizing Establishment organ The Intercept twisting itself into knots to paint by the dots:
The absence of the police, in line with a policy on nonintervention announced beforehand by Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell, reinforced a sense among anti-fascists that they were on their own. So when a right-wing gunman fired in the direction of black-clad protesters who had chased him away from their protest at gunpoint, it was shocking but perhaps not surprising that one of the anti-fascists fired back, according to witnesses.
Despite the anarchist camps’ best efforts, it seems the patriots won the day.
Is the day worth it?