Antifa Protesters Throw Smoke Bombs, Assault Police During Oregon 'Patriot Prayer' Rally

Antifa members and counter protesters gather during a rightwing No-To-Marxism rally in Berkeley, California
Antifa members and counter protesters gather during rightwing No-To-Marxism rally in Berkeley, Calif. / Getty Images
September 11, 2017

Antifa demonstrators in Portland, Ore., threw smoke bombs, rocks, and other objects at police while they protested an event held by the group Patriot Prayer on Sunday.

The Rally and March Against White Nationalism turned violent as some protesters had weapons seized and others attempted to break through police barriers, Fox 12 Oregon reports. Antifa protesters consider Patriot Prayer, which has supported President Donald Trump, to be a hate group, but its leaders say that label is unfounded.

"They see an enemy in me or in these people but it's not real," said group leader Joey Gibson. "We don't have to be enemies; we can all get along."

Police tried to keep Antifa protesters separated from the Patriot Prayer members, but video shows protesters breaking through barriers, leading to one being taken into custody.

One man, Thomas "Sarah" Wallace, 18, was arrested on two counts of assault on a police officer. Others were arrested for interfering with police, resisting arrest, and theft, while police seized some objects that could be used as weapons.

Cops escorted members of Patriot Prayer to their cars, where they went across the river to Vancouver, Wash., the location where organizers moved some speeches and prayers at the last minute. Fox 12 has not reported whether any of the seven total people ultimately arrested were associated with Patriot Prayer, which bills itself as a group focused on free-speech advocacy.

"Yeah, I expected pure violence," Gibson told reporters about planning the event. "So, I didn't want that, I'm done with it, sick of it."

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) does not define Patriot Prayer as a hate group, but its Hatewatch blog did blame the group's "trolling" for creating left-wing violence.

"Joey Gibson's 'Patriot Prayer' has trolled the Northwest with a series of rallies designed to provoke violence and populated with extremists," David Neiwert wrote for SPLC.

"[Patriot Prayer] has organized a series of protests in the Pacific Northwest that have all been held in places that are established centers of liberal/left politics, all with the clear intent of attempting to provoke a violent response from far-left antifascists," Neiwert added, pointing out the Antifa violence that occurred at other Patriot Prayer events.

SPLC refuses to designate Antifa groups as hate groups, despite their commitment to violence. The Department of Homeland Security and FBI under Barack Obama had warned about Antifa committing acts of "domestic terrorist violence."

In June, Patriot Prayer protested at Evergreen State College in support of a professor who refused to stay home during a "Day of Absence" where white people were told to vacate campus. They denounced political correctness and called for an end to government funding of Evergreen State.

Antifa protesters then slashed Patriot Prayer members' tires.

Gibson said his group does not contain white supremacists and that he is a Japanese American. He has said the group has taken steps to prevent white supremacists from joining their rallies, with members of alt-right groups such as the Proud Boys and Identity Evropa attending some previous Patriot Prayer events.

Members of the group told reporters that they had no desire to stoke hatred.

"They're the ones projecting hate upon us," one man said. "I'm not being hateful, I'm just walking down the street."