Portland, a city so closely associated with liberal hipsters it inspired the parody show „Portlandia,“ braced for a rally of far-right groups protesting left-wing organizations Saturday, while President Donald Trump weighed in on the controversy.
Enrique Tarrio, national head of the Proud Boys, who describe themselves as an all-male „western chauvinist“ group, and former InfoWars personality Joe Biggs, have organized an “End Domestic Terrorism” rally on Saturday at 11 a.m. local time.
Members of other far-right extremist groups, including the American Guard, the Three Percenters and the Daily Stormers, were also expected to attend in the hopes of declaring militant leftists, or anti-fascists, or „anitfa,“ a domestic terrorist group.
Counterprotesters were also expected in droves.
One right-wing militia group, Oath Keepers, disavowed the rally for fears of being associated with white supremacists.
“We do not believe the organizers are taking the steps necessary to ensure that white nationalist and suspected white nationalist groups and individuals will be excluded,“ said Stewart Rhodes, the group’s founder, in a statement on its website.
Early Saturday, Trump criticized antifa in a tweet, and said Portland is „being watched very closely.“
„Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‚ORGANIZATION OF TERROR,'“ the tweet read. „Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!“
Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2019
The president did not, however, criticize the right-wing organizers.
Ahead of Saturday’s rallies, Wheeler issued a video message stating, „if you’re planning on coming here on August 17th with the intent to commit violence, we don’t want you here.“
It was unclear whether Joey Gibson, the leader of right-wing Patriot Prayer, will attend the rally. He and five other men have been arrested this month, on charges stemming from a violent outburst on May 1 at Cider Riot, a bar that is a haven for the city’s leftists. Videos of the May Day incident show men associated with the group spraying pepper spray, fighting and striking people with batons.
He turned himself in to authorities and bailed out on Friday.
Local authorities have beefed up security and have been joined by an array of other law enforcement agencies „on a scale that this city hasn’t seen in years,“ Wheeler said.