Police in Portland, Oregon, arrested at least 13 people on Saturday as a right-wing group marched to a downtown waterfront park and anti-fascist counter-protesters scuffled with officers who tried to keep the two sides apart.
A rally by hundreds of supporters of the right-wing Proud Boys organisation was met by a similar number of “antifa” opponents, and isolated clashes broke out between both sides and between antifa and police as the gathering wrapped up.
At least six people suffered minor injuries, according to police. One person was taken to a hospital.
Officers said they seized weapons including chemical sprays, shields, metal and wooden poles, knives, and a stun gun from multiple groups.
At the peak of the demonstrations there were an estimated 1,200 protesters on the streets of the downtown district, said Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw.
Charges against those in custody would include disorderly conduct, interfering with police, resisting arrest, and unlawful use of a weapon, she said at a news conference.
Right-wing and anti-fascist factions have clashed in Portland several times in recent months, including a rally that turned violent in July last year.
Hours ahead of Saturday’s competing demonstrations, President Donald Trump said “major consideration” was being given to designating antifa as a terrorist organisation.
“Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Ted Wheeler, Portland’s mayor, said he was not concerning himself with tweets from Washington, and he praised the response by law enforcement.
“I’m grateful that this was largely a peaceful event,” Wheeler told reporters at the news conference.
“Police did an exemplary job of de-escalating the situation, keeping the extremists on both sides separated for the most part, and preventing people who wanted to engage in acts of violence from confronting each other.”
Police were out in force, keeping the opposing camps apart as demonstrators converged on a waterfront park.
Following the dispersal of the rallies, small groups of opposing demonstrators broke into scuffles, attacking each other with their fists and pepper spray, according to witnesses.
Saturday’s far-right gathering was organised in part by a group that calls itself the Proud Boys and says its members are young, “Western chauvinist” men.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a major civil rights organization, has classified the Proud Boys as a hate group.
Its leaders say the goal of the Portland rally was to have the so-called antifa movement declared a domestic terror organisation, news reports said.
Antifa stands for anti-fascist and refers to a loose international coalition of activists and protesters who oppose far-right ideology.
There have been scattered incidents of violence purportedly involving antifa members.
Trump tweeted that “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” He did not elaborate.
Portland, one of the most liberal US cities, is an antifa stronghold and the local Rose City Antifa had urged people “to defend Portland against far-right attack.”
More than 1,000 people gathered in downtown Portland for the rally and counter-demonstration, according to police.
Authorities shut down downtown streets.
Scores of riot police kept a close watch over the events as boats patrolled the Willamette River dividing the city.
Right-wing activists including the Proud Boys brandished American flags, while others sported red caps with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan from his 2016 presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, the counter-demonstration included antifa members dressed all in black, many wearing masks.
They were joined by ordinary citizens of Portland protesting the far-right demonstrators in their city, including one wearing a unicorn costume and a marching band dressed as bananas.
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