Portland’s street-brawling season began with a bang on Saturday. Dueling right- and left-wing protesters took to downtown this past weekend, and the usual carnage ensued. Portland police, tasked with keeping the two belligerents separated, were unsuccessful in doing so. When the tear gas cleared, three people were arrested, eight were injured, and the right blasted the police, and the city, for allowing the violence to occur. Spray, rinse, repeat.
One of the eight injured, and hospitalized, was Andy Ngo, a Portland-based conservative journalist. There’s a history of bad blood between Ngo and Portland Antifa— named for Antifaschistische Aktion, of the Stalinist, Weimar era German Communist Party. After being pelted with milkshakes, raw eggs, and silly string, Ngo was seen being punched and kicked by black-clad assailants. Ngo also claims his video equipment was stolen. When a city medic finally came in, Ngo issued a cry which has reverberated across the conservative Twittersphere in the days since: “where the hell were all of you?”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) demanded a federal criminal investigation in to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, accusing him of losing control of the city to a domestic terrorist organization. Wheeler “has, for political reasons, ordered his police officers to let citizens be attacked,” Cruz accused in a Tweet Saturday. Officer Daryl Turner, President of the Portland police union, blasted City Hall for tying his officers’ hands. Turner urged the mayor to boldly proclaim the city won’t tolerate any more violence, from either Antifa or Proud Boys— one of the right-wing groups which showed up Saturday— and “remove the handcuffs” restraining the police from stopping it.
That criticism of the police is coming from the right this weekend is an ironic development. Typically, it’s the left which blasts the cops for not protecting them, or actively siding with the other side. Last August, police fired flash-bang grenades at black-clad demonstrators at close range. One such grenade struck a protester in the back of the head, piercing his bicycle helmet, and splitting his skull. The revelation of a slough of text messages between a police officer and leaders of right-wing group, Patriot Prayer, fueled conspiracy theories of a sweetheart relationship between the police and the right. “This story, like many that have come before it, simply confirms what many in the community have already known,” said City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “There are members of the Portland police force who work in collusion with right-wing extremists.”
Wheeler was out of the country at the time, and has since issued a very carefully-worded tweet on the matter. “Portland has always been a beacon of free speech. Were are proud of that history,” he posted. “But in the last couple of years, some have increasingly used their opportunity to exercise their 1st amendment rights, as an opportunity to incite violence.” Wheeler has his own checkered history of staying on the right side of the line between preventing political violence and abridging free speech rights. Last year, Wheeler attempted to cancel a pro-Trump rally on such grounds. He too has had plenty of practice.
Antifa has been caught on video assaulting members of the media at least 15 times over the last two years. Both sides come itching for a fight now but only Antifa receives deference (and sometimes even support) from prominent members of America’s establishment. Saturday’s skirmish was dubbed “The Battle of Portland Part Two” by Proud Boys— and usually, at least one side receives it. Some states and cities have banned anyone from wearing masks while participating in a public march or protest. France too. This acts as a disincentive for people to go wilding. Do Portland city officials have the courage to pass this ordinance and stand up for law and order? They’ll have all summer to find a solution.