PORTLAND, Oregon. Right-wing and left-wing groups clashed outside the US courthouse in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, weeks after federal agents pulled out of the site of protests that had gripped part of the city center for months. .
A group of about 200 protesters, including members of the Proud Boys and families supporting the police, gathered along the sidewalk of the courthouse from 11 a.m., many of them carrying American flags, while others carrying assault rifles and tactical military equipment.
Almost immediately, a similar number of Black Lives Matter protesters gathered across the street, many dressed in black and carrying shields or paintball guns.
Within an hour, screams turned to violence.
Paintballs flew between the two sides. Bottles darted back and forth. Pushes became thrusts. As protesters who had been hit with pepper spray pulled out, others came forward to take their place.
All the while, police officers watched from a distance and chose not to intervene.
The Portland Police Department said in a press release that it had not announced a riot because it had limited staff for the number of protesters and weapons present.
The statement said weeks of "acts of violence against the police" were an "important consideration in determining the need for police resources to intervene between two groups with individuals who appear willing to engage in physical confrontation for a short period of time."
Several people were hit or hit with objects, although there did not appear to be any serious injuries. Mike Redwood, a Black Lives Matter protester, said he was hit in the face with a baton and Tased during an argument with far-right protesters.
"I still have all my teeth and nothing is broken, so I don't think it would be too bad to be hit with a bat," he said, holding an ice pack to his cheek.
For about three hours, the two sides were in almost constant conflict, most of which was violent. Mr. Redwood said he and a number of other Black Lives Matter protesters had occupied part of the street and that he held out as the other line advanced.
After a majority of right-wing protesters left, police officers declared the crowd illegal and dispersed it.
Mr. Redwood said it was one of the more violent clashes he'd seen between right and left protesters in Portland.
"I haven't seen it to this degree yet," he said.
Portland is the site of some of the country's most visible Black Lives Matter protests since George Floyd was murdered while in police custody in Minneapolis in late May. There have been protests to varying degrees in the downtown area for over 80 days.
The regular demonstrations prompted President Trump to send federal agents to protect the US courthouse, a move that mothers, veterans, and nurses viewed as provocative and protested. Those agents, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters, have since withdrawn and the demonstrations have continued.
Susan Schaffer, who lives in Portland and is attending the pro-police rally, said she was hurt by Mr. Floyd's death. Still, she said she felt the protests should have continued for too long and with too much leniency from local leaders.
Karen Mann, who joined the Salem protesters, said she was partially inspired to be present when her home was lit after she placed a Trump sign in her yard.
The Portland protests have fueled that hostility, she said.
"Why can't I say I support Trump? I should be able to do that without being intimidated," she said. "They really want to destroy anyone who is center-right or center-right."
Andrew Benjamin turned away from the pepper spray hanging in the air, saying he was worried Mr. Trump and other conservative politicians would say Saturday's protest exemplified chaos caused by the Black Lives Matter movement.
"They'll say Portland is on fire – Portland isn't burning," said Mr. Benjamin. & # 39; This is one side of a block. It's not even the center, it's here, in front of that building. "