The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Antifa marches at Trump’s inauguration and the condemnation is almost universal, including from some on the political Left. No one is harmed, but initially charges are brought against Antifa.

The Proud Boys, a neo-fascist, far-right group march in Portland, Oregon (an “unpermitted” march), although they have committed acts of violence, and they are allowed a presence on the streets.

Now, just what part of the First Amendment are officials in Oregon missing? Hate speech is permissible, but hate speech leading to violent acts is not. The Proud Boys marched on and they drew other far-right hate groups with them as always happens at these marches.

Look at these “very fine people” as pictured in the Guardian (“Portland rally: Proud Boys vow to march each month after biggest protest of Trump era,” Guardian, August 17, 2019).  Good pictures are worth a thousand words and those words are supplemented because counter-protesters far outnumbered the Proud Boys, from whom they were carefully segregated. Horrifying as the rally was, and crucial to the far-right’s dangerous growth, the Hater-In-Chief, Trump tweeted on the day of the right-wing rally that he was considering categorizing Antifa as a terror group. How many people have been killed by Antifa?: 0. How many have been killed by white supremacy and Naziism? Hundreds of millions, with about 70-85 million killed during World War II alone!

How many anti-fascists who marched against racism and hate in Oregon were simply against hate and willing to put themselves on the streets against that hate and belonged to no group in particular? Many, many!

Besides hate having its day on the streets once again, Trump repeats his vicious and violence-inducing rhetoric that has given violent groups across the US the chance to not only gain credibility, but grow their numbers and develop a sense of empowerment that casts them as rightful players in the political system. If this isn’t reminiscent of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, with his tens of millions murdered, then what is?

Former FBI agent Michael German, interviewed on NPR following the far-right Charlottesville, Virginia riot, accurately depicts those hate groups at that riot and how police and Trump responded to the rightwing’s murderous rampage (“Hate Groups’ Core Changed Little Over The Years, Ex-FBI Agent Says,”  NPR, August 15, 2017).

Here’s a key segment of the German NPRinterview:

GERMAN: Well, that disavowal [Trump’s]  was very reluctant and late. And the white supremacist groups got the message from that, that this is sanctioned. But more important is that the police in these cases – and Charlottesville isn’t the first one. They were two in Berkeley. There was one in Sacramento and in Huntington Beach, Calif. – are policing these protests very differently, where they’re allowing violence and these running street battles to happen. And that is – that, again, is a state sanctioning of this kind of violence that gives – that makes them far more dangerous.


Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).