The police in Portland, Oregon, always seem to come up with handy excuses for failing to protect the citizens of the city from violent far-right thugs—but when it comes to whacking and arresting leftist protesters, they’re regular Johnnies-on-the-spot, replete with readily recited but factually dubious (if not utterly groundless) excuses for making arrests. Just ask Demetria Hester.
After a weekend in which violent Proud Boys—the vast majority of whom live elsewhere—descended on Portland’s downtown once again and, for the umpteenth time, provoked large violent brawls while police stood by and watched, it’s quite clear: The long-established Portland Police Bureau ethos of defending far-right extremists and victimizing their opponents remains fully intact.
On Saturday, an anti-Black Lives Matter “Back the Blue” rally—which, as has been consistently the case, was only peripherally dedicated to its ostensible cause, but really designed to create opportunities for violence against left-wing activists—became the scene of another violent clash between far-right “Proud Boys” from out of town and counterprotesters comprised almost entirely of Portland citizens.
The Proud Boys maced and beat counterprotesters, and at one point began shooting into the crowd opposing them with paintball guns. The two sides threw rocks, fireworks, and bottles, and at one point a notorious Proud Boy provocateur named Alan Swinney pulled out his revolver and threatened protesters with it.
Metal rods and batons were also heavily in use. Journalist Robert Evans of Bellingcat was attacked by a Proud Boy with a baton who broke his hand in the process.
During the entirety of the assaults, Portland police did nothing to intervene—even though protests by Black Lives Matter during the past 80-plus days of protests in the city have been declared “riots” on the pretext of minor violence and subsequently shut down. The Proud Boys and “Patriots” present continued to attack protesters and journalists for nearly two hours before they summarily packed their bags and left.
Afterward, Portland police claimed that it chose not to declare the far-right event a riot because it had limited numbers of police on the scene. Also, they told Katie Shepherd of The Washington Post, they were tired after having to work a much smaller, less volatile protest against police brutality held the night before.
“While the activity in the group met the definition of a riot, PPB did not declare one because there were not adequate police resources available to address such a declaration,” read the PPB’s statement.
After the Proud Boys departed the scene, the remaining counterprotesters gathered at Terry Schrunk Plaza across the street from the federal courthouse, the scene of numerous protests over the past two months and more. Roughly half an hour later, federal police declared the gathering “an unlawful assembly” and ordered everyone out of the area. Some people were removed by force.
Among the collected Proud Boys and other street brawling groups (such as American Guard) present Saturday, one familiar face stood out: Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, the large Samoan man who has been the center of multiple incidents of violence at far-right “Patriot Prayer” and Proud Boy protests in Portland and elsewhere the past few years. Toese was most recently spotted assaulting a man near the fringes of Seattle’s CHOP zone in June—for which an arrest warrant was later issued against Toese on a probation-violation count.
Indeed, as Willamette Week’s Nigel Jaquiss noted, Toese’s warrant was still active Saturday, and he strolled past multiple Portland police officers, none of whom arrested him. His presence is a direct violation of a judge’s orders that he not attend any protests for the next two years.
But then, Portland police have a history of dealing with Toese with kid gloves. When journalists obtained texts and emails between police liaisons and Patriot Prayer organizers, they found in one instance that Toese was being advised how to avoid arrest by city police on a different outstanding warrant: “I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason,” the PPB officer advised.