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Portland Police Arrest Leader of Right-Wing Group Ahead of High-Profile Rallies

Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks during a rally on Aug. 14, 2019, to support the city in advance of protests planned for Saturday.

Updated Aug. 16, 2019, at 11:20 p.m.

Police in Portland, Oregon, have arrested the leader of a right-wing group on the eve of a planned demonstration Saturday, when far-right protesters are expected to come face-to-face with local anti-fascist counterdemonstrators.

Police arrested Joey Gibson, the leader of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer on Friday, prompting him to urge his followers on social media to "show up tenfold, one hundredfold" for Saturday's protests.

Gibson, who was not involved in organizing this weekend's event but has planned similar rallies in the past, surrendered Friday on an outstanding warrant for a fight that broke out in May between his right-wing supporters and left-wing adversaries.

Gibson says the charge against him is intended to prevent him from joining the high-profile protest Saturday on Portland's downtown waterfront.

FILE - Antifa counter-protesters, rallying against right-wing group Patriot Prayer, light a smoke grenade in Portland, Oregon, Sept. 10, 2017.
FILE - Antifa counter-protesters, rallying against right-wing group Patriot Prayer, light a smoke grenade in Portland, Oregon, Sept. 10, 2017.

Hate 'not welcome here'

Police in Portland have been mobilizing for the protest with all of the city's nearly 1,000 police officers scheduled to be on duty Saturday. They will be aided by the Oregon State Police and the FBI.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined leaders of the city's religious, police and business groups to warn groups "who plan on using Portland on August 17 as a platform to spread your hate.'' Those groups are "not welcome here,'' he said.

Far-right groups

Saturday's rally is organized by a member of the Proud Boys, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Expected to join them are the American Guard, Three Percenters, and Daily Stormers.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Guard is a "white nationalist group," Three Percenters are "extremist," anti-government militias and the Daily Stormers are "neo-Nazis."

The Oath Keepers, another far-right militia group, said they were pulling out of the rally because the organizers have not done enough to prevent white supremacist from attending.


Countering the right-wingers is Portland's Rose City Antifa, an anti-fascist group that has called on its members to take to the streets in an opposing rally.

Antifa in the United States have grown more visible recently and experts say Antifa groups are not centrally organized, and their members may espouse a number of different causes, from politics to race relations to gay rights. But the principle that binds them — along with an unofficial uniform of black clothing and facemasks — is the willingness to use violence to fight against white supremacists, which has opened them to criticism from both left and right.

At a June rally in Portland, masked antifa members beat up a conservative blogger named Andy Ngo. Video of the 30-second attack grabbed national attention.

The city's leadership and residents are on edge ahead of the rallies. Many summer staples like music festivals and recreational events have been canceled. A 5K race course has been changed to avoid possible violence and most businesses in the area plan to close for the day.