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Sep 25 2020

The Sturmabteilung

I am very serious.

Thousands of Proud Boys plan to rally in Portland, setting up another clash in a combustible city
By Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post
September 25, 2020

Thousands of members of the far-right Proud Boys plan to mass at a park here on Saturday afternoon, setting up another clash of liberal and conservative extremes in a city that has become the public front line for combustible — and deadly — political conflict.

The so-called Western chauvinist group espouses pro-Trump, police-friendly rhetoric, but its members have a reputation for sparking fights with the far left that devolve into mayhem. After four months of steady protests in this city, its choice to bring an armed, extremist crowd from all corners of the country to the Pacific Northwest again turns Portland into an ideological battlefield, a place where speech has crossed a dangerous line into violence.

President Trump has fanned the flames, saying that Portland and other Democratic cities condone lawlessness; he has ordered federal agents to take a stand against protesters and to make arrests, creating us-versus-them standoffs that appear bent on pitting the right against the left and characterizing it as good against evil.

Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio said in an interview with The Washington Post that his group is making a stand for free speech in a place he believes encourages leftist riots and has sparked political violence against conservatives and law enforcement in other American cities.

“It’s the epicenter for all this. It goes beyond free speech right now. Portland has franchised these riots across the country,” Tarrio said, saying he hopes his event spurs authorities to take more action against demonstrators. Other cities “see these things happening, and they’re like: ‘We can do this here too.’ Portland leads by example.”

But Portland’s protesters said groups like the Proud Boys have been at the center of the summer’s worst recent conflicts, which some worry could be dwarfed by whatever happens Saturday.

“It just puts a very bad feeling in my stomach,” said Dustin Brandon, who attended Wednesday’s demonstration and has been at Black Lives Matter protests here since George Floyd was killed in May. “Everybody knows what’s happening September 26th in Portland, Oregon, and it’s not a good feeling. I’ve been here for every other time they’ve shown up, and it’s just gotten worse and worse and worse. … I just hope there’s no more bloodshed.”

Portland police, who broke up a protest that devolved into a riot on Wednesday, said their main plan is to keep the ideologically opposed groups as far away from each other as possible on Saturday. Left-leaning groups have planned a counter protest a few miles from Delta Park, where the Proud Boys plan to rally. Police also have encouraged event attendees to leave their guns at home.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said Friday that the state police and county sheriff’s office would oversee the response to the protests Saturday and would be dispatching additional law enforcement to the area to patrol highways looking for people coming to town to “cause trouble.”

“People have come to Portland, time and time again, from out of town looking for a fight, and the results are always tragic,” Brown said. “Let me perfectly clear, we will not tolerate any kind of violence this weekend. Left, right or center, violence is never a path toward meaningful change. … Those stoking the flames of violence, those coming to Portland looking for a fight, will be held accountable.”

City officials this week denied the Proud Boys’s permit request for the park gathering, citing covid-19 safety concerns at the public park. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler blasted the Proud Boys in a tweet on Wednesday: “Some in these groups and many who associate with them embody and empower racism, intolerance and hate. Those are not Portland values, and they are not welcome.”

Tarrio balked at the mayor’s words and said the rally will go on as planned.

“We did the right thing and asked for a permit,” he wrote on the social media sit. “Portland parks denied our permits citing 50 person max due to COVID. Lol … terrorists have been rioting across the city for 4 months … I’m sure they followed these guidelines.”

At the bottom of the post he included an image of the U.S. Constitution. “Here is the only permission I need.”

The Proud Boys are one of several predominantly White right-wing groups that have surfaced publicly since Trump’s election. Vice News creator Gavin McInnes started the group in 2016, though he has since distanced himself from the organization and its increasingly violent reputation.

The Proud Boys describe themselves as a “Western chauvinist” fraternal group that believes in ending welfare, closing the borders and strict adherence to traditional gender roles. They believe that White culture — and White men, in particular — are under attack from a world consumed by political correctness. The first step of becoming a member is reciting a loyalty oath that includes the phrase “I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”

The group latches onto controversial causes that larger segments of the right embrace — such as unwavering support for police, Islamophobia and fighting the removal of Confederate statues. But the Proud Boys also use coded language and irreverent humor to mask beliefs that are more sinister. Proud Boys networks spent the past week spreading memes and videos mocking the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

That nuanced stance has allowed the Proud Boys to grow even as other groups were vilified following the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

“When you mix a combination of the shrouded and overt bigotry along with their propensity for violence and showing up at the most incendiary events, it really is a significant and growing risk,” Levin said. “It’s especially volatile when you overlay this political season where the election is considered a battleground in a civil war.”

Tarrio described the organization he chairs as a group of unapologetic Trump supporters who wield humor to poke at a society hobbled by political correctness. During his interview with The Post, he said he was at an Ikea in his home state of Florida, shopping for a shelf while wearing a shirt that said “Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong,” a nod to the White teen accused of killing two people in Kenosha, Wis., during demonstrations after police shot a black man. But Tarrio said even the most triggering speech does not justify violence.

“When they go out on the streets and they’re like ‘bash the fash’ and ‘punch a Nazi,’ I believe they truly believe they’re doing good — ridding the world of this evil,” Tarrio said. “Then you get a situation like the shooting of Jay. One of my guys got ran over two weeks ago. They’ve thrown explosives at me.

“There’s genuine concern about police brutality, and it’s something people should protest, but (the Black Lives Matter) movements are getting co-opted and then it starts going in another direction: ‘Oh well, we’ve got to take down the statues, we’ve got to take this person’s name down, we’ve got to go protest in front of this person’s house,’” he said, referring to what some consider liberal efforts to erase America’s past.

Tarrio said the Proud Boys does not promote violence, but it does actively protect itself. He said the rally in the park is intended to be nonviolent, but he encouraged his members to bring fire extinguishers because “antifa thugs” have thrown fireworks and even molotov cocktails during conflicts. He also encouraged them to bring bear mace — the harsh irritant that witnesses said was deployed right before Reinoehl shot Danielson in Portland.Tarrio described the organization he chairs as a group of unapologetic Trump supporters who wield humor to poke at a society hobbled by political correctness. During his interview with The Post, he said he was at an Ikea in his home state of Florida, shopping for a shelf while wearing a shirt that said “Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong,” a nod to the White teen accused of killing two people in Kenosha, Wis., during demonstrations after police shot a black man. But Tarrio said even the most triggering speech does not justify violence.

“When they go out on the streets and they’re like ‘bash the fash’ and ‘punch a Nazi,’ I believe they truly believe they’re doing good — ridding the world of this evil,” Tarrio said. “Then you get a situation like the shooting of Jay. One of my guys got ran over two weeks ago. They’ve thrown explosives at me.

“There’s genuine concern about police brutality, and it’s something people should protest, but (the Black Lives Matter) movements are getting co-opted and then it starts going in another direction: ‘Oh well, we’ve got to take down the statues, we’ve got to take this person’s name down, we’ve got to go protest in front of this person’s house,’” he said, referring to what some consider liberal efforts to erase America’s past.

Tarrio said the Proud Boys does not promote violence, but it does actively protect itself. He said the rally in the park is intended to be nonviolent, but he encouraged his members to bring fire extinguishers because “antifa thugs” have thrown fireworks and even molotov cocktails during conflicts. He also encouraged them to bring bear mace — the harsh irritant that witnesses said was deployed right before Reinoehl shot Danielson in Portland.

Some more background.

Revealed: pro-Trump activists plotted violence ahead of Portland rallies
by Jason Wilson and Robert Evans, The Guardian
@jason_a_w
Wed 23 Sep 2020

Leaked chat logs show Portland-area pro-Trump activists planning and training for violence, sourcing arms and ammunition and even suggesting political assassinations ahead of a series of contentious rallies in the Oregon city, including one scheduled for this weekend.

The chats on the GroupMe app, shared with the Guardian by the antifascist group Eugene Antifa, show conversations between Oregon members of the Patriots Coalition growing more extreme as they discuss armed confrontations with leftwing Portland activists, and consume a steady diet of online disinformation about protests and wildfires.

At times, rightwing activists discuss acts of violence at recent, contentious protests, which in some cases they were recorded carrying out. At one point, David Willis, a felon currently being sued for his alleged role in an earlier episode of political violence, joins a discussion about the use of paintballs.

Where other members had previously suggested freezing the paintballs for maximum damage, Willis wrote: “They make glass breaker balls that are rubber coated metal. They also have pepper balls but they are about 3 dollars a ball. Don’t freeze paintballs it makes them wildly inaccurate” [sic.]

Where other members had previously suggested freezing the paintballs for maximum damage, Willis wrote: “They make glass breaker balls that are rubber coated metal. They also have pepper balls but they are about 3 dollars a ball. Don’t freeze paintballs it makes them wildly inaccurate” [sic.]

Another prolific poster is Mark Melchi, a 41-year-old Dallas, Oregon-based car restorer who claims to have served as a captain in the US army.

Melchi has been recorded leading an armed pro-Trump militia, “1776 2.0” into downtown confrontations in Portland, including on 22 August. At several points in the chat he proposes violence in advance of those confrontations, and appears to confess to prior acts committed in the company of his paramilitary group.

In advance of the 22 August protest, Melchi wrote: “It’s going to be bloody and most likely shooting, they’re definitely armed… so let’s make sure we have an organized direction of movement and direction of clearing or other Patriots will be caught in the possible cross fire. When shit hits the fan.”

He advised other members to ignore weapons statutes, writing, “I saw someone say bats, mace, and stun guns are illegal downtown. If you’re going to play by the books tomorrow night, we already lost. We are here to make a change, laws will be broken, people will get hurt… It’s lawlessness downtown, and people need to be prepared for bad things.”

Following these comments, several rightwing demonstrators were recorded using gas and bats on 22 August, where Melchi and his militia were also present.

In other remarks ahead of the day, Melchi draws on what he claims is his group’s history of traveling to multiple states to engage in violence at protests.

“My Group 1776 2.0. Has been fighting Antifa in Seattle, Portland, for months”, Melchi writes, adding “this won’t be a simple fist fight. People will get shot, stabbed and beat.”

He also claims police cooperation in interstate violence, writing “Yes, going after them at night is the solution… Like we do in other states, tactical ambushes at night while backing up the police are key. You get the leaders and the violent ones and the police are happy to shut their mouths and cameras.”

Melchi nevertheless recommends that members disguise themselves to avoid the consequences of homicide.

“We must be ready to defend with lethal response… Suggest wearing mask and nothing to identify you on Camera…to prevent any future prosecution.”

Although some members are connected with extremist groups or militias, on the whole they describe themselves as “patriots”, and they express no clear ideology beyond a hatred of the left, and a preparedness to use violence. The shared allegiances expressed in the group are mostly to the police, the United States and Donald Trump, a person whom some say they are prepared to kill for.

Ahead of 22 August, a user “Paige” says “I’m waiting for the presidential go to start open firing”.

Melchi, the militia leader, responds, “Well Saturday may be that go lol”.

Alex Newhouse, the digital research lead at the Center for Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute, said of the group that “the main mechanism that makes these communities so dangerous is the incessant desensitization to the idea of political violence”.

Newhouse said that the ideas expressed in the group were entrenched in “extreme nationalism – that a few strong men with guns can together take out an evil that is at once imagined as an existential threat, and pathetically weak”. Newhouse added that the group’s discussions “fit within a broader trend of rightwing extremists becoming more accelerationist over time”.

The chatlogs became fractious at the peak of Oregon’s recent wildfire emergency. While some members said they had gone to rural areas to “hunt” imagined antifa arsonists, others became concerned about the dangers.

As early as 9 September, the baseless idea that the fires were a coordinated arson attack was treated as settled fact, with Melchi writing: “People have officially died from these Antifa Fires. I’d shoot them on site” [sic], and another user, Dub, responding: “Yes sir if I see them they are getting dropped where they stand.”

Raise the flag! The ranks tightly closed!
The SA marches with calm, steady step.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit within our ranks.

Clear the streets for the brown battalions,
Clear the streets for the storm division!
Millions are looking upon the swastika full of hope,
The day of freedom and of bread dawns!

For the last time, the call to arms is sounded!
For the fight, we all stand prepared!
Already Hitler’s banners fly over all streets.
The time of bondage will last but a little while now!

Raise the flag! The ranks tightly closed!
The SA march with quiet, steady step.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries,
March in spirit within our ranks