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[WATCH] Portland Mayor, Police Chief Take ‘Choose Love’ Approach to Proud Boys Rally

The Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and other right-wing groups were forced to move a planned “gathering” from the Portland, Oregon, waterfront to a parking lot not far from the airport when their permit was revoked. But before the move was announced, the city’s Mayor and Police Chief told Portland residents to expect a “hands-off” approach from the police force, encouraging people to “choose love” instead by not counter-protesting.

“We are dedicated to keeping the peace. Our ask is simple: We are asking you to choose love,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said during a Friday afternoon press conference. “People should not necessarily expect to see the police standing in the middle of the crowd trying to keep people apart. People need to keep themselves apart and avoid physical confrontation.”

(Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Sunday’s event lands exactly one year after a “Say No to Marxism” gathering in 2020, where some far-right activists deployed bear mace and brandished loaded firearms during skirmishes with anti-fascist counterprotesters. Portland police mostly stood by and allowed violent brawls to proceed without intervention, including not attempting to arrest known Proud Boy Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who had an active warrant for his arrest at the time.

The Portland Police Bureau appears comfortable simply repeating Wheeler’s empty talking points. During Friday’s press conference, Chief Chuck Lovell said it isn’t “the best tactical approach” for police to wade into violent crowds to intervene, and that the bureau is more likely to make arrests after the event has concluded.

“You should not expect to see police officers standing in the middle of crowds trying to keep people apart. Remember: Arrests do not always happen in the moment,” Lovell said. “If you’re considering coming downtown to fight, threaten people or participate in violence: Stay away. If people do engage in violent activity or property destruction, they face arrest and prosecution.”

The bureau evaluates scenarios on a case-by-case basis when deciding whether to intervene in a brawl, and that the most likely reason for intervention would be “to protect someone who has maybe a life-safety type [of] issue going on in a conflict.” Wheeler, who is the police commissioner, and Lovell condemned groups and individuals arriving in Portland this weekend who seek out violence or property destruction. But both officials declined to name any of the organizations they are referring to.

“I don’t know that it’s appropriate for me to name the specific groups,” Lovell said. “But we’ve seen here many times groups with different political ideations or affiliations come to Portland and have violent clashes or interactions with each other.”

The pair also declined to say whether they consider any of the groups to be domestic terrorist organizations. Canada, for example, added the Proud Boys to its list of terrorist entities in February following the January 6th failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Watch the Mayor’s press conference, below.

[This is a developing story, as the rally was scheduled to start as we went to press. Please check back for updates]

 



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