PORTLAND, Ore. ? For days, Portland has served as ground zero for American hate, heroism and healing. Today, it served as America?s battleground.
Tensions were high Sunday as counterdemonstrations between anti-government protesters and members of the alt-right took place during a ?Trump Free Speech Rally? outside City Hall.
HuffPost reporters witnessed several scattered arrests made for disorderly conduct.
As early as 10:30 a.m., the self-proclaimed anti-fascist and alt-right groups had occupied the parks surrounding City Hall, with the former taking over Chapman Square and the latter in Terry Schrunk Plaza. Shoving and screaming ensued until police showed up, including local and state officers, riot police and Homeland Security. After that, each side hurled insults at the other.
A third crowd ? the largest ? of local liberals protesting the Trump supporters sat outside City Hall.
On each side, demonstrators braced for the moment when police would leave and barriers would fall.
It was a battle they?d been preparing for all week; longstanding tensions between anti-fascists and the alt-right were compounded by the hate-fueled slashing on May 26 that left two dead and a nation in uproar.
In the Trump camp, which had planned its rally days before the recent attack, ?celebrity? alt-righters like Pat ?Based Spartan? Washington stood among people with Nazi symbolism tattooed on their arms and civilian ?peacekeepers? in military gear.
The loudest demonstrators on each side were often the last to identify themselves.
?We?re surrounded,? one woman in a ?Make America Great Again? hat said. ?That?s Portland for ya.?
The Trump rally was already expected to attract alt-right figures from out of state ? some of whom are straight up neo-Nazis ? but rumors that that demonstrators would be exercising their right to carry guns prompted local activists to reconsider and had all sides preparing for war. Mayor Ted Wheeler?s attempt to revoke a permit for the rally was declined by the federal government.
Anti-fascists in Portland planned to hold a self-defense and group tactics seminar Saturday, but organizers told HuffPost that it was canceled after white nationalists and neo-Nazis mobilized against them.
The Trump rally?s co-organizer, Kyle ?Based Stickman? Chapman, has engaged anti-fascist protesters in battle before. His group of mostly white men called the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights was labeled a ?fight club? by The New York Times and issued a call to arms to his followers for Sunday.
Fights in Portland, just a week after known white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian allegedly slashed two men to death while screaming anti-Islamic hate at two teenaged women on a train, feel surprising and excessive to outsiders. But locals saw this coming a mile away ? this is a city with a white terror crisis and a storied history of racist confrontation. Sunday was a flashpoint in a decades-old fight.
Lydia O?Connor contributed reporting.
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