On Saturday, 500 far-right supporters traveled from around the country to Portland, Oregon, organized by leaders in the ‘‘western chauvinist’’ Proud Boys fraternity, marching to ‘‘end domestic terrorism,’’ reports the Guardian. This demonstration was the largest the county has seen of the Trump era, with the Proud Boys group rubbing shoulders with more radical groups, including, the American Guard, who the anti-Defamation League describe as ‘‘hardcore white supremacists’’ and the Three Percenters, a ‘‘patriot movement’’ militia group, states the Guardian. There were fears the protest would turn violent which promoted business to close and which saw a massive police presence. At least 13 people were arrested, reports NBC news.
The clash between far right-wing and left-wing political groups have amplified during the Trump era, with protests often becoming violent and confrontation between contrasting political ideologies intensifying. Far-right groups, such as the Proud boys, are embroiled in conflict between anti-fascist groups such as Antifa. So, who exactly are these groups, and why are we witnessing more and more dangerous gatherings of opposing extremist political groups?
The Proud Boys are a far-right neo-fascist organization that were established in 2016 and only admit men. They focus on defining Western values, as they believe the white man and Western culture is under siege. The goal of their so-called ‘‘end domestic terrorism’’ rally on Saturday, was to ensure that Antifa is declared as a domestic terrorist organization. Antifa, short for anti-fascists, date their origins of their movement back to the 1920s and 1930s, are opposed to neo-Nazi’s, neo-fascism, white supremacists and racism. They are said to be willing to use violence which does mark them out from any other left-wing activists, as it is reported that their presence at a protest is intended to intimidate and dissuade racists.
The confluence of protesters on Saturday, who are on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, bear witness to the current political unrest in America. Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys chairman, released a statement after Saturday’s protest and said, ‘‘[…] unless the mayor takes charge and removes the scourge of violent domestic terrorists from his city […],” we vow to return to Portland monthly – reports NBC news. Mayor Ted Wheeler said that far-right organizations were “[…] impacting the entire nation by targeting women, minorities and immigrants with hate speech,” and that the threat to return to Portland on a regular basis “[…] feeds in to a sense of fear,” NBC news reported.
Donald Trump escalated the tensions with a tweet on Saturday which read, “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.’ Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler hit back and said, “This is a potentially dangerous and volatile situation, and adding to that noise doesn’t do anything to support or help the efforts that are going on here in Portland.”
Donald Trump’s tweet meant that the Proud Boys declared their rally a success, with Joe Biggs, the protest organizer, telling The Oregonian that “he talked about Portland, said he’s watching Antifa. That’s all we wanted. We wanted national attention, and we got it. Mission success.” However, it is unknown what Trump meant with his tweet as currently there is no mechanism for the government to declare a domestic organization a terror group. Rob Reynolds, a reporter from Al Jazeera. who was at Portland covering the protest, referred to Trumps tweet and said, “it’s noteworthy that the president is using his bully pulpit to attack the anti-fascists even though just two weeks ago, a white supremacist killed 22 people in an avowedly racist attack in El Paso.”
The battle between opposing extremist groups is spilling out onto the streets in America, as seen by Saturday’s protest. Left-wing anti-fascist demonstrators are gaining momentum due to the rise in far-right groups not only in America but across the globe. Although the protest in Portland on Saturday was reported to be generally peaceful with violence not erupting to disastrous consequences, what this protest does demonstrate, however, is the political unrest that is being witnessed in America, and which was assented by Donald Trump in his tweet. Proclaiming only one extremist group as an organization of terror instigates more political unrest and demonstrations that may result in more arrests, more violence and even deaths. With the rally in Portland being the biggest ever and with no solution for equanimity between the two contrasting ideologies, we can only assume the protests will continue to grow and memberships for each extremist groups will rise during the Trump era.
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