Portland, Oregon is bracing for a rally on Saturday organized by far-right groups targeting Portland’s antifascist groups.
The protest has been promoted primarily by Floridian Joe Biggs, a member of the rightwing Proud Boys organization. Biggs is a combat veteran and a former employee of the conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones’s Infowars network. He claims that up to 1,000 people from around the country will attend Saturday’s unpermitted event on the city’s waterfront.
In promoting the rally on social media, Biggs has brandished a Trump-themed baseball bat, appeared in videos wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Training to Throw Communists Out of Helicopters” – a reference to the Chilean Pinochet regime’s methods for executing dissidents – and has taunted antifascists, saying “You’re not gonna feel safe when you go out in public” and “I’m gonna stomp your ass into the ground, Antifa”.
The rally has also been heavily promoted in conservative media outlets along with its underlying message – the claim that anti-fascist groups, known as “antifa”, are domestic terrorists.
Anti-fascist groups have called for a counter-protest and Portland is expecting clashes. Arun Gupta explains why Portland has become the epicenter for right-wing violence.
Portland has joined Berkeley, New York, Charlottesville, and Seattle as liberal cities that have become flash points for far-right violence since Donald Trump took office in 2017. But Portland is unique in that the far right has turned the city into a regular battleground.
Why Portland? The city presents a unique mix of past and present white nationalism; policing that enables the far right; weak political leaders; and a legacy of antifascist organizing. Combined, these elements allow the far right to stage violent spectacles with few legal consequences against their ideological enemies — antifa, liberals, so-called PC culture, cities — while using social media to glorify the violence as a recruiting tool and proof of their racial and masculine virility.
Meanwhile, the investigative journalistic outfit ProPublica has a report on a member of a white supremacist neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen who had planned a major attack on Jews.
For two years, the basic description had appeared in reporting by ProPublica and Frontline: Atomwaffen Division is a neo-Nazi organization eager for a race war and committed to terrorist attacks against Jews, immigrants and other targets in the U.S. — power grids, nuclear facilities — that would foment fear.
So it was striking, then, when late last week those very words turned up a formal complaint filed by federal prosecutors as they announced the arrest of a 23-year-old man in Las Vegas for plotting to firebomb one or more Jewish sites in the city.
[Conor] Climo, according to the complaint, first became a subject of the bureau’s interest when he was featured in a local news segment about his plans for keeping Las Vegas secure. He publicly carried an automatic weapon and wore a tactical vest. Agents later became aware that Climo was allegedly affiliated with Atomwaffen, and they soon lined up a confidential informant to contact him. Climo, according to the complaint, eagerly shared his ideas for targeting Jewish sites, and in time, the FBI had an agent posing as a white supremacist ally begin dealing with Climo.
A subsequent search of Climo’s residence turned up guns and bomb-making materials. Climo, who prosecutors say talked freely with the authorities even after his arrest, has been charged with possession of an unregistered firearm, which carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison. Climo does not yet appear to have entered a plea in the case.
Groups like Atomwaffen and Proud Boys tend to attract and breed people with vague generalized grievances against anyone who is not a white Christian and it is inevitable that some percentage of them will see themselves in the role of a ‘hero’ who feels ‘called’ to take some violent action to ‘save’ the white race.