A new anti-fascist group plans a rally Saturday in downtown Portland – part of series scheduled in cities across the country – but the demonstrations have whipped up a heap of warnings by right-wing groups on social media that the gatherings will signal a “civil war.”
Robert Brown, lead organizer for the Portland event, dismissed the claims of planned violence as “nonsense” and a “hoax” intended to scare people from participating in the march. A national spokesman for the group sponsoring the protests, Refuse Fascism, also denounced claims of any attacks during any of the demonstrations.
Since August, Facebook groups, YouTube videos and posts on other social media platforms – including use of the tag #CivilWar2017 – have warned that anti-fascists will cause a violent uprising Nov. 4 against supporters of the Trump administration.
The claims have ranged from the staging of “mass riots” to plans to “kill every single Trump voter, Conservative and gun owner.”
Portland police said they know of no plans for violence during Saturday’s permitted event.
The demonstration – calling for the removal of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from office — comes nearly a year after the general election set off nationwide protests, including in Portland, where protesters and counter-protesters repeatedly clashed with each other and police.
Refuse Fascism, founded late last year, is holding a series of Nov. 4 rallies in Salem, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and 13 other cities.
The purpose of the event, Brown said, is to help kick off continued nonviolent demonstrations in a public movement akin to what led up to the impeachment and removal of South Korean President Park Gun-hye in March.
Brown said he expects a crowd between 200 to 1,000 people here and anticipates appearances from antifa supporters as well as members from conservative group Patriot Prayer and militia group The Three Percenters. The rally will start about 2 p.m. at Jamison Square in downtown Portland with a march to Tom McCall Waterfront Park about 3:30 or 4 p.m., he said.
He said demonstrators plan to stay in the park overnight and aim to occupy a Southeast Portland park starting next week until Christmas if they receive enough supporters.
“It’s possible a few people may come expecting some kind of civil war, but if they do, I suspect they’ll be pretty disappointed,” said Brown, a 23-year-old fourth-year student at Portland State University.
The talk of violence has been concerning, he said. He has gotten death threats and said it’s possible someone could act based on the fear-mongering, he said.
Portland Police Sgt. Chris Burley said the agency is working to vet the credibility of any rumors of violence leading up to the march, but as of Thursday hadn’t found any evidence a problem. He said he couldn’t speak about any specific threats under investigation. He asked the public to report any information on suspicious activity or threats to Portland police.
“We want to ensure that while people have differing viewpoints, that everyone has a safe space to exercise their First Amendment rights without fear for their safety or their property,” Burley said.
— Everton Bailey Jr.