The weekend violence was sparked by a warm-up act for a weekend waterfront rally by right-wing pastor and Christian rocker Sean Feucht, who organized anti-COVID measures protests as part of a west coast tour. Canadian preacher Artur Pawlowski, another anti-masker, wanted to speak to a small crowd on Saturday when the event was broken up by anti-fascists.
While Fox News and others portrayed the brawl on Saturday as an attack on a Christian group by the Antifa (Andy Ngo described it as "a coordinated violent attack on Christian families"), the conflicts appear to have started mainly between protesters and the "security team" which was populated mainly by Proud Boys and militiamen.
Feucht held a rally in downtown Portland in August 2020, which was also a protest against state COVID-19 restrictions, which attracted several hundred maskless participants but relatively few protesters.
On Saturday the dynamic was reversed, with a very small anti-mask crowd listening to Pavlovsky. The anti-fascists confronted several far-right thugs at the beginning of the dispute, including Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer. Then they began tossing the group's speakers and public address system into the nearby Willamette River. The Portland Police broke up the riot.
During the remainder of the Pavlovsky presentation, there continued to be conflicts between counter-demonstrators and the security team. Pop fireworks were reportedly thrown into a group of children once. Afterward, the confrontations were broadcast onto the streets of downtown Portland, and some of the Proud Boys could be seen strolling through them with batons, baseball bats, and paintball guns. A group of them encountered a group of anti-fascists, threatened to attack them and were sprayed with maces, which scattered them. Many piled up on the back of a pickup truck and fled.
"The Nazis came out and we drove them out again," anti-fascist Wade Varner told Zane Sparling of the Portland Tribune. "I'm sitting here completely unarmed in a wheelchair and this fucker shoots me in the face with a paintball."
Proud Boys provided “security” for the rally on Sunday in downtown Portland.
On Sunday, the rally in Feucht again attracted a considerable number of several hundred. Subsequently, thanks to his security squad, Feucht tweeted with a photo of them (including Gibson) with a threatening text:
These are all ex-military, ex-police, private security, and most importantly, LOVERS OF JESUS and freedom. If you mess with them or our 1st Amendment Right to Worship God, you will encounter Jesus in one way or another.
However, the conflicts after the rally on Sunday were more widespread and more intense, mainly thanks to the presence of the Proud Boys "security forces" who threatened and attacked bystanders. One of the security teams was led by the notorious Proud Boy bully Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, who threatened protesters with a variety of weapons, including batons and a two-by-four.
As evening came the fighting became more intense and widespread. Oregon Public Broadcasting's Sergio Olmos recorded a series of the confrontations that lasted nearly an hour. Anti-fascists fired the Proud Boys with fireworks, while Toese incited them by promising to hit them with a baseball bat. Large pickups drove aggressively through the protesters, apparently intent on hitting some of them.
At one point, a man who appeared to be carrying a semi-automatic rifle was spotted carrying it through the streets of Portland (where carrying firearms openly is illegal) and walking past a crowded bar. He was also seen pointing it at a photojournalist who followed him, as well as an unarmed black protester who yelled at him.
The man reportedly turned himself in to police, who then discovered that the man's rifle was actually a non-lethal airsoft pellet pistol designed to mimic an AR-15 semi-automatic. He was released and continued to roam the downtown streets.
When Toese and his cohorts left Portland, they fired Roman candles at the demonstrators. The fireworks ricocheted off downtown buildings.
The respected Portland Minister then condemned the Rev. Chuck Currie Ngo and Fox for portraying the whole affair as an attack on Christians.
“This was not a 'family Christian prayer meeting,'” he wrote. "It was a far-right political rally organized by a failed MAGA congressional candidate from California."