Portland Probing Police Action Against Anti-Fascist Protesters At Far-Right Rally

Police chief orders investigation of "allegations of injury as result of law enforcement action."

Portland’s police chief has ordered a review of her officers’ behavior at a far-right rally Saturday after police were accused of a bloody, heavy-heavy crackdown against anti-fascist protesters.

Police chief Danielle Outlaw said in a statement that she learned Sunday of “allegations of injury as a result of law enforcement action” at the Oregon rally, adding: “I take all force applications by members seriously.”

Outlaw said she has directed Portland’s Professional Standards Division to “determine if force was used and if so, was within our policy and training guidelines.”

Police in riot gear tried to keep the two groups apart in the traditionally liberal city. But when that didn’t work witnesses said the police protected the right-wing protesters — many of whom had been bussed in from out of town — and fired flash-bang grenades at counterprotesters. Police also rushed anti-fascist protesters and shoved some of them out of the street.

One flash-bang grenade canister reportedly pierced an anti-fascist’s helmet, cutting into his head. “I’m certain he would be dead if he wasn’t wearing a helmet,” 39-year-old Jenny Nickolaus, an anti-fascist demonstrator and friend of the victim, told HuffPost.

A woman also was hit by a flash-bang grenade, her boyfriend told The Willamette Week, leaving her with cuts and a possible arm fracture.

Portland Police Sgt. Chris Burley told HuffPost he was “not aware of anyone that received medical treatment for injuries suffered by actions of law enforcement.”

Police “targeted Portland residents peacefully counter-protesting against racist far-right groups, including white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazi gangs,” the Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America said in a statement Saturday. The groups called on officials to investigate.

Saturday’s clashes started with demonstrators aligned with Patriot Prayer and an affiliated group, the Proud Boys, gathering in a riverfront park. The Proud Boys has been categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hundreds of counter-demonstrators faced them from across the street, holding banners and chanting: “Nazis go home.”

When skirmishes broke out, police ordered the anti-fascist demonstrators to disperse. That’s when they fired dozens of flash-bang grenades other crowd-control munitions into people. 

An Oregonian reporter was treated at a local hospital after being struck in the head by an object during the commotion. He’s “doing fine,” The Oregonian reported.

Four people were arrested.

Outlaw did not say when the review of her officers’ actions is expected to be completed.