PORTLAND, Ore. — The more fascists that turn up in Portland this weekend, the more money they’ll end up raising for an anti-fascist cause.
Members of the neofascist Proud Boys gang and other militant far-right groups are set to invade the City of Roses this Saturday for yet another rally along the riverfront. But for each fascist who shows up here, counterprotesters have pledged to donate money to a local Latino immigrant rights group.
If, for example, someone pledges a dime per fascist, and 300 fascists show up Saturday, that person would owe a $30 donation.
“Every one of the fascists that shows up is raising money for a cause that they hate,” explained Jesse Goldman, a spokesperson for Popular Mobilization (or PopMob), a local coalition of groups organizing the counterprotest.
The money will go to Causa, which advocates for Oregon’s Latino population at the state and national level, and helps protect local undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The Proud Boys and their fascist fellow travelers are decidedly anti-immigrant. (“All the immigrants that jump our border, we should be smashing their heads into the concrete,” one Proud Boy associate was filmed saying into a megaphone at a Portland rally last year.)
The tactic of turning fascist gatherings into benefits for anti-fascist causes has gained popularity in recent years. For every meter of the route neo-Nazis marched through Wunsiedel, Germany, this past November, residents there arranged for 10 euros to be sent to a program called EXIT Deutschland, which assists people escaping extremist groups. Residents hung banners making fun of the Nazis, thanking them for their donations. (All told, 10,000 euros were raised.)
Counterprotesters in Portland are hoping to strike a similar mocking tone Saturday. The PopMob coalition — which includes anti-fascist groups, labor unions and other assorted leftist organizations — distributed flyers this week explaining its strategy.
“These far right jerks want to come to our city, clad in military gear and camo, acting out their sick war games fantasies, so they can put it on YouTube and recruit more gross dudes like them with their toxic masculinity riot porn,” a flyer said, continuing:
“We have had enough. We decided instead of giving them the fight they’re looking for, we want to make it virtually impossible for them to get a single shot of themselves looking as tough and macho as these dweebs have convinced themselves they are.”
And so PopMob is encouraging people to embrace the absurd. There are plans for a contingent of protesters to dress up as poop emojis. An anti-fascist brass band will be dressed as bananas.
“We want every photo opportunity they have to be ruined by a banana playing the tuba, a giant poop emoji, an inflatable unicorn, bubbles, glitter, rainbows, proud ecstatic queers, drag queens and every kind of absurdity you can imagine,” the group’s flyer says.
It’s unclear how many fascists will turn up Saturday, but the city is understandably on edge. The Proud Boys and other far-right groups like Patriot Prayer, emboldened by the rise of President Donald Trump, have terrorized the city over the last three years, holding a series of violent rallies where they’ve often clashed with anti-fascist (or “antifa”) protesters.
Florida-based Proud Boy and former Infowars conspiracy theorist Joe Biggs organized this Saturday’s rally as a protest against anti-fascist activists, whom he believes should be designated domestic terrorists by the government.
Over the past month Biggs has made explicit calls to violence against anti-fascist protesters. In one video posted online, Biggs can be seen brandishing a Trump-themed baseball bat, saying he planned on putting the bat to “good use” Saturday.
“DEATH TO ANTIFA!” Biggs wrote in a tweet. “Get a gun,” he wrote in another. “Get ammo. Get your gun license. Get training.”
Likely under pressure from law enforcement — and in the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left 31 people dead — Biggs has since dialed back the calls to violence, telling his followers to come unarmed.
But police are still preparing for the worst. “We’ve been sitting on a powder keg and everything is kind of coming to a head at this point,” Danielle Outlaw, chief of Portland police, told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Not just because of what’s happening locally, but nationally.”
Outlaw has promised a large police presence at the rally and has said cops will not hesitate to use force. (At a rally in August of last year, police directed a shocking level of force against anti-fascists, firing nonlethal flash-bang grenades, one of which ended up lodged in a protester’s helmet. The city launched an investigation into the police response.)
If Portlanders want to stay safe this Saturday, Outlaw has insisted, they should just stay at home.
But activists at PopMob reject that idea.
“What’s even more unsafe is letting these movements go unopposed,” Effie Baum, a spokesperson for PopMob, told the Portland Mercury. “If we don’t go, they’re going to continue to grow and continue to come back.”
“Honestly,” Baum said, “the growing far-right movement is far more dangerous than the decision to show up and oppose it.”