Hundreds of Trump supporters and alt-right Proud Boys clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters in Oregon on Monday with police having to break up scuffles that resulted in at least two arrests.
The Trump supporters, including members of the right-wing Proud Boys, came to the capitol building in Salem, about 45 miles south of Portland, in a caravan of vehicles on Monday afternoon, waving Trump 2020 signs and American flags and some carrying weapons.
The event was organized a week after a member of Patriot Prayer, a pro-Trump militia, was shot and killed at the end of a similar caravan in Portland.
Aaron ‘Jay’ Danielson, 39, was shot and killed by Antifa supporter Michael Reinoehl, 48, on August 29 as BLM and pro-Trump sides clashed in Portland. Five days later Reinoehl was shot and killed by police investigating Danielson’s killing.
The caravan on Monday deliberately avoided the tumultuous city of Portland with about 300 cars, including many massive pickup trucks, initially taking to the roads surrounding Oregon City before dispersing.
About 200 people, led by members of the far-right Proud Boys militia which advocates white supremacy, then decided to follow the road to Oregon’s capital, Salem, for a show of force on the steps of the state capitol building.
They were met by about 20 Black Lives Matter protesters.
After unfolding a large American flag on the steps of the Capitol, right-wing protesters charged counter-protesters, leaving several of them injured.
The two groups fired pepper spray at each other, at least one Trump supporter beat a Black Lives Matter protester with a baseball bat and a Trump supporter sprayed a fire extinguisher.
Videos on social media showed right-wing protesters chasing, tackling and assaulting left-wing protesters with weapons, their fists and with pepper spray.
Journalism students from South Salem High School, on the ground to witness the scene, said that both sides were armed – the Trump supporters with ‘lots of weapons’ including guns, bats, batons, knives and bear spray.
They said the BLM side was armed with baseball bats, and both sides stood on opposite sidewalks, hurling insults and chants at each other.
One BLM supporter was seen cowering beneath a shield as a man kicked him. The man then began punching the BLM protester, raining down blows from a standing position as the BLM activist curled up on the floor.
As he was punching him, another man was seen pointing a paintball gun in their direction.
Chemical irritants appeared to have been used and one man was pictured having his eyes and face doused with water.
At least two of the pro-Trump group were arrested. It was unclear if any of the BLM counter-protesters were detained.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Oregon State Police said officers with the state police and Salem Police Department responded at the scene across from the capitol when an ‘American Lives Matter Rally group’ charged at counter protesters, chasing and pushing them.
Two men were arrested, charged with misdemeanor assault and subsequently released, the spokesman said.
A heavy police presence was seen on Salem’s usually-peaceful streets amid the clashes.
As dusk fell members of BLM appeared to have left the scene and an uneasy calm returned, with the flag-waving Trump supporters left chatting on the grass in front of the Capitol.
The earlier caravan was organized on Facebook, and intended ‘to show our support for our great President Donald J. Trump and keep the momentum for Trump alive in Oregon’.
Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter supporters rallied in a city park and demonstrated peacefully in Portland on Monday afternoon.
In recent weeks, tensions have escalated in Portland between Trump supporters, including those who align themselves with the pro-gun, pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer, and left-wing, self-described ‘anti-fascist’ protesters.
The clashes resulted in the shooting death of a right-wing protester, 39-year-old Aaron Danielson, on Aug. 29. Federal agents later fatally shot a suspect in the killing, Michael Reinoehl, while trying to arrest him.
The Justice Department on Friday directly linked Reinoehl to the left-wing antifa movement, the first time it had drawn such a connection for a demonstrator facing federal charges in Portland.
Antifa is a largely unstructured movement whose followers broadly aim to confront those they view as authoritarian or racist.
Police arrested 15 people in Portland after protests near a police precinct overnight on Sunday. On Saturday night, the 100th day of protests, police arrested more than 50 people and used tear gas to disperse protesters who threw fire bombs.