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Proud Boys Portland rally largely peaceful but clashes downtown

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Hundreds of supporters of the right-wing Proud Boys group rallied in Portland, Oregon on Saturday in a largely peaceful event but police and left-wing protesters later clashed in the city’s downtown.

FILE PHOTO: A flag used by groups like Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer is seen on the sidewalk following clashes in Portland, Oregon, U.S., August 22, 2020. REUTERS/Maranie Staab/File Photo

The Proud Boys rally in a north Portland park ended after a few hours of speeches and chants, many against anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter groups which held a counter-protest two miles to the south.

Rocks and cans were thrown at police in downtown Portland on Saturday night and more than a dozen people were arrested, according to a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office statement. Bystander video showed police pushing back a crowd, with some people carrying Black Lives Matter signs.

The self-declared “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys had forecast a crowd of at least 10,000 at their rally but police said less than 1,000 showed up.

Dressed in black and yellow polo shirts, “Make America Great Again” hats and body armor, they railed against Democratic leaders in Portland, which has seen four months of near-daily left-wing demonstrations against police violence and racism.

“They’ve allowed 120 days of rioting and looting and murder happening within our streets and we’re locals so we’re just tired of this, that’s why we’re out here today,” said Haley Adams, wearing an anti-stab vest and a stars and stripes bandana.

State Governor Kate Brown declared a weekend state of emergency for Oregon’s biggest city, saying large numbers of “white supremacist groups” were traveling from out of state to attend the rally.

Proud Boys leaders said their presence pushed Brown to declare an emergency and create the kind of state and local police task force needed to keep the peace in a city President Donald Trump has called an “anarchist jurisdiction.”

“It’s crazy that it takes us to come here to solve things,” Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio said in video on the group’s Parler page.

Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden has said Trump’s rhetoric is stoking political violence.

Violence between protesters on the political left and right have escalated since mid August, with a self-declared anti-fascist shooting dead a right-wing Patriot Prayer member in Portland on Aug. 29.

As the Proud Boys rally broke up, Portland Police stopped vehicles for traffic violations, confiscated firearms, paintball guns, baseball bats and shields, and issued two citations for unlawful firearm possession. Police reported four arrests related to the rally and were investigating an assault of a person who was documenting the gathering.

City and state leaders said in a letter to the community that Proud Boys supporters had openly discussed military-style tactical operations and planned to cause chaos and violence.

The men-only Proud Boys group describes itself as a fraternal organization that “venerates the housewife” and is “anti-political correctness.”

Civil rights group The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group, citing its members’ anti-Muslim and misogynist rhetoric.

Reporting By Andrew Hay, Katie Paul and Deborah Bloom; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Stephen Coates