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Salem protest: Multiple arrests after right-wing and anti-fascist rallies on Friday

Statesman Journal (Salem) logo Statesman Journal (Salem) 1/3/2021 Connor Radnovich and Bill Poehler, Salem Statesman Journal
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Police declared an unlawful assembly and arrested three people Friday afternoon after people affiliated with Proud Boys and anti-fascists clashed in downtown Salem following concurrent peaceful protests earlier in the day.

Non-lethal munitions, including flash-bang grenades, were used to disperse the crowd, while Salem Police reported that smoke canisters and lit fireworks were thrown at them. At least one fight between counter-protesters also occurred before the groups were separated.

No injuries or damage to property were reported, Salem Police reported Saturday.

"While most attendees seemed intent on peacefully demonstrating, a subset from each group were in fact seeking confrontations and conflict with opposing groups and the police," Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack said in a statement. "We must protect the rights of those peacefully assembling while simultaneously working to stop the few individuals intent on jeopardizing community safety up to and including acts of violence."

a group of people walking down a street holding an umbrella: Right-wing demonstrators flash the OK symbol, a symbol that has become associated with white supremacy and the far right, as they march from the Oregon State Capitol to Gov. Kate Brown's residence during a Mass Civil Disobedience rally on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 in Salem, Oregon. © ABIGAIL DOLLINS / STATESMAN JOURNAL Right-wing demonstrators flash the OK symbol, a symbol that has become associated with white supremacy and the far right, as they march from the Oregon State Capitol to Gov. Kate Brown's residence during a Mass Civil Disobedience rally on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 in Salem, Oregon.

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Two rallies

A Fascist Free 503 rally started at noon in Bush’s Pasture Park where a few dozen people clad in all black clothing gave and listened to speeches about the Black Lives Matter movement, anger toward police and how much work is needed to create a just society.

“Our town is crawling with dangerous people right now,” said a speaker who wouldn’t give his name.

Kicking off about an hour later, a few hundred people gathered for a Mass Civil Disobedience rally held by Oregon Women For Trump at the Oregon State Capitol Building, railing against COVID-19 restrictions placed on schools and businesses.

They called for businesses to defy the governor’s orders and for people to no longer wear masks.

“It's time to open up our state and save lives,” Janira Brannigan of Oregon Women for Trump said to the crowd.

Speakers also parroted already-debunked accusations of widespread voter fraud in November's election and called on those in attendance to try to prove the existence of falsified ballots.

Police confirmed that the event was "heavily attended" by people connected to the Proud Boys, a violent, far-right group with ties to white nationalism. It is deemed a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Attendees at both rallies were armed with various weapons, including knives, chemical sprays, batons, paintball guns and firearms, police said.

When the rally at the Capitol concluded around 2 p.m., most of the crowd then marched through the rain to Mahonia Hall, Gov. Kate Brown's residence.

Some protesters blocked the road while marching. In response, Salem Police warned them that "enforcement actions may be taken for crimes committed," including blocking roadways.

Dozens of Oregon State Police troopers and Salem Police officers were at Mahonia Hall when protesters arrived.

Groups square off

While protesters were walking back toward the Capitol from Mahonia Hall around 4 p.m., Salem Police said Proud Boys approached a group of of anti-fascists, "armed with bats, paintball guns and firearms" outside Epilogue Kitchen and Cocktails at High and State streets.

Jonathan Jones, owner of Epilogue, was among those outside his business. He said they were protecting it; two weeks ago the businesses was the target of sticker graffiti from a white supremacist group.

"I was defending my space and they advanced on us. A couple people threw punches and it started to become a brawl and then the police got there," Jones said.

But when the police arrived, Jones said they seemed more focused on pushing his group back toward the restaurant instead of keeping the Proud Boys away from them.

The situation only shifted when a police officer arrived who could confirm that Jones was the business owner, he said.

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“When the police showed up, we were assumed to be the assailants," Jones said. "That is absolutely ridiculous."

According to Salem Police, when they arrived, officers attempted to keep both groups apart, but neither group was complying with police commands. Eventually, the Proud Boys were "forcibly moved" away from the business, while the anti-fascists were moved toward the business to "keep them from repeatedly interfering with enforcement actions."

Once they were separated, an unlawful assembly was declared, police said. .

"The declaration was given because the crowd no longer appeared to be protesting but was instead attempted to instigate fighting and tumultuous behavior. When officers attempted to push the crowd back, they were met with physical resistance and smoke grenades," Salem Police said in a Saturday statement.

a man wearing a suit and tie: A protester holds up the U.S. Flag during a Mass Civil Disobedience rally on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 at the governor's residence in Salem, Oregon. © ABIGAIL DOLLINS / STATESMAN JOURNAL A protester holds up the U.S. Flag during a Mass Civil Disobedience rally on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 at the governor's residence in Salem, Oregon.

Three people were arrested after the unlawful assembly was declared. They were: Robert Davis, 31 of Springfield, for second-degree disorderly conduct; Joshua Lindquist, 33 of Salem, for interfering with a police officer and unlawful possession of fireworks; and Max Damaskin, 33 of Salem, for carrying a concealed firearm, second-degree disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.

It took around an hour to move the crowd back to the state Capitol, police said.

And about 20 minutes after the large police presence disappeared, Jones said someone drove by and tried to spray them with bear mace.

Reporter Connor Radnovich covers the Oregon Legislature and state government. Contact him at cradnovich@statesmanjournal.com or 503-399-6864, or follow him on Twitter at @CDRadnovich.

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This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Salem protest: Multiple arrests after right-wing and anti-fascist rallies on Friday

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