Both groups support white supremacy -- in government, in religion and in society as a whole.
To make their point, they often engage in acts of violence against anyone who doesn't agree with them.
Last time they held an event here, on June 30, people were hurt badly enough to be taken to the hospital.
Several anti-fascist activists were arrested.
It was an ugly, ugly day.
They're all doing it again tomorrow, August 4, at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The Proud Boys have promised to be armed, which is perfectly legal under Oregon's liberal gun laws. (Oregon is one of the five states with the broadest interpretation of "stand your ground," in the country. by the way.)
They will arrive in busloads from all over the west, including groups from Texas, Washington state and Arizona.
The Unpresidented Brass Band plans to be there, along with a larger group calling itself POPMOB. It will include folks from interfaith alliances, clown protestors and Rose City Antifa. The stated goal is to provide a peaceful alternative, to become the event that draws attention away from the white supremacists.
However, since the Patriot Prayer group wants to provoke violence, I don't see how POPMOB can keep things calm. And apparently, neither do my band mates; a meeting held last night included a discussion of how to prepare for a violent protest (write lawyer's and friends' phone numbers on your arm, carry water and snacks, and wear bandannas to cover your mouth in the event that pepper spray or smoke bombs are employed; and leave your contact lenses at home.)
This doesn't sound like anyone is expecting a peaceful event.
And so it begs the question: Why go?
Whom does this serve if we know that there are folks coming specifically because they count on things turning violent? What if I don't want to engage in violence? What if I want to leave and things get crazy and I can't leave?
Not everyone is cut out to engage violently, no matter how many fantasies one may have of being the strongman, the hero, in a time of physical danger. A childhood and adolescence filled with being bullied made me shy away from such incidents, rather than seek them out. It has taken me years to get past the inner embarrassment of recognizing that I'm more Walter Mitty than Superman. I am finally beginning to come to terms with it, and to recognize that when things turn violent, I'm of no use to anyone in a crowd. If I can't escape, then all I'll do is curl up into a fetal position and wait for the blows to stop. That sort of response was beaten into me from my earliest grade school days and even self-defense courses couldn't change it (I flunked a self-defense course back in the day. Nothing the instructor did or said could help me, and I was so wigged out from the practice violence with the padded attacker that I went home after the second session and never came back.)
Such self-knowledge can be damning. And in my case, it has been for a long time. But not now.
The stakes are higher. If I went downtown tomorrow, someone at home would be waiting nervously for my return. And if something happened to me, that someone would be positively bereft and brokenhearted. I can't do that to her. And I can't put myself in harm's way. I'm not a fighter. I'm a peacemaker.
And everyone above a certain age knows what Fighting For Peace is like...
Every person has to sort out these things for themselves. As for me, although I would dearly love to play with the band again, this is not the venue I want to do it in, and I'm staying away. I could go to services, but I'd have to go through downtown to get there and I'm frankly not even up for that small risk.
So I'll stay home. I'll pray for a peaceful outcome for my friends downtown, I'll spend loving time with my Sweetie, and I'll go for a bike ride in my neighborhood.
After Shabbat, I'll contact my local and state officials and urge them to find a way to prevent these bigots from coming back for another violent protest in the future.