Dueling protest groups faced off near the grounds of the Oregon Capitol building Sunday afternoon. Police tried to separate the groups, but skirmishes broke out in the surrounding blocks.
In a particularly volatile moment, one man was taken into custody by police after he confronted a crowd with a gun. Others were detained as police ordered the crowd to disperse.
Right-wing demonstrators initially gathered in Sandy for a “Freedom Rally” then traveled to the Capitol. A flier for the event said they planned a “flag wave to honor those who fought for our freedoms.”
The plans attracted more than 150 counter-protesters, who arrived at the Capitol hours earlier. They billed their gathering as a “direct action in opposition to a fascist event.”
The crowd pelted passing trucks — many flying a combination of American, Thin Blue Line and Trump flags — with paint and objects that in some cases shattered windows. Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, telling the crowd to disperse.
The Salem Police Department, meanwhile, said it had turned away the caravan arriving from Salem. But members of the two groups clashed in the area surrounding the Capitol, chased by local and state police officers in tactical armor.
A few blocks from the Capitol, a man in a truck being hit with thrown objects got out of the vehicle and pulled a gun.
A nearby police officer ordered the man to the ground. More arrived, pushing the crowd back as the man was cuffed and his truck, decorated with American flags, was searched.
In other confrontations, demonstrators deployed pepper sprays.
Police repeatedly ordered the crowds to leave the area and go home. Dozens of officers could be seen in the downtown core, responding to one confrontation after another.
The Salem Police Department and Oregon State Police had posted a notice ahead of the weekend’s events.
“Causing physical harm to others, damage to property or purposefully blocking streets are unacceptable situations which will be addressed to best ensure community safety,” the notice said.
A small group of armed right-wing protesters previously gathered at the Capitol on Jan. 17 as part of a nationally publicized day of statehouse protests that mostly failed to materialize. Counter-protesters showed up, but the groups did not confront one another.
Protesters also demonstrated at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the same day a mob supporting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Counter-demonstrators arrived in Salem a few hours after the local rally began, and clashes ensued before police appeared and declared an unlawful assembly.
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