Police in riot gear stood between opposing protesters on the Harlow Road overpass above Interstate 5 for nearly three hours May 5.Chants swelled from both sides. Pro-Trump protesters waved American flags and held anti-abortion signs while chanting “U.S.A.” on one side of the street while counter-protesters rebutted with, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.”
The demonstration stemmed from Oregon Women For Trump organizing an “America First” rally and flag wave, advertising the event on Facebook as “Pro-LIFE, Pro-WALL, Pro-GOD, Pro-FAMILY” and pro-first and second amendments.Posters were distributed by counter-protesters, calling on the community to show up in opposition and “show support to P.O.C, LGBTTQ+” and anyone in the community who feels threatened.
As police encouraged protesters to stick to their own side, people jeered across the street at one another. At one point, a group of counter-protesters joined pro-Trump protesters on one side of the bridge and a woman dressed in all black led a chant of “Whose streets? Our streets” until her voice went hoarse.
Regardless of what side of the street people were on, they showed up because they are invested in the values they want to see reflected in their community. During a fight for what people believe is right, emotions ran high.
An activist by the name of Cozca Itzpapalotl led chants with the counter-protesters for a while before handing off the megaphone to a fellow activist. As she moved farther away from the frontline of the protest, she wiped a tear from her eye.
Itzpapalotl attended the counter-protest because of the violence she says members of the other side, specifically the Proud Boys, have inflicted on her fellow activists.“We’re experiencing a lot of bona fide violence from these hate groups,” Itzpapalotl said. “Proud Boys is a hate group.”
Proud Boys is a fraternal, far-right organization with both national and international chapters. Members of the group could be identified at the protest by their black polos with yellow trim and a yellow laurel on the left breast. The group describes itself as “western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” Proud Boys was classified as an extremist group by the FBI in 2018 because of ties to white nationalism found by Washington law enforcement, as reported by The Guardian.
Proud Boys has bylaws that punish members for starting violence, but the group frequently engages verbally with opposing protesters and believes in their right to defend themselves.During the protest, a Proud Boys member named Cole regularly hurled insults across the police line, at one point yelling, “It gets so hot when you’re wearing all black, so your vagina smells disgusting,” at a female counter-protester. An older Proud Boys member holding an American flag told Cole to calm down.
Shane, vice president of the Proud Boys Willamette Valley Chapter, was present at the protest, along with several other members, to support Oregon Women For Trump.
“We’re here to look out—everyone, even those guys over there, deserve (sic) their right to free speech whether or not we agree,” Shane said, referring to the counter-protesters.Shane’s chapter covers events from Wilsonville to Eugene. The chapter often travels to protests like this one to support their female counterparts.
“You have to be male [to be a member], but that’s not sexist,” Shane said. “We believe in supporting our housewives.”
Throughout the nearly three-hour event, counter-protesters outnumbered pro-Trump supporters. One counter-protester, Maggie O’Graey, stood calmly with her girlfriend, holding a sign stating, “This again?”
“We’re representing the people that don’t have the time or funds to be here or are too scared to be here,” O’Graey said. “I’m a white person in Oregon, it’s the least I can do to stand here with a sign.”