At K-Mart, shit was a little weird. They’d brought a trailer covered in what looked like astroturf to use as a stage, with a huge US flag as a backdrop. A six-foot mockup of the Statue of Liberty stood to one side, and a US flag with a peace sign replacing the 50 stars flew from the other. A cluster of people gathered at the stage, listening to speeches while a similar number of men in tactical gear stood scattered throughout the parking lot with paintball guns, the yellow and black clothing peeking out from behind body armor identifying them as Proud Boys. A banner had been hung above the entrance to the old K-Mart that read “Free our political prisoners,” referring to those who have been arrested in the aftermath of January 6th.
I don’t think I ever found full video of the far-right speeches, but there was at least one snippet of Proud-Boy strongman “Tiny” Toese (who has been in and out of jail for being violent at protests). “Why lie?” he asked, addressing a hypothetical trans women entering a women’s bathroom. “Just say you identify as a pervert.” He looked back and forth across the crowd. “But guess what? If you wanna identify as a woman and go in there, I’mma follow you in there as a woman, too. Then I’ll whoop your ass.” Not sure if this violent pervert saw the recursive problem with her argument, but I’m not sure if anyone in the crowd did, either.
Tiny’s wasn’t the only speech, but it’s the only one I’m able to find details of in my tangle of reference material. Meanwhile, antifa was beginning trickle in.
I’m not sure exactly what kicked off the violence. Far as I can tell it had something to do with a decommissioned Metro West van full of black bloc. My best guess would be that it had entered the parking lot, Proud Boys opened paintball fire, and the van’s occupants bailed while the vehicle was still in motion, leaving it to crash into a shrub. While I doubt the driver was trying to run down a PB, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were driving intensely, and it wouldn’t surprise me if PBs got jumpy.
Whatever sparked the violence, Proud Boys rushed the now-empty van and smashed its windows out. Others advanced in a scatter, firing a torrent of paintballs at the cluster of bloc who were beginning to form up. What followed was a half-hour roving street battle between antifa and what was probably just Proud Boys at this point.
The bloc retreated under constant paintball fire, packed up in the same sort of formation they would use against the cops. Shields, umbrellas, you know the drill. It was an interesting contrast to the Proud Boys’ loose lack of formation, but, whether intentional or not, being so widely spread was the right tactical counter to the fireworks the bloc was throwing at them, and the tight cluster was the right way to defend your grenadiers against suppressing paintball fire. What I saw, though, was the battle always moving that one direction: PBs advancing and the bloc retreating. And from the mood of the PBs, you could tell they saw themselves as winning.
“I love this shit!” one shouted. “Fuck Antifa!” chants abounded, with a passion that led me to wonder if the Proud Boys were really much of anything besides antiAntifa at this point.
Probably the scariest part was as the battle passed a Chevron. Seeing fireworks go off next to a gas pump… man… that could have gone so, so bad so, so fast.
It’s hard to put together the exact timing and sequence of everything, despite probably having enough footage from various sources to do so. I know there were two waves of violence. It looks like the first pushed south, past the Chevron, across Skidmore, past a 7-Eleven, US Bank, up to about the post office. I think that it was during this lull when someone in bloc assaulted indie journalist Maranie Staab.
But I’ll get back to that.
The second push appeared to be to the west on Skidmore. Which suggests that the PBs regrouped on Skidmore, to the east of where the first push had been. Which almost suggests the intent to flank the bloc as they returned up 122nd. Not that they could go unnoticed to spring an ambush or anything, but — yeah, I just don’t know. Regardless, the fight landed in the parking lot of Parkrose High School, where PBs beat the ever-loving shit out of a man and his truck.
But I’ll get back to that.
Let it not be thought that the far right does not assault journalists. They do. Especially radical leftist “fake” journalists.
Do we have that understood and out of the way? Good. Cuz what people in bloc did to Staab was fucking disgusting, and it needs talked about.
It was all about being filmed. Bloc hates being filmed. It’s been a point of contention for a long, long time, and it’s not the first time bloc has smashed a journalist’s camera. Hell, it’s not the first time bloc has assaulted a sympathetic journalist, either. Remember when they thought Justin Yau was Andy Ngo?
Video shows one person in bloc come up to a cluster of press, swiping unsuccessfully at a woman’s phone. “I’ll smash all your cameras and phones, fuck you. Get the fuck out. Get the fuck out.” He turns to Staab who stands defiantly, refusing to back down. “Get the fuck out, [cata]!”
I’m not at all sure about that last word. Phonetically, “cata” is the best I can come up with. One source wrote it as “cutta,” perhaps short for “cutter,” though I’ve only ever seen that word used that way in the video game Planescape, so I’m pretty skeptical. Maranie reported in an interview that she was told it was “cota,” meaning “dog,” but I can’t find any corroboration of that translation. There is the Catahoula Leopard Dog, named after a Louisiana parish, and there’s the Bully Kutta, a breed popular on the Indian Subcontinent, but neither seems likely to have been the meaning.
The only other idea I’ve come up with is that the guy mistook her for The Oregonian’s Cata Gaitán. Except that he immediately railed at Staab for traveling to Colombia and “opening them up to COVID.” Staab did indeed travel to Colombia in June to report on protests there, and I’m not finding anything about Gaitán doing similar, so the guy seemed to know who he was yelling at. Maybe he just dropped the wrong name in the heat of the moment? I dunno.
The guy in bloc turned around and marched back to the rest. Staab, for some fuckin’ reason, followed. A couple of bloc were milling around with kitchen fire extinguishers, which I’d never noticed before. Not sure if they were meant as weapons or to put out any brush fires started by their fireworks. (As if the Proud Boys would let them get close.)
The camera cuts and jumps to a scene of Staab walking away from the bloc. Something white and chunky gets thrown generally at the press and sails past the camera. From the sound it made on landing, I’m guessing a paint balloon. The camera pulls left at the absolute worst time, as Staab is out of frame just as something happens that throws her screaming to the ground. The whole press cluster rushes forward. The camera, of course, does not stay steady enough to tell what’s going on. There’s a couple snapping sounds I can’t identify. More paint balloons, maybe? “Go! How many times do we have to fucking tell you!” Sounded like the same voice as before. “We don’t want to harm her,” says a woman who sounds worried. “We’re not,” says a third voice as the camera refocuses on Staab — on her knees but crumpled toward the ground, hands against her eyes. Large purple splotches cover her formerly brown shirt. More paint? Witnesses say she also got maced, though I didn’t see it happen. Other press help her to her feet and give her support as she staggers away from a stew of profanity.
Camera cuts again, now a ways from the bloc, where someone is handing Staab a bottle of water. “Can you rinse your mouth out?” She pours it on her face instead. “Is there a medic in the crowd?” someone asks. Staab struggles to open her eyes. “I can’t see,” she says.
The camera pans left. The bloc is advancing, umbrellas attempting to hide faces that all look the same anyway. A fire extinguisher is on point. “You’re not gonna fuckin’ die,” a woman behind him derides.
“Fucking stop filming!” the guy on point shouts, rushing forward. The camera turns away in defense and his fire extinguisher is clearly heard. The press scrum rushes away and the clip ends.
Is this what antifascism looks like?
To be continued…