Hundreds of far-right protesters from as far away as Florida gathered on the waterfront in Portland, Oregon for a “Freedom March” on Saturday. Dozens of those interviewed said they were there to utilize their “freedom of speech.” To do so, they came armed with bats, weighted fighting gloves, wooden poles, canisters of mace, knives, shields and body armor.
The police had declared a day earlier that all such weapons were illegal in Portland parks. But no effort was witnessed to confiscate the weapons or arrest the weapon-holders.
For hours, four lines of riot police kept the far right separated from a much larger crowd of anti-fascists. The Portland police seemingly wanted to avoid a replay of June 30, when they took a hands-off approach to another far-right rally that quickly degenerated into a violent brawl of about 100 people, resulting in five hospitalizations.
This time it was the police who sent protesters to the hospital. Later in the day, when the far right decided to march into the city, police decided to sweep the streets of counter-protesters. Neither side had permits, but police provided protection to the far right to march for two blocks.
To clear the way, police shot dozens of flash-bang grenades at more than 1,000 people who had gathered to oppose what they say are white supremacists.
According to the Oregon ACLU, “To our knowledge, no other police force in America uses crowd control weapons with the regularity of the Portland Police Bureau.”
Flash-bang grenades are explosives that are potentially lethal, according to the Sandia National Laboratories.
Portland police could be seen using grenade launchers to fire the canisters that tore through the air and exploded above protesters’ heads hundreds of feet away.
According to the Rosehips Medics, a collective that provides first aid during street protests, at least three people were hit by the flash-bang grenades.
Two of those hit were sent to the hospital. Raw Story has obtained exclusive photos of some of the injuries. One man was sent to the hospital with a head wound. According to a source in contact with the injured man and his girlfriend, his life was saved only by the helmet he was wearing.
Photos show a heavy-duty bicycle helmet punctured by a flash-bang grenade canister. On the other side of the helmet blood can be seen. Flesh and blood are massed on the man’s head in a different photo as he wears a neck brace and is treated by medical personnel.
According to a text message from his girlfriend, a trauma nurse at the hospital said, “The hit would have been lethal if he wasn’t wearing a helmet.”