The kick-off parade of Portland's annual Rose Festival was cancelled yesterday thanks to escalating threats from left-wing Antifa and pro-Trump militia types who over the past few days have been swapping promises of violent street confrontations at the event.
Thus, yet another aspect of American public life has succumb to the self-reinforcing provocateur tactics of extremist fringe groups.
The drama centers around the inclusion of the Multnomah County Republican Party (MCRP) in the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, which begins the city's Rose Festival.
Trouble began when Antifa leftist activists—acting under the monikers Direct Action Alliance and Oregon Students Empowered—created Facebook events which promised to confront the MCRP for the usual charges of hate mongering and fascism normalizing.
For the uninitiated, Antifa—short for anti-fascism—is a loose connection of anarcho-communists groups who seek to undermine the oppressive capitalist system we all toil under, mostly through blocking traffic and setting garbage cans on fire. These groups were part of the recent Berkeley brawl, and also showed up to smash Starbucks windows in DC on inauguration day.
The group said they were going to show up in force to protect minorities, including and limited to their LGBTQ+, Muslim, Latinx, Black, and Native neighbors from harassment and intimidation.
For the record, it's hard to think of a more embattled and despised minority than Portland-area Republicans.
James Buchal, chairman of the MCRP, said that the group was certainly concerned about threats from Antifa groups —which included promises on social media that Republican marchers would be "stabbed to death"—but said he was still saddened by the cancelling of the parade.
"Its a tradition," he says of the parade. "We march, the Democrats march, even the Greens now march." He noted that the MCRP had marched in every Avenue of the Roses parade without incident since he has been chairman.
Not helping the MCRP any was the promise from Joey Gibson—of the Facebook page Patriot Prayer—to also march in the 82nd Avenue of Roses parade as a means of protecting Portland Republicans.
Gibson released a video on Patriot Prayer's page Monday in which he ranted about his plans to confront any masked Antifa who dared to not show their face on the day, blending a professed support for free speech with grade-school level taunts.
"There's going to be a bunch of us going down on Saturday. You know the place, you know the time," he said in the video. "If you want to hurt us and you want to kill us, well the real men will be down there, and we'll be waiting."
The same day this video came out, an anonymous email was sent from an Antifa sympathizer to parade organizers saying that if the MRCP were allowed to march "we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade, into the middle, and drag and push those people out" adding that "you have seen the power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us."
The email also promises that protestors will only use non-violent methods (which you think would exclude pushing and dragging).
That email proved the final straw for parade organizers who said in a Tuesday announcement that "following threats of violence during the Parade by multiple groups planning to demonstrate at the event, we can no longer guarantee the safety of our community and have made the difficult decision to cancel the Parade."
The Direct Action Alliance sent out a press release expressing disappointment that the parade had been cancelled while still defending their actions saying "no Portland child will see a march in support of this fascist regime go unopposed."
Joey Gibson also released a video bemoaning the cancellation of the parade to a soundtrack of sad music. "These kids are extremely selfish," he said in reference to Antifa. "They don't care about other people, they don't care about their community."
What is perhaps most interesting about this sad little episode is that both Antifa and Joey Gibson's Patriot Prayer crowd framed their actions as some sort of defense of the parade and the Portland community.
Yet the only thing preventing the parade from going off without a hitch was the actions and threats of these two groups. Both were all too happy to sandbag a pretty innocuous parade for the purposes of political posturing and YouTube views.
Hopefully one day, Portlanders can again plan an event (with a handful of Republicans included!) where the only chance of cancelation comes from the very credible threat of rain.