Far-right demonstrators, counter-protesters and police clashed in a number of states in the U.S. The series of clashes between far-right militia, pro-Confederacy groups, and anti-fascist (Antifa) counter-protesters erupted across the U.S. on Saturday.
Mostly peaceful protests against racial injustice have been ongoing for weeks following the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. Clashes between opposing groups have also occurred. Notably in late July, two opposing, heavily armed militia groups came within a few dozen yards of each of other in Louisville, but avoided violence.
Media reports from the U.S. said on August 16, 2020:
Fights broke out in multiple states Saturday in clashes involving a variety of groups, including the far-right Proud Boys, counter-protesters supporting Black Lives Matter and police officers in riot gear.
The multiple instances of tensions between opposing factions was a departure from the typically peaceful protests against racial inequality that have occurred in recent weekends. But the conflicts reported as of Saturday afternoon have been limited to scattered fights.
In Michigan, a planned rally by the alt-right, male-only Proud Boys met with counter protesters, leading to escalating tensions and arrests in Kalamazoo.
The Michigan clash involved the Proud Boys, a group listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to their white nationalist memes and affiliations with known extremists, according to the SPLC.
The Anti-Defamation League has called the male-only Proud Boys extremist. The Proud Boys dispute those descriptions.
“A fight occurred, people were fighting, and that’s when we stepped in,” Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said of the incident. He did not know exactly how many people were arrested.
A reporter for MLive.com said some of the Proud Boys also used pepper spray on people. The reporter was also detained by police while recording live on Facebook.
The First Congregational Church hosted a gathering of anti-racism counter-protesters.
“The Proud Boys, they not only have hatred for Jewish people and Muslim people, but they’re also very hateful of anybody who doesn’t look like them or act like them,” Rev. Nathan Dannison, the church’s pastor, told local outlet MLive.
The mask-less Proud Boys, who were chanting and waving American, Trump, and Gadsen flags, were later dispersed by police in riot gear.
One Black local reporter who was filming the scenes at the protest was arrested by police but was later let go. Police said, “a few arrests” were made, according to local affiliate WOOD-TV.
In Portland, a rally by a small group of alt-right demonstrators devolved Saturday as they traded paint balls and pepper spray with counter-protesters.
Four arrests were also made in Portland after a small group of alt-right demonstrators started shooting paintballs at counter-protesters.
At the Oregon Capitol in Salem on Saturday, several people with the Black Lives Matter movement were shoved down steps and into a crowd of BLM protesters.
The clash at the Oregon Capitol happened as groups of differing ideologies gathered to protest a wide variety of issues, including pandemic restrictions, human trafficking and racial injustice. But there were no police on hand, and the conflicts were broken up by those participating.
In Georgia, hours of mostly peaceful demonstrations escalated in Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta as large numbers of police moved in to disperse the crowds when fights broke out.
At Stone Mountain Park, Georgia — home to the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial — heavily armed far-right protesters attacked anti-fascist protesters with pepper spray.
Videos on social media showed a small number of heavily armed far-right protesters attacking anti-fascist protesters with pepper spray and yelling at them. Some fistfights also broke out.
At one point, a man with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and an assault weapon pointed his gun on the crowd, according to the Daily Beast.
The confrontation prompted police in riot gear and members of the National Guard to disperse the crowd. It is unclear whether any arrests were made.
A far-right paramilitary group called Three Percenters militia initially asked to hold a 2,000-person rally at the park on Saturday but were denied by police.
In preparation, authorities closed off entry points to the monument, suspended bus services, and asked locals to avoid the city center.
Stone Mountain Park is home to the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial, a giant granite carving that depicts Confederate figures Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson mounted on horseback.
The memorial, which is the largest Confederate monument in the US, has become a point of friction over the years.
Calls for its removal first came after the Charleston church shooting in 2015 but intensified in recent months following the death of George Floyd.
Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams once called the carving “a blight on our state,” according to the Daily Beast.
Pro-Police protesters clash with BLM demonstrators in Colorado
An earlier report said:
Counterprotesters got involved in a violent confrontation with pro-police supporters at a Back the Blue rally in Fort Collins, Colorado Saturday, which ended with the arrests of three people.
The pro-police attendees said two different groups of counterprotesters – consisting of Black Lives Matter (BLM) supporters and what appeared to be members of Antifa – joined the event. They also claimed a faction from one of those two groups attacked a veteran who was in a wheelchair, according to The Collegian.
Clips featured on a rally goer’s Instagram account showed an all-out melee of various protesters beating one another, as people screamed and cursed while they looked on.
Another attendee can be heard on the video saying, “Keep punching each other in the face but don’t shoot anybody.”
Ciara Wilson, a local high school student who filmed part of the fight, said there were no police to be found as opposing sides battered one another in the grassy ditch.
“Once they get all the way down the street from the police station, it just goes into an all-out brawl in the middle of a grassy pit,” she told The Collegian. “10 to 15 people just piled up on top of each other. Chokeholds, batons, punched in the face all of it, and there were no police.”
A BLM rally had been held at Colorado State University earlier that day. Some of those rally goers went on to the police station to start a counter-protest.
At first, it seemed to be a peaceful conversation between members of the two groups. Once the second group of anti-racism demonstrators – dressed all in black and thought to be Antifa – showed up, things escalated and turned violent.
Witnesses claimed the agitators dressed seemed to bait the pro-police protesters with verbal taunting.
FCPS Public Relations Manager Kate Kimble sent an email to The Collegian saying the “physical disturbances” near the station ended with three arrests and one citation.
The booking report showed two men and one woman were arrested for disorderly conduct. One of the men was also booked for allegedly possessing an illegal weapon, while another was hit with a resisting arrest charge.
“We respect everyone’s right to peacefully assemble to voice their concerns,’ Kimble added. “For the safety of our community, acts of violence, destruction of property and other unlawful behavior will not be tolerated.”
She said an investigation into the matter is “active and ongoing.”