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This article has been updated to include a brief description from witnesses of the the signs the QAnon ralliers were holding and an explanation of the QAnon beleif in a “Great Awakening.”
“Q anon is currently at the bike bridge off of failing and Missouri and is currently doing a banner drop,” the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front (PNWYLF) tweeted Wednesday at 1:45PM.
“One of the fash displaying the Qanon banners from the bridge was wearing a Proudboy [sic] hat and drove a white Kia,” they added. (‘Fash’ is short for ‘fascist.’)
Two antifascists were present at the rally.
“They were just passing by when they saw the banners on the foot bridge, and then went to keep an eye on them,” the PNWYLF told LCRW.
According to text messages reviewed by LCRW, a man wearing a Proud Boys baseball cap started chasing after the antifascists with a knife along with another person, also believed to be a Proud Boy.
The Youth Liberation Front are “an autonomous network of youth + student collectives dedicated to direct action towards the liberation of all.” They have chapters across the country including in Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland and the Bay Area. Members are often as young as 14 or 15. They’ve often been at the forefront of physical confrontations with far-right agitators, but also participate in events like last year’s Climate Strike and Fare Strike protests. Most of their recent work focuses on mutual aid in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because their activism risks violence and surveillance from police and far-right groups, members of the YLF spoke to LCRW on the condition of anonymity. LCRW was not given the survivors of the attack’s names.
Members of the Pacific Northwest and Seattle chapters of the YLF were in close contact with the survivors. They provided LCRW with logs of text chats between one of the two survivors and a YLF member. The survivors themselves were not members of the YLF, but a YLF representative also gave LCRW a separate written account of the incident. When LCRW asked if the YLF representative witnessed the incident firsthand, the YLF representative said “[w]e can’t answer that.”
“There were multiple fash there,” PNWYLF’s statement said. They said that the survivors weren’t able to recognize any of the attendees.
“The one with the knife was wearing a Proud Boys baseball cap, and they displayed multiple QAnon banners from the footbridge for a while,” they continued. The banners included an American flag with the letter Q on it and a sign that said “The Great Awakening”–a common QAnon slogan. Witnesses said they took their banners with them when they left.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that worships Donald Trump. Believers follow “Q,” an anonymous poster on 4chan and 8chan. Q claims to be a high-level government official leaking secret information about Trump and the military’s heroic battle against the “deep state.” Q prophesies a coming “storm” of mass arrests, military tribunals and executions of all of Trump’s enemies. QAnon believers think media, government and corporate leaders are part of a shadowy, Satanic cabal that ritualistically molests and sacrifices children. Once their enemies are purged, QAnon believers think society will enter a golden age they call “The Great Awakening” where they’ll be vindicated about their beliefs and secret government technology like cancer cures and free energy will be available to the public. Aside from these central tenets, QAnon often incorporate subjects like aliens, evangelical Christianity, and anti-vaccine hokum into their beliefs.
QAnon has motivated multiple acts of murder and terror. One QAnon believer murdered his brother last year with a sword because he believed his brother was a lizard-person. Another killed a mob boss. Yet another had a standoff with law enforcement on the Hoover Dam after he blocked the road with an armored vehicle. One prominent QAnon follower, actor Isaac Kappie, died by suicide and mentioned failing the “Q” movement in his suicide note. Last year, the FBI’s Phoenix field office released a memo stating conspiracy-driven extremism is a new front for domestic terror threats.
The QAnon rallygoers in Portland turned violent on the two antifascists.
“Proud Boys chasing me on foot need help,” one of them texted.
The YLF member who shared the texts with LCRW asked how they could help. The antifascist asked if they could send a car to pick them up. The YLF member asked if they were okay.
“Hiding,” the antifascist replied. “There’s two of us.”
According to the texts, an hour passed.
“Ok, someone stopped. We got in. Thanks.”
“Oh thank god,” the YLF member replied.
“Dude pulled a knife,” the antifascist recounted.
A Seattle YLF spokesperson later confirmed to LCRW that both survivors had escaped safely.
Another local antifascist contacted LCRW and claims to have seen man in the Proud Boys hat driving his white Kia. The local antifascist said the man was in a parking lot off Russel Street with a sign that said “Portland Service Unit Albina Yard.” The man’s Kia had Washington plates. For about 10 to 12 minutes, the local antifascist watched.
Google Maps view of the location of the parking lot and the QAnon rally locaiton.
“[I] sat for a few in front of him then a big black chevy, an SUV and a grey Toyota came ripping out from under the Fremont [Bridge] each full of dudes,” the local antifascist said. They said they saw the men in the back of the truck wearing “a few ballcaps and a tan beanie.”
“After they came out from under the bridge and he took off I drove down and was met by a security guard within minutes,” the local antifascist recounted. They said the fact that security blocked him while allowing the man in the Kia and the other vehicles to park “makes me feel like they have allies at one of those facilities or at the railroad.”
LCRW cannot confirm at this time whether these were the same people from the QAnon rally. According to Google Maps, it’s about a twenty minute, 1.1-mile walk from the bike bridge the rally occurred at to the parking lot.
The incident Wednesday has a dangerous precedent. Last year, a series of attacks against LGBTQ+ people terrorized Portland. A Patriot Prayer affiliate, Matthew “Deme” Cooper, admitted he was involved in one of the attacks but was never charged. Some survivors of the attacks last year said some of the attacks were by men who drove around in trucks and either jumped out to beat people or threw things at them while shouting queerphobic slurs. Those who spoke up about it faced a torrent of online harassment afterwards. Very few people came forward because of this. The chilling effect was exacerbated when the New York Post gave Portland-based far-right provocateur Andy Ngo a platform to say the attacks were what he calls a “hate crime hoax.” Ngo’s evidence was that nobody would talk to him about them. The perpetrators remain unidentified and at large.
LCRW does not currently know if the perpetrators of the attack on Wednesday were affiliated with Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys or any other known local extremist group. Far-right and white supremacist groups in the Pacific Northwest have a long history and are often deeply interconnected with each other. The link, however, cannot be assumed. It is entirely possible the attackers have no connections with local groups. The man in the Proud Boys hat may not even be a Proud Boy. LCRW covered an incident in 2018 where a band was kicked out of 924 Gilman because their frontman was wearing a Proud Boys hoodie. The frontman was not a member of the Proud Boys–just a huge fan of their founder, Gavin McInnes.
There is a prominent associate of Patriot Prayer in Portland, Lilith Saer, who’s often pictured at rallies with a “Q” flag. There is Portland chapter of the Proud Boys. Neither appear to have mentioned this incident on their social media as of this writing. LRCW has yet to find any local far-right actors posting about the QAnon rally on social media. We will continue to monitor the situation and update when appropriate.
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