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How Liberal Portland Became America’s Most Politically Violent City

6 406 15
30.06.2017

On a cloudy day in early November 1979, a caravan of Nazi and Ku Klux Klan members careened into Greensboro, North Carolina, winding toward a local Communist Workers’ Party protest that had gathered in the city to march against the state’s white supremacists. The communists, wearing berets and hard hats, spotted the fleet and taunted the new arrivals with chants of “Death to the Klan!” The KKK convoy slowed, and stopped. Far-left protesters, bearing both wooden planks and concealed pistols, began surrounding the motorcade, beating the doors. As TV cameras rolled, the trunk of a Ford Fairlane, stuffed with shotguns and rifles, popped open. Someone yelled from one of the cars, “You asked for the Klan! Now you've got ’em!”

Eighty-eight seconds and 39 shots later, five communists lay dead. Eight other demonstrators were wounded, some permanently paralyzed. For a brief moment, the Greensboro Massacre became one of America’s most notorious acts of political blood-letting. And yet, unlike Wounded Knee or Selma before it, Greensboro has over the decades largely faded from memory.

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Except in Portland.

Among the fringe political groups currently waging battle in the City of Roses, Greensboro is well-remembered, even idealized. It is increasingly seen as the inevitable end of the escalating violence that has rocked this city since President Trump’s election in November. Leftwing “antifas,” wearing red bandana masks alongside other far-left protesters, have rioted multiple times and caused millions of dollars of damage, with threats from leftwing groups even forcing the cancellation of a parade because it featured a float from the local Republican Party. Eager to push back against the opposition, white nationalists have begun mixing with anti-government militia members for “free speech” rallies. A man who attended one of these rallies would later stab to death two men on a train when they intervened to stop his anti-Muslim rants against two young women. The norms of protest and counterprotest—mostly verbal shouting and sign-waving—are quickly crumbling in Portland. The leftwing antifa have even threatened pre-emptive violence in the name of the defending the city from groups they say promote violence.

In Portland, Greensboro isn’t a past mistake to be avoided, but a future clash to be courted. Both sides mention Greensboro in conversation. Both sides know the details and the death toll. And both acknowledge Greensboro as an event that may well serve as a model for what’s just around the corner. “My big concern is sooner or later is that we’re going to have another Greensboro Massacre type of event,” Mark Pitcavage, who researches domestic political extremism with the Anti-Defamation League, added. “This is so unlikely to end well.”

***

The fact that Portland erupted as the epicenter in Trump-era political violence in the U.S. is, in a certain sense, surprising. A liberal nirvana, a crunchy, weed-and-hops city where Republicans and plastic bags alike have been all but evicted, Portland has embodied and outpaced many of the urban trends of the early 21st century: gentrification and co-ops, food trucks and foot-bridges, transitions to a bike-and-pedestrian economy. It is, as a conspicuous show has encapsulated, a progressive paradise.

And yet, as many within and without the city have begun realizing, Portland is a town leavened with a history of rampant racial strife. As the whitest major American city, Portland blossomed in the lone state that constitutionally barred blacks from living there through the 19th century, that acted as one of the primary concentration centers for incarcerating American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II, that redlined as severely as any major metropolis elsewhere. That in 1922 saw its chief of police

© Politico