PORTLAND, Ore. -- It was a moment that could have gone either way. Punches were thrown, insults flew, and mace shot through the air along Portland’s waterfront.
Protesters from two sides showed up. One side was pro-President Trump. People in that group waved flags and wore red, white and blue. The other side was filled with people who were anti-Trump.
“Trump is ruining America,” yelled one woman.
Some anti-Trump protester wore black. Their faces were covered with masks. At one point, some people also burned flags and stomped on them.
Joey Gibson, who heads up a conservative group called Patriot Prayer, organized the Freedom March on Facebook. He said the event is about freedom in general and freedom of speech. More than 175 people indicated they were going on Facebook, and more than 300 said they were interested in attending the event.
As for Gibson’s expectations regarding violence, “We're always on high alert. We have a pretty good understanding of the opposition,” he said.
Gibson also organized a rally in early June at Terry Schrunk Plaza. It drew hundreds of people to downtown Portland. On almost all sides of the plaza, there were groups who opposed Gibson and the people supporting him.
The Freedom March at the waterfront officially started at 6 p.m. at Salmon Street Springs. Then people began marching north. At one point, the march wound through a part of downtown.
“You have the right as an American citizen. You are free. If they want to oppose us, it's their right too. But they can't silence us,” said a pro-Trump demonstrator.
There were a lot of heated arguments and at times things briefly got out of hand. Some people decided to step in to de-escalate when they saw people starting to get physical again.
“Why can't anybody talk to each other without trying to throw hands. Have a conversation. I'm disappointed in both sides and I want this to stop and that's why I stepped in,” said the man.
Others with the group Patriot Prayer also tried to de-escalate.
“I'm here because I'm trying to keep the peace between the left and right,” said a man named John Beavers. “We all have to get along. We have to talk. We’ve gotta work this out or we're gonna tear ourselves apart, the right and the left. We've got to get along."
We tried multiple times to speak to people who opposed the march. They did not want to speak on camera.
One man who was a part of the Freedom March said after all the verbal and physical violence, he's done. He has a family and he's considering not participating in these types of rallies anymore.
Portland Police said they would monitor the situation. When the event began, police were present. But as the event proceeded, police maintained their distance.
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