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Alan Swinney, a prominent member of “The Proud Boys”, brandished a handgun during clashes between far right groups and protesters in Portland, Oregon on Saturday August 22, 2020. Alan was among several hundred people who traveled to the city to confront protesters who, for 90 consecutive days, have demonstrated against police brutality and racial injustice.
Squirt guns exchanged “fire” with those wielding pepper spray and mace; a woman sat at an easel and painted in the midst of unfolding chaos; Portland police stood by as individuals from all groups sustained injuries; tattoos asserting affiliations and guns with live rounds were on display; Veterans from several wars wore their branches insignia; hundreds of eyes burned with outrage, fear and confusion; and people outfitted in the Nation’s flag wandered the streets in downtown Portland, Oregon. 

These are all but moments from a scene that quickly evolved and then devolved when members of groups such as the “Proud Boys” and “Patriot Prayer” came to Portland to confront protesters who for several months have been demonstrating against police brutality and racial injustice.

The standoff remained relatively peaceful for nearly an hour but then quickly escalated as words and objects were exchanged. Rocks were thrown. Full water bottles flew through the air and paint balloons doused those on the receiving end with a shower of pink or purple. Some wielded squirt guns and super soakers and others carried umbrellas as a form of protection. Eventually both “sides” used force, mace, pepper spray and fired airsoft rifles and paintball guns. The altercation became physically violent as the two groups clashes against one another and their homemade shields.
As violence escalated the Portland police stood nearby and watched. I know this because I was pepper sprayed and stumbled into a grassy area as I tried to regain my vision and bearings. Approximately 25 Portland police officers stood and silently observed the crowd. 

Around 3PM, after several hours of hostile exchanges, Portland protesters forced the “counter-protesters“ to retreat to a parking garage where many had parked their cars; the rest were pushed several blocks away. Only after the group returned to downtown Portland did the Portland police, dressed in riot gear, and Federal officers (DHS) declare an "unlawful assembly."

I have spent the last several days trying to make sense of this and I cannot.

Perhaps it is because these same officers are those who continue to assault and impede journalists on a daily and nightly basis. Perhaps it is because a revolver and several automatic weapons did not prompt the police to intervene but a group of several hundred, unarmed protesters did. Or perhaps it is because in the last month I've documented now countless accounts of police brutality and have myself been assaulted on numerous occasions. 
Both “sides” were comprised of various groups and individuals who had come to express themselves and their beliefs. Though both factions were present it was not what has become a overly simplistic, inaccurate narrative of “Neo-Nazis” vs. “antifa”. On several occasions people expressed frustration that violence appeared inevitable. 

As the situation escalated I stepped to the edge for a moment to put on my gas mask and listened to two men, one who’d come to “support the police” and the other wearing a “BLM” shirt, talk — “I just don’t see how this is going to end. You talking to me, now this, this has been productive. I can see why people are angry, I get that, but how is this going to end?” 
The aftermath of an action, inaction or occurrence is often less sexy and less easily consumed than the main event, given less consideration when making decisions and too rarely paid close attention. Aftermath asks, and sometimes begs, us to reflect, to relive and to consider real and lasting impact(s). It poses questions, suggests conversations and often tells hard truths.

None of this is comfortable, but it is necessary. 

After Saturday’s clashes between right-wing affiliated groups and protesters I spent some time walking around Portland. Water bottles, torn clothing, empty cans of bear mace covered in colorful silly string, paintballs both used and unused, the remnants of signs declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Support the Blue” and a trampled American flag—all vestiges of a modern day battle recently fought, neither side a real winner.

Perhaps most importantly, when considering consequences we are asked, “what is it stake?” and “how does this moment in time fit into the longer lens of history?” and ... “where do we go from here?”
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I recently turned 33 and committed myself to this crazy dream of one day being able to support myself entirely as an independent photographer and journalist.

A few months ago I began to publish this newsletter as a way to disseminate some of what I was seeing on the ground but not in the wider media. I also set up a Patreon account, a platform to encourage sustained support from those who value independent journalism.

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Copyright © 2020, Maranie R. Staab, All rights reserved.
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