On January 9, approximately 75 members of Lane County’s growing far-right movement gathered at the Wayne Lyman Morse Federal Courthouse in downtown Eugene for their so-called “Stand Against Socialism” rally.
The rally was organized by local members of the nascent “patriot” movement in the county, including Rob Davis, Geena (Hager) Shipman, Janira Brannigan, and Brandon Lee Kitcher. Later, the Facebook event with the organizers’ names was deleted and replaced with a new one hosted by the “Patriot Party of Oregon.”
The Patriot Party, though not yet sanctioned by the State of Oregon–or any other state–aspires to unite the Trump faction of the Republican Party with more extreme members of the right-wing, including fascists and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy cult.
What began as a run-of-the-mill rally for desperate Trump supporters still railing against unproven claims that the 2020 Presidential election was rigged quickly changed tone when a contingent of Proud Boys–the white nationalist street gang deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center–arrived. Within minutes of the black-and-yellow clad group’s arrival, a scuffle broke out between some Proud Boys and a passing vehicle after a passenger stepped-out and briefly stood in front of them while holding a Bible.
A protester then poured his drink into the driver’s side of the car prompting one to be thrown back before causing more of a scuffle down the street where the traffic light had not yet turned green.
This was followed a few minutes later by a brawl between some antifascists and members of the far-right rally, which saw flagpoles being used as weapons by rally-goers. The fight erupted at the exact moment several Eugene Police cruisers were passing by, leading to police intervention.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, dozens of cops in riot gear swept into the area and declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and a “riot.”
Members of the Proud Boys and rally organizers accused EPD officers of “protecting antifa” but video shows an EPD officer returning a flagpole to the same person who had wielded it as a spear.
The fight led to three arrests for “disorderly conduct.” One person was injured and treated by paramedics on scene.
After riot police arrived, the Proud Boys were allowed to make an organized retreat into downtown Eugene. Once the gang was out of the area, EPD officers decided that the assembly was no longer unlawful and allowed the rally to continue as planned.
Several speakers, including Davis and Shipman, took to the microphone to share misinformation and continue to spread conspiracy theories about rigged elections and the encroaching power of “Communist China.” One man, who claimed Cherokee ancestry, made vague allusions to “a coming war” and led the crowd in chants of “Fuck Antifa” and “Fuck BLM.”
After a few minutes of relative peace, police officers pulled out of the area, which seemed to embolden members of the rally. Following the police retreat, attendees of the rally took the opportunity to harass journalists and community members.
One man, incensed by the mere presence of antifascists, accosted a person of Chinese descent and told them to “go back [to China] and see how you like the CCP.”
The rally wrapped up soon after, but it had a far broader impact around town. The remainder of the day was marked with rumors and sightings of Proud Boys all over Eugene, while news articles obscured the presence of the street gang at the rally.
Currently, there are no follow-up rallies planned by any local groups in Lane County, but there is a scheduled rally at the Oregon Capitol on Jan. 16.