Police keep back the crowd while making an arrest in downtown Salem during a far-right protest against Covid restrictions on Friday, Jan. 1. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
An “extremely dangerous” situation involving two New Year’s Day protests in Salem was kept under control by a heavy police presence that resulted in three arrests, the Salem Police Department reported Saturday.
The separate protests at the Capitol and at Bush’s Pasture Park went on from about midday until early evening, and police numbering more than 100 prevented the two from clashing. The events ended without injuries or property damage, the Salem agency reported.
Police Chief Trevor Womack said that while most protesters were peaceful, “a subset from each group were in fact seeking confrontations and conflict with opposing groups and the police.”
One large group gathered at the Capitol in an event put on by Oregon Women for Trump that also included people from the far-right Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer. That event featured several speakers arguing against the state restrictions on businesses related to the pandemic. A representative of the Trump group couldn’t be immediately reached Saturday.
A second group gathered at Bush’s Pasture Park a few blocks to the south. On its Facebook event page, those associated with Fascist Free 503 said they were “taking a united stand against the fascist Trump cult insurgency.”
Police said the Capitol event was “heavily attended by affiliates of the Proud Boys” and that many of those at the event “were armed with various weapons, knives, chemical sprays, batons and firearms.” Those at the city park had “a variety of weapons including firearms.”
Protesters from the Capitol demonstration marched to Mahonia Hall, the official residence of the governor. Salem police said marchers were warned to get out of the streets and to not block intersections.
Oregon State Police troopers and Salem police guarded the governor’s mansion as demonstrators waved signs and yelled at what appeared to be an empty home. When the group started back toward the Capitol, “a small group of Proud Boys broke off” and headed to Bush’s Pasture Park where the anti-fascists were.
“Salem police quickly moved officers and equipment into the park to keep the two rival groups from converging and prevented a potentially violent encounter,” the police statement said.
As they moved back to the Capitol at about 4 p.m., another splinter group approached the building housing Epilogue Kitchen and Cocktails at 130 High St. S.E. The restaurant owners have been supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement. The owner couldn’t be reached immediately on Saturday.
Police said a group of individuals “armed with bats, paintball guns and firearms” were in front of the building and “a heated verbal exchange ensued between the two groups.” The group at the building was there apparently to protect the restaurant.
The two groups didn’t immediately heed police warnings to separate and “Proud Boys affiliates had to be forcibly moved back from the office by officers.” Those group outside the business also had to be ordered back by police “to keep them from repeatedly interfering with enforcement actions,” the statement said.
Police finally declared an unlawful assembly.
“The declaration was given because the crowd no longer appeared to be protesting but instead attempted to instigate fighting and tumultuous behavior,” the police statement said.
Officers were met with “physical resistance and smoke grenades,” the statement said.
“It took approximately one hour, most of the officers assigned to the event, and the utilization of physical force and less-than-lethal munitions to move the crowd out of the streets and back to the state Capitol,” the police statement said.
The police identified those arrested as:
*Robert Davis, 31, of Springfield, accused of second-degree disorderly conduc.
*Joshua D. Lindquist, 33, of Salem, accused of interfering with a police officer and unlawful possession of fireworks.
*Max Damaskin, 33, of Salem, accused of carrying a concealed weapon, second-degree disorderly conduct, and interfering with a police officer.
“Our officers and those from our partner agencies were faced with extremely dangerous and challenging situations,” Womack said in a statement. “I am proud of the discipline and professionalism exhibited by our teams.”
He said the agency “cannot and will not allow individuals to commit serious crimes without consequences.”
This story will be updated.
Far-right protesters gather outside of Mahonia Hall, home of Gov. Kate Brown, to protest Covid restrictions on Friday, Jan. 1. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Police declared an unlawful assembly during a far-right protest against Covid restrictions in downtown Salem on Friday, Jan. 1. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Police gather at the Salem transit mall on Friday, Jan. 1, ahead of protest by both far-right and far-left groups. More than 100 officers from Salem Police Department, Marion County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police were assigned to the protests. (Christopher Ward/Special to Salem Reporter)
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