Gunfight in Portland raises concerns about the increasing use of guns during rallies.
Others have taken less dangerous weaponry, such as the far-right Proud Boys.
Unrest at a far-right demonstration and anti-fascist counter-protest in Portland, Oregon last week has raised fears about the potential for violence to escalate at future protests, as far-right marchers and anti-fascist counter-protesters frequently clash.
Police in Portland, Oregon, have charged a 65 year-old man from Gresham in connection with a firefight in the city's downtown on Sunday. An anti-fascist group seeking to remove Dennis Anderson from the area was fired at by Anderson, authorities claim. There were seven shots exchanged between the two sides, with one of the anti-fascists firing back.
People from the Proud Boys and other far-right groups openly carry guns during demonstration. The shooting heightened concerns about the prevalence of guns at rallies around the country.
Other violent episodes in Portland on Sunday, however, highlighted how participants are increasingly using less lethal, but still dangerous, technologies as weapons in political street warfare.
Proud Boys and other extremists clashed with anti-fascists near an abandoned Kmart in the city's outer north-east on Sunday afternoon, police said. The confrontation devolved into a street brawl, with players engaging in fist fights and pepper spray attacks.
Aside from that, both sides resorted to strategies they have used in prior rallies. Some leftwing protestors in Portland and elsewhere have utilized the strategy of throwing fireworks for years. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, similar weapons were used in a number of confrontations with the police in Portland last summer.
Fireworks set off by an anti-fascist detonated on Sunday in the forecourt of a petrol station, alarming both sides.
In contrast, several Proud Boys were carrying airsoft weapons, which are mimic firearms that fire pellets with compressed air. These guns are typically used in recreational fighting games or combat training.
It was during riots in August 2020 when far-right brawlers first employed these weapons, together with paintball guns, to fire gas-propelled pellets at a much bigger number of leftwing protestors. Participants had prepared for weeks to use these devices in a way that maximized their harmful potential, according to an investigation by the Guardian at that time
As a result, the guns have been utilized at every far-right event in Portland, notably on August 29, 2020, when passengers in a pro-Donald Trump truck convoy fired the weapons at people on the streets.
Several hours after the vehicle attacks, Michael Reinoehl, an anti-fascist, shot and killed Jay Danielson, a member of Patriot Prayer, a far-right street demonstration organization that made frequent appearances in Portland throughout the Trump administration. Reinoehl was shot and killed by police in Lacey, Washington, a few days later.
They're unlikely to kill you, but medical researchers warn they're a serious risk to your eyes, skull, and other extremities. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, non-powder firearms, such as airsoft and paintball guns, were responsible for an estimated 10,080 emergency department visits in the United States last year.
When airsoft and paintball weapons are used to threaten others, they can be prosecuted, just like any other weapon. Recently, a Portland citizen was detained and charged with misusing "dangerous or deadly weapons" after brandishing an airsoft gun at a reporter. A federal or state law, as well as the guns statutes do not apply to them.
Jon Lewis, a research scholar at George Washington University's department on extremism, said the weapons' legal status, as well as their non-lethality, have made them an attractive option for extremist groups in and outside of the US.
Law enforcement, Lewis maintained, was "lazy" in its response to the Proud Boys' activities in Portland and elsewhere.
It was unclear on Sunday whether or not city authorities were willing or able to put an end to the violence due to the lack of police presence.
"Protesters should not expect to see police standing in the middle of a throng trying to keep people apart," said Chuck Lovell, the chief of Portland's police bureau.
Employees of businesses located near the ruckus informed local media that they felt abandoned by law authorities as a result of the technique.