(The Center Square) – A Sunday showdown between anti-fascists and the Proud Boys in Salem turned into a familiar feud between the police and the ski-masked provocateurs who want them abolished.

The protest that kicked off the afternoon began much like others in Salem as a crowd of anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter activists huddled around the Capitol building. Absent were the mobs of Proud Boys and Trump supporters who have emerged as violent antagonists in past years. Instead, the scene was of some 100 protesters clad in black egging and paint-balling a small convoy of the Proud Boys who passed through the Capitol mall on their way to an event that never materialized.

Several vehicles in the convoy saw their windows smashed by booing protesters who gathered in the street to block their way. One pickup truck driver attempted to drive through the crowd after gunning the motor. No one appeared to be hurt at the scene.

A few hours later, a coalition of local and state police emerged from the Capitol to declare the event an unlawful assembly, pushing protesters from the area with a line of some 50 officers.

The scene mirrored how much of Sunday played out as protesters traded insults with officers in standoffs throughout the afternoon. The crowd could be heard chanting "All cops are bastards" and "F*** the police" as others mocked officers' orders to disperse.

As the day wore on, protesters roamed the streets around the Capitol building with police in tow, picking fights with far-right protesters circling the Capitol mall. One such incident saw anti-fascists mace the driver of a pickup truck bearing Trump and Confederate flags who stepped out of his vehicle to confront them. The driver appeared uninjured and left the scene.

Later in the day, the driver of a second pickup truck clad with American flags and military insignia drew a handgun on the protesters egging his vehicle, which was unobstructed, after being told several times to "drive away." He was detained by police at the scene and later allowed to return to his vehicle. The Salem Police Department did not respond to questions for comment.

On Monday, authorities reported using impact munitions against two out of three protesters arrested on Sunday and booked at the Marion County Jail on charges of disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and unlawful use of a laser pointer. 

The incident was emblematic of the case left-wing protesters have made against local law enforcement since last summer: police favor the far-right. Accusations of biased policing have plagued Salem since the Proud Boys last came to town to do battle with anti-fascists during a pro-Trump rally on Jan. 6. No arrests were made during the incident. Six far-right protesters, by contrast, were arrested in the Dec. 21 invasion of the Oregon Capitol building. 

Protesters on the Capitol mall voiced the same sentiment as pickup trucks loaded with Trump supporters and Proud Boys drove past police whose rifles were trained on men and women dressed in black hoodies.

"If you spent half this much effort on white supremacy, we wouldn't have to be out here," one protester shouted at officers throughout the day.

The remainder of the day was more reminiscent of the protests typically seen in Portland as armed officers in camouflage fatigues hopped out of unmarked vans to tackle fleeing protesters and assist with arrests. Heavy rains and winds sent the remaining crowd home around 5 p.m.

"You're the good guys," three local residents could be heard cheering to officers departing the scene. "You guys rock."

Many of the protesters driving off disagreed with the flick of their middle finger.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.