By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
PORTLAND — The radical organization Antifa brazenly attacked a Christian worship gathering in downtown Portland last month — bringing a national focus on the growing threat of persecution to believers.
The Saturday, Aug. 7 incident involving dozens of highly aggressive black-clad Antifa members occurred during the first of two separate worship events held that weekend at the same outdoor location. While Antifa did not disrupt the second event on Sunday, Aug. 8, its members did physically strike out afterward at some who attended the gathering (see related story on this website).
In both cases, Portland police did not intervene and made no arrests. Multiple Christian or conservative media websites expressed alarm that a peaceful worship service in a major American city could now draw such aggressive and dangerous opposition.
“If you wondered what it looked like when Nazi brown shirts went after the churches in Germany, wonder no more,” stated a commentary on the PJ Media website. “It probably looked like Portland on Saturday, when black bloc-outfitted Antifa members burst into a waterfront prayer event featuring Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski. The Antifa members sprayed those gathered, including toddlers, with chemicals and lobbied IEDs (improvised explosive devices).”
The worship gathering of about 50 people at Tom McCall Waterfront Park was organized by Salem-based Awakening Ministries and Pawlowski, a Calgary, Alberta, pastor who re-ceived international attention when he forcefully spoke out against lockdown measures that targeted places of worship, and which saw him eventually arrested in Calgary.
Hearing of the planned event, Portland Antifa groups and activists organized a response on Twitter and other social media. Independent journalist Andy Ngo posted video afterward of the large group invading the service, wearing masks and carrying umbrellas, shields and weapons as they yelled profanity at the worshippers. They tore apart the sound gear, tossing some of the equipment into the Willamette River, and as-saulted the attendees with pepper spray and projectiles. Eggs, rocks and feces also were reportedly tossed.
As the attackers became more violent, the Christians can be heard on the video praying. “Where is your God now?” one of the attackers can be heard yelling during the melee.
One of the worshippers said the attackers threw a flashbang grenade at the crowd that included a group of children, one of them an 8-month-old. Antifa later claimed on Twitter that they stole the worshippers’ food and water.
Lew Wootan, pastor of The River Church in Salem, tried to get the attackers to back off and he was immediately pepper sprayed. Pawlowski also was sprayed.
“It was crazy. I was crying, and it wasn’t the joy of the Holy Spirit,” Pawlowski later quipped.
Former Oregon legislator and current talk host on Salem’s KSLM radio, Jeff Kropf, was among the worshippers. Interviewed later on Lars Larson’s regional radio talk show, Kropf said the service was originally to have taken place at the Battleship Oregon Mem-orial, but organizers had, by agreement with police and parks officials two days ahead of time, relocated it to the south end of Waterfront Park.
The new location was not publicized, but Antifa “knew we were there, they were waiting for us,” said Kropf. “It absolutely was a hate crime, completely un-provoked.”
While some local reports described the attack as a confrontation between Antifa and the right-wing group The Proud Boys, that is not accurate, Kropf said. Had they expected the attack, organizers would have had security present, Kropf said. But there was no security except for one person protecting Pawlowski. After the attackers left, then several members of the Proud Boys showed up, according to Kropf, but he emphasized that they were not present when Antifa arrived.
Kropf said police had stated two days before the service they would have a quick-reaction force close by, but would not be present at the gathering to protect the worshippers. He said he does not blame the police for their lack of response, but places the full blame on Mayor Ted Wheeler and the City Council for putting constraints on the police.
As to why Antifa attacked, Kropf acknowledged that it is very hard to determine. “The only thing I can come up with is these are hate-filled people, and all they intend to do is be anarchists and cause trouble.” he said. He added that he is angry that “Antifa knows they can get away with this with impunity.”
Larson conjectured that Antifa so hates the police that the organization feels justified in attacking anyone they think supports the police. Wootan told Larson that Antifa is apparently simply angered by the Gospel. “They believe that because you are preaching faith, you are right-wing fascists and they don’t agree with your message,” he said.
Larson, a former Portland TV news anchor, was incredulous over the lack of reporting on the incident by much of the local mainstream media. “This ought to be one of the biggest stories in the Pacific Northwest,” he said.