The Proud Boys for years have helped organize street fights in Portland, Oregon ― gatherings thinly veiled as political freedom rallies in order to secure permits or police escorts from the city.
This week, that veil was lifted, as the group’s leader admitted the ugly and obvious truth: The events are staged with the intention of spurring fights, wasting city resources and winning a game of optics against their anti-fascist nemeses.
“We’ve wasted all their fucking resources to make this rally,” Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio said in video captured during the latest extremist rally held Saturday in Portland. “We want them to waste $2 million and we’ll do it again in two months.”
Tarrio and fellow Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs flew to Portland from Florida to host the rally, and fears among city officials about the potential chaos caused them to warn local businesses to close for the day. Meanwhile, a multi-jurisdictional police force of 700 was deployed, according to The Oregonian.
The closures cost local restaurants and other businesses an estimated $3 million in revenue, and taxpayers will likely be on the hook for millions more due to the police response, the paper reported.
Fewer violent clashes broke out than in previous iterations of the rally, in part because police spent the day escorting and defending the Proud Boys and members of their local punch-happy cousin, the Patriot Prayer. But the Proud Boys were also keenly aware that the nation was watching ― President Donald Trump tweeted just before the rally began that he would be on the lookout for violence committed by anti-fascists in order to designate “ANTIFA an ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.”
As the rally kicked off, Tarrio was caught on video ordering his gang members to forgo the fighting. On this day, nobody would be earning their “fourth degree” ― a rank given to those Proud Boys who assault anti-fascists.
“This is a pure optics operation,” Tarrio said in front of a group of Proud Boys. “If you’re looking for fourth degrees this is not the event to do it.”
Rather than attack protesters ― as they’ve planned to do in the past ― the Proud Boys retreated across the Willamette River and then left the city, announcing on their way out a new campaign to waste Portland’s time and revenue, an apparent political maneuver aimed at Mayor Ted Wheeler.
“The gathering was never about bringing carnage or violence to the city of Portland, it was about financially crippling the progressive hotbed until they take action against antifa,” the gang said in a press release.
This appears to be the first public admission by the Proud Boys that the group’s aim is to hobble Wheeler’s administration. The mayor has allowed these rallies to go on in the name of free speech, despite acknowledging that violence is often the only item on the agenda.
It’s unclear whether the newfound transparency will have any impact on future demonstrations. In a response to HuffPost, Wheeler decried Tarrio’s statements but didn’t say whether he’d allow the group to continue to host the events in Portland:
“I have one clear message to anyone who says they’re going to continue wasting the city’s resources over and over again: Stop wasting our time. Stop wasting taxpayer dollars. Stop hurting our businesses. We have a city to run and lives to lead,” he said.
Although Tarrio on the video mentions another rally planned for October, no city permits have been issued as yet for such a gathering.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.