There’s no question John Blum was badly beaten by antifa activists at last week’s protest in Portland, Oregon. The question is whether he had it coming.
Antifa activists argue he did. After photos of the 67-year-old Oregon man, his face covered with blood, made the rounds on social media, the left-wing anarchist group accused Mr. Blum of starting the fracas, posting shots of him wielding an expandable baton.
“Oregon III% member John Blum rushed into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters swinging a metal baton at them … the protesters defended themselves,” tweeted Always Antifascist, the Rose City Antifa account.
Mr. Blum insisted that’s not the way it happened. He said he was trying to help a friend who was under siege as well as protect himself after being sprayed by mace. He suffered bruises, a cut over his eye and a gash to his head that required four staples at the emergency room, while his attackers appeared to escape unscathed.
Why risk attending an event sure to draw antifa activists and produce confrontations? Was he asking for it? He doesn’t think so.
“We have a right to share our opinions,” Mr. Blum said in an interview. “The whole reason we do this is because in my opinion, they’re trying to stop us from doing this. Why do they have a right to stop people from doing what they feel is right? To be able to express themselves?”
Mr. Blum said he joined about 45 people attending a June 29 rally sponsored by the Him Too movement, led by Haley Adams, at Pioneer Courthouse Square. A second rally sponsored by the Proud Boys was scheduled for the same day at a park in Portland, but Mr. Blum said he never saw it.
The rally was swarmed by hundreds of counterprotesters, including but not limited to antifa members who tried to move past a police line to enter the square. Officers stopped the protesters at one end of the plaza, but about 150 to 200 eventually made it through another opening, Mr. Blum said.
A series of squabbles ensued. He said he and his friends wound up defending a bearded man wearing an American flag sundress. He said he pulled out his baton — and later put it away — after an antifa activist brought out a billy club, and then wound up in a face-to-face argument with another activist.
What appeared to set off the violence, as shown by a video posted online, was a shirtless blond man, who wore no mask, sucker-punching another man. Mr. Blum said his friend Adam Kelly intervened, “and that’s when I’m running to help my friend.”
“And a guy starts spraying mace in my face, and I pull my baton out to defend myself from him,” Mr. Blum said. “Then I get hit from behind, and I finally reached the guy who was spraying me with mace, and I grabbed a hold of him, and three or four people started attacking me from the back.”
He said he was hit from behind with a crowbar, and lost his hat, glasses and baton, which left him defenseless against the mace.
“They knocked my hat off and my glasses and started beating on me, and somebody was macing me in the face, and I had no protection on, and I went blind at that point,” he said. “Then somebody pulled me away and pulled me back. I wound up on the ground, and some people me helped me up.”
Antifa activists said Mr. Blum provoked the confrontation by showing up with a baton, which he said he brought “to protect myself, and not be a victim.”
The episode illustrates how both sides have characterized their approach as self-defense, as well as the symbiotic relationship between antifa and the right with another summer of resistance underway.
Without the rallies held by Proud Boys and other right-wing groups, including Saturday’s Defend Free Speech event in Washington, D.C., there would be no excuse for antifa to turn out en masse. Of course, without antifa, such right-wing gatherings would receive little or no media attention.
Mr. Blum said he has attended four such rallies in Oregon, although he’s not an organizer. He knows such events only goad the antifa into action, but said it’s important to stand up to left-wing intimidation.
He cited the attack on journalist Andy Ngo, who sustained a brain hemorrhage after being pummeled and pelted by antifa activists at the same Portland counterprotest, as shown on video by the Oregonian.
“That’s terrible. That’s just the whole reason we are there is because that stuff is happening,” Mr. Blum said. “Antifa attacked him for reporting the truth, in my opinion. He brings to light the bad stuff they are doing and they don’t like that.”
Antifa supporters argue that Mr. Ngo has provoked protesters by recording them. Mr. Blum was accused of doing the same thing by showing up with a baton.
“You might see these photos hovering around today, the man in the photos is John Blum, a neo-nazi, who contrary to popular presentation wasn’t a peaceful protestor but, as the first photo shows, armed and provocative. Fash shouldn’t carry a baton and not expect to get beat,” tweeted Tomas Roibeards.
Mr. Blum, a carpenter who served six years in the Navy, said he’s not the fascist.
“To me, a fascist is somebody that tries to push their agenda onto other people,” he said. “I’m not trying to push my agenda onto anybody. You have the right to feel the way you feel. Whereas antifa is trying to push their agenda onto everybody. If you don’t feel the way they do, they will hurt you. Which is the definition of a fascist.”
He also said he doesn’t plan to stop attending such events, despite his injuries, much to the chagrin of his son and family.
“I don’t think I did anything that was out of line,” Mr. Blum said. “I was defending myself and others.”