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Far-right demonstrators, counter-protesters and police clash in multiple states

Joel Shannon
USA TODAY

Fights broke out in multiple states Saturday in clashes involving a variety of groups, including the far-right Proud Boys, counter-protesters supporting Black Lives Matter and police officers in riot gear.

The multiple instances of tensions between opposing factions was a departure from the typically peaceful protests against racial inequality that have occurred in recent weekends. But the conflicts reported as of Saturday afternoon have been limited to scattered fights.

In Michigan, a planned rally by the alt-right, male-only Proud Boys met with counter protesters, leading to escalating tensions and arrests in Kalamazoo

In Portland, a rally by a small group of alt-right demonstrators devolved Saturday as they traded paint balls and pepper spray with counter-protesters. Earlier in the day, police said they made four arrests overnight.

At the Oregon Capitol in Salem on Saturday, several people with the Black Lives Matter movement were shoved down steps and into a crowd of BLM protesters.

And in Georgia, hours of mostly peaceful demonstrations escalated in Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta as large numbers of police moved in to disperse the crowds when fights broke out.

Protestors and counter protestors face off Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Stone Mountain Village, Ga.

The Michigan clash involved the Proud Boys, a group listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to their white nationalist memes and affiliations with known extremists, according to the SPLC. 

"A fight occurred, people were fighting, and that's when we stepped in," Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said of the incident. He didn't know exactly how many people were arrested.

A reporter for MLive.com said some of the Proud Boys also used pepper spray on people. The reporter was also detained by police while recording live on Facebook.

The clash at the Oregon Capitol happened as groups of differing ideologies gathered to protest a wide variety of issues, including pandemic restrictions, human trafficking and racial injustice. But there were no police on hand, and the conflicts were broken up by those participating.

Mostly peaceful protests against racial injustice have been ongoing for weeks following the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

Clashes between opposing groups have also occurred. Notably in late July, two opposing, heavily armed militia groups came within a few dozen yards of each of other in Louisville, but avoided violence. 

Contributing: Meredith Spelbring, Detroit Free Press; Bill Poehler, Salem Statesman Journal; The Associated Press