Antifascist activist Michael Reinoehl, 48, has been shot dead in Lacey, Washington, after a warrant was issued for his arrest regarding his admission of shooting one Aaron Danielson, a supporter of the hard right Patriot Prayer group.
Demonstrators in Portland have been on the streets since the killing of George Floyd in May. It has been the scene of major clashes between federal agents and protestors, with violence flaring up almost nightly until the federal agents’ withdrawal in early August.
Militant protests in Portland have continued to rage. In response, a convoy of Trump supporters have begun taking to the city centre to oppose the popular uprising. On the night of August 29th, the third Saturday in a row that a convoy was organised in this manner, a procession of some 600 vehicles bearing pro-Trump flags and slogans made their way through downtown Portland in an attempt to taunt and intimidate the Black Lives Matter protestors.
After local residents and protestors attempted to block these trucks from making their way through the city, members of the convoy began firing frozen paintballs and pepper spray at the demonstrators. Scuffles broke out, with injuries on both sides, and it was in this environment that Rienoehl shot Danielson. He later admitted to the shooting and said he was acting in self-defence and in defence of a friend in an interview with Vice News.
At 8:45pm, Reinoehl said he went to the aid of a friend who he saw being surrounded by trucks and a crowd of armed pro-Trump counter protesters. “I saw someone that is a dear and close friend of mine in the movement, by himself, basically confronting all these vehicles. And so I let him know that I’m here, parked my vehicle and joined up with him, found myself in the intersection in front of the food trucks surrounded by trucks and cars that had weapons.”
Reinoehl claimed that people participating in the pro-Trump convoy were armed with more than just paintball guns and pepper spray as the press had reported, and that he had found himself in confrontation with a man who threatened him and his friend with a knife.
“Had I stepped forward, he would have maced or stabbed me,” said Reinoehl. “You know, lots of lawyers suggest that I shouldn’t even be saying anything, but I feel it’s important that the world at least gets a little bit of what’s really going on… I had a choice. I could have sat there and watched them kill a friend of mine of colour. But I wasn’t going to do that.”
“I hate to say it, but I see a civil war right around the corner… that shot felt like the beginning of a war.”
After the shooting, he left the demonstration and hid as shots were fired into his house mere hours after the incident. “They’re out hunting me,” he said to Vice, “There’s nightly posts of the hunt and where they’re going to be hunting. They made a post saying ‘the deer are going to feel lucky this year because it’s open season on Michael right now’.”
He had not turned himself in because he believed right-wing protesters were collaborating with police, who would not protect him or his family.
After his admission, a warrant was issued for his arrest and Rienoehl was located in Lacey, Washington, some 120 miles north of Portland. After a stand-off with local sheriffs working on behalf of The U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task forces, Rienoehl was killed as he attempted to enter a car and make a getaway. A witness to the attempted arrest, Jashon Spencer said, “I was sitting in my backyard and all I heard was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop; I come outside and there’s a million sheriffs out here, and there’s a dude laying out here by the mailbox and he’s bleeding. They hit him… you see all of those yellow markings. They’re bullets. They let loose on him.”
It has been confirmed that four officers fired their weapons. It has not yet been confirmed by law enforcement agencies if Rienoehl fired a single shot, only that he was believed to be carrying a firearm as he attempted to enter the vehicle, although a second witness claims to have seen him fire “40 to 50 shots with a semi automatic rifle” in a scene “like a video game” during the arrest. This alleged rifle was not found on his person when he was shot and killed.
Rienoehl fully understood the gravity of actions that he had taken. In an Instagram post made in June, he said: “Every revolution needs people that are willing and ready to fight. There are so many of us protesters that are just protesting, without a clue of where that will lead. That’s just the beginning of where the fight starts… We do not want violence, but we will not run from it either.”
Defending yourself and those around from right wing violence is something to be proud of. Michael Reinoehl should be remembered for how he lived his life, as a proud antifascist willing to do what was necessary to stand up for the liberation of mankind.
RIP Michael Reinoehl
1972 – 2020
Challenge News Desk