I had been waiting for NSC-131 to come to Portland.

Not waiting in that I desired them to come, but waiting in that I knew, sooner or later, they’d show up. Nationalist Social Club Anti-Communist Action (or NSC-131) has been on my radar as a nasty little organization since the uncertain days of the George Floyd uprising during the summer of 2020.

I didn’t start to take them seriously until antifascist researchers exposed the identities of several members in the wake of Jan. 6. When their stickers started showing up in downtown Portland that winter, I knew we were going to have a problem on our hands.

Watching videos online of their menacing and poorly attended standouts in Worcester, Portsmouth, Kittery and Lewiston gave a serious sense of foreboding, a glimpse of what my hometown might one day experience. I had been waiting for NSC-131 to come to Portland, and I had hoped we would be prepared.

On April 1 in front of City Hall, my friends and I held up a pride flag in front of NSC’s banner and its members swarmed us, ripped the flag from our hands, grabbed, punched, kicked and threw all four of us before the cops intervened.

The police separated us and held the NSC thugs at gunpoint. However, by the time the police sergeant asked me for my statement, his coworkers had already let the neo-Nazis stand back up, roll up their banner and march off toward their vehicles.


In that moment, I declined to make a statement. First, I wanted to follow the guys who had just attacked us, for any clue as to who they were or where they’d come from, especially if the cops weren’t interested. Second, I kept thinking about the same cops I’d seen right there in the city center more than two years ago, the cops I’d seen take a knee in front of the Nickelodeon Cinema in supposed solidarity, only to later use pepper spray on a crowd of unarmed, nonviolent protestors demanding justice for the murder of Black people at the hand of the police. In that moment, looking back toward the neo-Nazis marching around the corner onto Chestnut Street, I didn’t feel like these officers were people I could trust with my story.

Leo Hilton tells the Portland City Council about his experience of the altercation he and his friends experienced with the Neo-Nazi group that marched around Portland two weeks ago on April 10. Hilton helped organized the demonstration in Portland before the council meeting that night. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

As a Jewish person, as a queer person, as a communist, as a living, breathing human being with love and respect for my community, I have a standard, baseline level of antipathy toward Nazis and their ilk. Now, as a target of their violence, this is personal. I think their goal with this kind of incursion is to scare people. It’s a shame for them that I’m more angry than I am afraid.

I’m angry that these guys want me dead. I’m angry that they want people I love dead. I’m angry that they want anyone who’s not like them dead. And I’m also quite angry that they were allowed to come to my hometown, use hate speech, threaten people with violence, commit a violent assault, a hate crime, and then walk away, unscathed, with their identities still hidden and their liberty secure.

I’ve been grappling with the feeling that I made a mistake. In all honesty, I feel stupid for underestimating NSC the way I did. I didn’t realize that they would be so bold as to assault four people in front of local cops. I know these guys are violent, but I thought we would have minutes, not seconds, before they would escalate to the level of violence that they did.

But now I understand why they feel so bold: they knew that they could get away with it.

Nazis are cowards, and they would never pick a fair fight. They prefer their targets outnumbered, defenseless and unsuspecting. That’s good news for us: there are a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them. That makes me very proud.


I feel proud of the dozens and dozens of Portlanders who engaged in everyday antifascism. The people who documented the neo-Nazis and their activities. Those who told them they weren’t welcome here. Those who warned other vulnerable community members to avoid the area where the neo-Nazis had gathered. Those who mobilized to show a different message, one of love and community and tolerance and solidarity.

I feel proud because, in the end, we achieved our goal. They left and they didn’t hurt anyone else.

But they will be back. And if they don’t come back here, there will be others, like the Proud Boys at Mathew’s or the run-of-the-mill MAGA agitators whose rhetoric and activities continue to escalate.

If we know that they’re coming back, what do we do? We organize. Go to the groups you are involved in, your place of worship, your sports team, your school, your union, and talk about what your community’s response should be when these events happen.

For me, antifacist organizing is coordinating with a group of people who will show up to spread a message of equality, love and solidarity at any place and at any time that Nazis try to spread their violent message of hate and white supremacy.

At a rally on the steps of the Portland Police Headquarters and in the City Council chambers that same night, I called on our city leaders for truth and accountability. Hundreds rallied with us, and dozens gave comment to the City Council reinforcing the following demands:


1. That the Portland Police Department comply with any freedom of access act requests regarding the events of April 1 and publicly release all bodycam and surveillance camera footage of the attack;

2. That the City Council hold the police responsible for their inaction by officially reprimanding and firing the officers who made the reckless decision to let dangerous neo-Nazis leave the scene of a hate crime without unmasking or questioning them;

3. And that the City Council work to realize an unfulfilled demand from the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising in Portland: to fix our police citizen review board so that all Portlanders have a way to hold the police accountable when they violate our rights.

Despite inspiring and heartfelt remarks from Councillors Pelletier and Philips at the city council meeting, I don’t trust that city government has the tools or perhaps even the will to deal with this problem.

In the same way that it falls on ordinary working people to help the unhoused, fight for racial justice or demand fair treatment at work, it will fall on working people to take up the fight against fascism in Portland. I, for one, will take up that burden with zeal.

And, to you, reading this right now: go organize yourself. Put your phone down, close your laptop, make a list of the five people you really trust and call them. Get ready to show up in numbers the next time NSC-131 comes to town.

The Portland Police say that “‘Protect and Serve’ is more than just a motto for us; it is our passion.” Protect what? And serve who? The cops didn’t protect me. They’re not going to protect you.

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