A Portland Antifa activists was hit by an SUV and killed over the weekend. The incident, which took place outside the Cider Riot bar, sparked worries among other Antifa members that the victim may have been targeted for his political beliefs. However, Rose City Antifa and other groups have said there is no evidence this was connected to “fascist activity.” The Oregonian describes the scene:
Police identified Sean D. Kealiher, a 23-year-old Portland resident, as the man who was hit after leaving Cider Riot, a Couch Street gathering place for antifascists, anarchists and other leftists. Shots were fired at the car after it hit Kealiher, and the vehicle crashed into a building.
Kealiher, who identified as an anarchist, was driven to a hospital. Doctors tried to save his life, according to police, but he died of blunt-force trauma.
Friends who brought Kealiher to the hospital were initially detained by police, but they were later released from police custody, The Oregonian/OregonLive has learned.
Police said no arrests have been made and that homicide detectives are investigating the case.
Police got a call about shots being fired and found the SUV crashed into the Democratic Party headquarters building about a block away from Cider Riot. The driver and any passengers of the SUV had run off, making this a hit and run.
The immediate reaction from some on Twitter was that this may have been an intentional murder targeting Kealiher because of his political views. Here’s one of the milder tweets suggesting it as a possibility:
We don’t know everything but he was run down outside of cider riot, a frequent hang out spot for antifascists and a previous target of right wing violence. I am deeply saddened. It’s a loss for our entire community.
— Gregory McKelvey (@GregoryMcKelvey) October 12, 2019
Several tweets I saw went much further but I’m not going to post those here because the people making those claims don’t have a significant number of followers. However, Rose City Antifa and other antifascist groups are saying they have sources who say this hit and run did not involve “fascist activity.”
Our hearts go out to the friends and family members affected by the death of Sean Kealiher. Our sources indicate that this was not related to fascist activity.
If you are struggling with this news, we would encourage contacting Lines for Life at 800-273-8255.
— Always Antifascist (@RoseCityAntifa) October 13, 2019
Here’s another one:
A group called the Pacific Northwest Antifascist Worker’s Collective says Kealiher’s family has asked that people who know what happened not talk to reporters or the police.
Your words can impact the survivors, the organizing on a large scale and the family getting support. Dont let the press platform off this and dont help the pigs build cases. Consider not telling stories on public fb pages/organizing pages (keep it in the community). ///
— PNWAWC (@PNWAWC) October 13, 2019
I can see one obvious reason why they don’t want people talking to the police: It seems likely one of Kealiher’s friends fired the shots at the car. That could be charged as attempted murder. But I do wonder why these groups would stay silent if they knew something about the identity or motive of the driver. Why not help police put the person away who killed your friend? I guess we’ll have to wait and see who police charge. Since they have the SUV it shouldn’t be very hard to tie the vehicle to a driver. In the meantime, Kealiher’s comrades are remembering him in their own way:
— Still Radical (@stillradzine) October 14, 2019
Last night, Portland looked a bit like Charlottesville when antifa black bloc amassed in the dark w/flares to vandalize property to “honor” their deceased comrade Sean Kealiher. Antifa groups are telling followers to not help police in the death investigation. Photos by B0m8sh3ll pic.twitter.com/0Tqtm6jkJ0
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) October 14, 2019
Andy Ngo remembered Kealiher as someone who threatened reporters who might reveal the identities of his Antifa comrades. Antifascists are furious at Ngo for sharing this clip:
An antifa militant died in mysterious circumstances involving gunfire & a car crash. @tedwheeler, media & antifa groups are honoring Sean Kealiher aka “Armeanio Lewis” as some sort of social justice peace maker. I knew him for threatening journalists: pic.twitter.com/mPFgn9F3u0
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) October 13, 2019
Finally, KOIN 6 reports that a homeless man in a tent near the incident claims there was an exchange of words and two vehicles involved. One driver slammed his car into another one at least twice before shots were fired. If this is remotely accurate then people involved must know who this driver was or at least what he looked like.