“Can you see through those goggles?” John Hacker asked me when I stood in the middle of an Antifa crowd outside the Portland Police Central Precinct May 28, 2021.
It had been four months since the release of my book, “Unmasked,” and half a year since I’d been on the ground doing field reporting in Portland, Ore. After I completed the book manuscript in 2020, I left Portland due to growing credible threats against my life. But family matters pulled me back to my hometown — the city still under siege by violent protests and riots a year after George Floyd died.
Though Hacker was partially masked, I recognized him right away. Our paths had crossed before: In May 2019, he confronted, assaulted and robbed me at a gym in northeast Portland. Two and a half years later, in October 2021, he was indicted by a Multnomah County grand jury for felony robbery against me. His criminal case is still pending.
But that night, Hacker’s question signaled to me that Antifa had grown suspicious of me. I was undercover again, dressed head-to-toe in black like the Antifa militants around me. As before, I knew it was extremely dangerous to be on the streets.
There was already a bounty on my head. The threats increased throughout the year as I systematically documented who was arrested and charged at every riot. I posted their photos and evidence of their ties to Antifa. But the motivation to learn more about how Antifa’s tactics have evolved drove me to return to the streets.
This time, it nearly cost me my life. Again.
After Hacker left, I walked one block west. I stood for a moment between the Justice Center and the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse. The federal courthouse was the site of intense rioting in July 2020 when thousands of rioters tried to break the protective fencing and set the building on fire night after night. The scars of that attempted insurrection still show. The concrete-reinforced barrier remained around the courthouse, and the glass windows were entirely boarded up.
A group of Antifa fully masked in black approached me. They had followed me after Hacker questioned me. “Why did you look so nervous tonight?” asked one of the men.
His comrades stood behind him for backup. I was alone and forced to respond. I answered, quietly: “I have anxiety.” The man paused for a moment then looked to his comrades and said, “I think it’s him.”
I immediately began walking north, towards the AC Hotel by Marriott. It was the only thing open. Everything else was closed and boarded up. With my heart racing, I could see the shadows of the Antifa following me.
After two city blocks, I made it to the front of the hotel lobby doors — but they were locked. Behind me now was the group of Antifa. And they surrounded me. “Why don’t you take off your mask?” one of them asked. I didn’t respond.
Suddenly, one of the Antifa forcefully grabbed at my face. In one swift motion, he pulled off my goggles and mask. “It’s Andy! Get him! Get him!” he screamed as I took off sprinting for my life. They pursued me, and one was so close I could hear him breathing.
I was tackled at full force to the concrete ground. The full brunt of both my body as well as the person who tackled me was absorbed by my left knee. The impact on the brick floor shredded my skin as I slid. I tried getting up, but the Antifa held me until some of his comrades caught up. One of the men sprinted at me and began punching my face, head and body until I collapsed on the ground. He then put me in a hold.
In that moment, all the adrenaline left my body, and I couldn’t breathe. Those who had been baying for my blood for two years had me in their literal grip.
I could hear others in the distance approaching. I knew that when they got to me, they would kill me. And they would make it painful and long. I thought about those I loved and how I had let them down.
But suddenly someone shouted, “Get off!” A local journalist ran up and intervened. He was courageous, and his act distracted the person holding me down just long enough that I was able to push his arms off and take off running again, albeit with a limp.
Given what felt like an undeserved second chance at life, I ran to a nearby hotel, the Nines. Once inside, I pleaded like a madman with the night staff to call police. “Call 911. Call 911. They’re going to kill me!”
The two staff on duty refused and said I needed to leave the property. I got on my knees behind the desk and continued pleading. By now, one of the female Antifa had run inside the lobby after me. Elizabeth Renee Richter, 38, began livestreaming to rally more comrades to the hotel.
“I can’t wait for you to come out, Andy,” she threatened. “You thought the milkshakes were bad last time? We’re gonna beat the f–k out of you, bitch.” She was referring to my June 2019 assault in which after punching me repeatedly on the head and robbing me of my camera equipment, an Antifa mob doused me with “milkshakes” and other liquids. I suffered a brain hemorrhage from the assault and nearly died. I continue to deal with cognitive issues today from the traumatic brain injury.
By now, the Antifa mob had gathered outside the hotel. The lobby shook from how hard some of the rioters were pounding on the glass. One Antifa slammed his body against the glass to try to break it. I frantically looked around the room and escaped in the elevator.
Outside the hotel, dozens of responding officers in riot gear finally mobilized to push the Antifa back and secure the building. Eventually a lone Portland Fire and Rescue medic found me. We returned to a different part of the ground floor and discreetly exited via a back entrance. An ambulance and police escort were waiting for me. I was driven to the emergency room of the Oregon Health and Science University — the same hospital I was treated at in June 2019 for the last Antifa beating.
Online, Antifa accounts were trying to find out which hospital I was at and discussed ways to finish me off.
The morning after my discharge from the hospital, I left Portland. For the next four weeks, I was rushed from safehouse to safehouse in different states.
Antifa think they’ve won. On the surface, it may appear so. I suffer the long-term effects of the brain injury from their assault in 2019. They’ve forced me away from my family in Portland. And as a result of the latest beating, I suffer from a long-term knee injury and PTSD.
But Antifa haven’t won. My resolve is strengthened, and the public is more informed than ever as a consequence of their violence.
Andy Ngo is author of the New York Times bestseller “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.” The just-released paperback features a new chapter, from which this piece was adapted.