American far-right political group
Patriot Prayer is a far-right group founded by Joey Gibson in 2016 and based in Vancouver, Washington, a suburban city in the Portland metropolitan area. Since 2016, the group has organized several dozen pro-gun, pro-Trump rallies held in liberal cities in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Often met with large numbers of counter-protesters, attendees have repeatedly clashed with left-wing groups in the Portland area. Far-right groups, such as Proud Boys, have attended the rallies organized by Patriot Prayer, as well as White nationalists, sparking controversy and violence.
Patriot Prayer has focused on fighting antifa and leftist groups; the brutal street fights between the groups, which have taken place since 2017, have frequently been filmed and posted online by observers and members. After a brawl between Patriot Prayer and anti-fascist activists at Cider Riot in May 2019, Gibson was indicted on a felony rioting charge.
Patriot Prayer has described itself as in favor of free speech and opposed to big government. An infiltrator into Patriot Prayer said that the group had around 15 core members in 2019.
Patriot Prayer was founded in 2016 by Joey Gibson. Gibson was motivated to become an activist after he viewed TV coverage of a June 2, 2016, Trump rally in San Jose, California, where protests turned to brawling. Since early 2017, Patriot Prayer supporters have traveled to downtown Portland to hold rallies in support of Donald Trump. Patriot Prayer is a far-right group, part of the right-wing of American politics. It has held rallies in areas known for their liberal politics. It has also been described as anti-government. The San Jose Mercury News described Patriot Prayer as a "right-wing group", whose events "attracted white supremacists and ended up in violent confrontations among demonstrators on both sides." In 2017, Gibson considered himself a conservative libertarian.
Patriot Prayer have been connected to the alt-right and other far-right groups. Gibson denied that the group was white nationalist and claimed that they supported "freedom, love and peace". The group's stated aim is support of the First Amendment, free speech and to "liberate the conservatives on the West Coast".
Patriot Prayer is known for being a "pro-Trump group".The Weekly Standard described early Patriot Prayer rallies as having "overtly pro-Trump themes."
Opposition to Gibson's rallies grew in May 2017, following the 2017 Portland train attack, a racially motivated double murder by Jeremy Christian, a man known to have attended Patriot Prayer rallies.
In August 2017, David Neiwert, writing for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), described Patriot Prayer as "trolling" the Pacific Northwest with the intention of provoking a response from far-left antifascists. Neiwert noted that Gibson denounced white supremacists and neo-Nazis after the Unite the Right Rally and stated that he aimed to "actively exclude" white supremacist groups. Members of Identity Evropa have attended the groups rallies. The SPLC referred to Patriot Prayer as "violent extremists".
In 2018, authorities were prompted to conduct an investigation after Patriot Prayer called the Council on American–Islamic Relations a "Muslim extremist organization" and made online threats against the group. Patriot Prayer has harassed and assaulted Abolish ICE and other leftist activists.
The group has also attracted anti-government paramilitary groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
Organizational structure, membership and recruitment
For a period of time beginning in February 2019, Patriot Prayer was a corporation, but on September 18, 2019 it was voluntarily dissolved. In October 2019, Gibson advised followers to send him donations through the Church of Faith and Freedom, an organization that officials who oversee charities and non-profits found no record of in the states it claimed to be active: California, Oregon and Washington. 
Crosscut described Gibson as "the man who seems to run everything." An infiltrator into Patriot Prayer said that the group had around 15 core members in 2019. Members of the group have included Tusitala "Tiny" Toese a one-time close confidant of Gibson who has faced multiple criminal charges for violence and Chandler Pappas who was indicted by a grand jury on eight felony charges in 2021 for his role in the breach of the Oregon state capitol. Six individuals affiliated with Patriot Prayer, including Gibson, were indicted on felony rioting charges following a brawl between Patriot Prayer and patrons of Cider Riot, a Portland cider house, on May 1 2019; several members pleaded guilty to the charges.
Several crowdfunding websites have removed Gibson and Patriot Prayer from their platforms including GivingFuel in November 2018, Go Get Funding in September 2019, and GoFundMe (by October 2019).
Patriot Prayer had often used Facebook to recruit attendees. In September 2020, Facebook took down the pages for Patriot Prayer and Gibson as part of their efforts to remove "violent social militias" from its social networks.
Activities and events
Since 2016, Patriot Prayer has hosted dozens of pro-gun and pro-Trump rallies in the Pacific Northwest. The attendees of Patriot Prayer's rallies, known to draw supporters from Proud Boys and other anti-government extremist groups, have repeatedly clashed with left-wing groups in the Portland, Oregon, area.
Prior to the violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Patriot Prayer's rallies featured "right-wing nationalists". Since Charlottesville, the group has tried to distance themselves from the alt-right.Rose City Antifa has organized opposition to Patriot Prayer rallies in Portland.
April "Rally for Trump and Freedom" Portland
On April 2, 2017, Patriot Prayer organized a "Rally for Trump and Freedom" attended by approximately 300 people, both supporters and opposition of President Donald Trump exchanged words during a pro-Trump rally at Vancouver's Esther Short Park, near Portland, but the exchange was relatively peaceful. Security for the rally was provided by the Three Percenters.
April "March for Free Speech" Portland
Following the cancellation of a Rose Festival event due to threats of violence, allegedly from anti-fascists, against expected rally participants the Multnomah CountyRepublican Party, Gibson organized a "March for Free Speech" to occur on April 29, 2017. Gibson told The Guardian: "We are going to continue with our rally. There is no way that we will stop. It is even more important that we come out with a strong message of love." There were an estimated 60 counter protesters and police made three arrests. At the march yelling racial slurs was Jeremy Joseph Christian who was later arrested for the 2017 Portland train attack where two men were fatally stabbed. Gibson denounced Christian's actions and said he ejected Christian from the April 29 rally due to his "bizarre behavior".
May "Stand Against Communism" rally Seattle
On May 1, 2017, Patriot Prayer counter-protested at Seattle's May Day parade with their "Stand Against Communism" rally. The events were mostly peaceful with arrests of counter protesters.
On May 11 and 13, 2017, Patriot Prayer organized the attendance of a dozen "antifa watchers" at a protest at a south-east Portland grocery liquidator. Interviewed by The Oregonian, Gibson said the group were there to watch the protest and report any property damage, and that he intended "to start conversations".
June "Trump Free Speech Rally" Portland
A June 4, 2017 "Trump Free Speech Rally" in downtown Portland attracted a large counter-protest and 14 people were arrested, after Portland's mayor Ted Wheeler unsuccessfully sought to have the event's permit revoked.The Washington Post, stated that the event provided "a vivid illustration of the city's divisions". The rally caused controversy as it was scheduled one week after the stabbings by Jeremy Christian. The mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler had requested that federal authorities revoke the permit saying he was concerned over increasing tensions in the city due to the stabbings. The General Services Administration denied the request, stating that the permit had been lawfully obtained weeks beforehand. The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union's legal director, Mat Dos Santos, said it was unconstitutional of Wheeler to attempt to prevent the demonstration based on the political and personal viewpoints of those who organized the event. Gibson cancelled the event citing safety concerns.
June “March Against Evergreen State College” rally in Olympia, Washington
On June 15, 2017, Patriot Prayer members held a rally at Evergreen State College shortly after the university became the focus of a national controversy over how the academic world handled race. Patriot Prayer promoted solidarity with Bret Weinstein, whose critical comments about an event for racial awareness had ignited the 2017 campus protests. The campus had been closed twice in early June over safety concerns after a man called in threatening a mass shooting on school grounds aimed at leftists; officials closed the campus early once they learned of the rally planned for June 15.
Patriot Prayer promoted their event as a "March Against Evergreen State College" which was changed to “Free Speech Evergreen State College”. State troopers in riot gear worked to keep the peace as several dozen Patriot Prayer members and supporters were met by over 100 counter-protesters made up of Evergreen students, faculty, and anti-fascists, including some from the Evergreen Anti-Fascist Community Defense Network. Patriot Prayer members were sprayed with silly string and after he repeatedly advanced into the opposition, Gibson was also pepper-sprayed.
June/August "Freedom Marches" Portland
On June 30, 2017, Patriot Prayer's self titled "Freedom March", held at the Portland Waterfront near the annual Blues Festival, was met by counter-protesters. The often heated exchanges of the dueling rallies ended with minimal violence and no reports of arrests. The rally occurred during national debate on the First Amendment, where violent clashes between right-wing and left-wing groups occurred over appearances by contentious public figures, often in liberal cities such as Portland. The atmosphere in Portland was also tense due to the recent arrest of Christian for the train attack.
On August 6, 2017, smaller crowds appeared for a Patriot Prayer's Salmon Street Springs "Freedom March" in Portland. The event, met by counter protesters, followed the well-established pattern of shouting and chants from both sides with a few arrests.
August "Freedom Rally Seattle"
On August 13, 2017, the group held the "Freedom Rally Seattle" at Westlake Park with a large police presence to keep thousands of counter-protesters away. The concurrent events came one day after the death and injuries in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and tensions were high with arrests of counter protesters made by police.
August San Francisco events
See also: 2017 Berkeley protests
Patriot Prayer planned an August 26, 2017 event to be held at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Crissy Field, administered by the National Park Service, granted Patriot Prayer a permit to march. The city called in its entire police force in anticipation of unrest similar to previous Patriot Prayer rallies in Seattle and Portland.Nancy Pelosi said the event was intended to be a "white supremacist rally". Police Chief Bill Scott and Board of Supervisors President London Breed wrote a letter to express their outrage over the National Park Service's decision to allow the rally. Patriot Prayer security for the event was to be handled by armed Oath Keepers. Mayor Ed Lee condemned the event, referring to is as part of a "shameful, anti-American trend of hate-filled extremist rallies." Lee added that "San Francisco does not welcome outside agitators whose messages of hate have the sole purpose of inciting violence." After it attracted over 1,000 counter-protesters, Patriot Prayer canceled their event and opted to hold a press conference at Alamo Square Park. In rapid response, the city of San Francisco built fences around the park and closed it to the public to prevent violence, which prompted Gibson to also cancel that event. Gibson stated that Patriot Prayer members would attend a “No to Marxism” rally near the University of California, Berkeley; that event was also called off by its organizer.Time reported that many feared a repeat of the deadly clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters that had occurred at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville earlier that month. The counter-demonstrations across the San Francisco Bay Area went ahead peacefully with most participants opting to hold a large dance party instead of a violent confrontation.
The news of a planned Patriot Prayer press conference in San Francisco's Alamo Square Park drew counter-protesters to the area. The group, which had already canceled a planned rally at Crissy Field due to alleged safety concerns, held the press conference in Pacifica instead. Prior to the event, Gibson denounced white supremacists saying: "Don't show up, you're not welcome." Group organizers arrived at Crissy Field later that afternoon to talk with counter-protesters.
September "Peaceful Portland Freedom March"
For the September 10, 2017, "Peaceful Portland Freedom March" in Portland, Gibson asked followers take a new non-violent approach, although not all appeared willing to go along. Counter-protests appeared to arrive at a number of different stances that were dependent on the organization. Patriot Prayer announced changes, including the collection of charitable relief for the victims of the Eagle Creek fire and a name change for a rally to "Peaceful Vancouver Freedom March". The small rallies drew large counter-protest crowds in both Portland and Vancouver with several arrests and the detention of a pickup truck driver who sped through a crowd of counter-protesters. Among those drawn to the rallies were the militia-style Three Percenters and the Proud Boys, a white nationalist group.
September event Berkley, California
A September 26, 2017 Patriot Prayer demonstration near Sproul Plaza resulted in violence between the group and left-wing activists, including BAMN. The demonstration continued in a march to People's Park, where the speakers included Kyle "Stickman" Chapman, a self-described American nationalist, who claimed there was "a war on whites" and a "battle for Berkeley". Police made three arrests, including Yvette Felarca.
January counter-demonstration at the Women's March Seattle
Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys appeared at the 2018 Women's March in Seattle. Led by Tusitala Toese, the Proud Boys were seen wearing shirts that targeted feminists as "parasites of the patriarchy" while both groups shouted misogynistic slurs at the women attending the event.
February "Freedom Rally" Seattle
On February 10, 2018, Patriot Prayer was invited by the University of WashingtonCollege Republicans to speak at their "Freedom Rally" in Red Square. Several groups organized counter-protests, leading to skirmishes. Five people were arrested.
May Day rally Seattle
Gibson held a Patriot Prayer rally in downtown Seattle on May 1, 2018 during the annual left-wing events for May Day. At the rally, Gibson openly endorsed the Proud Boys (several of whom shared the stage with him) and spoke about his campaign as a Republican for the U.S. Senate. The 2018 event was accompanied by a heavy police presence and remained largely peaceful.
June rallies in Portland
On June 3, 2018, Patriot Prayer and anti-fascists fought in downtown Portland parks where police made four arrests for disorderly conduct. Participants threw rocks, bottles, ball bearings, and fireworks at each other. The event was organized by Patriot Prayer to counter a rally led by Empower Portland Alliance and Direct Action Alliance, an event held to protest police violence and commemorate the anniversary of an incident where Portland police detained 200 people for several hours. In response to Patriot Prayer, local antifa groups organized another counter-protest, calling this third rally "Call to Resist Patriot Prayer Bringing Nazis to Portland."Multnomah County sheriff's deputy and demonstrators deployed pepper spray.
On June 30, 2018, a Patriot Prayer rally with 150 supporters clashed with anti-fascist activists waiting at a street barricade. Police observed “assaults, criminal behavior, and projectiles being thrown". Reports suggested that the counter-protesters initiated the violence with thrown projectiles. Police, who declared the Patriot Prayer rally a riot, fired non-lethal ammunition towards counter-protestors and arrested 9 people. Prior to the June 30, 2018 rally, Gibson issued a national call for participation that over 60 Proud Boys answered. Video showed Proud Boys member Ethan Nordean shoving one counter protester to the ground before another approached with a metal baton. Due to shin guards on his forearms, Nordean deflected the baton, then punched the man in the face, knocking him to the ground unconscious. According to a police report, the counter-protester was hospitalized with a concussion. Video of Nordean assaulting the counter-protester was utilized as a recruitment tool by the Proud Boys. When Nordean appeared on the July 17 edition of InfoWars' The Alex Jones Show, the video played continuously in the background  while he promoted the next Portland march scheduled for August 4 stating "if you want to get involved, there is no better time than now."
August "Gibson for Senate Freedom March" Portland
On August 4, 2018 the "Gibson for Senate Freedom March", which included members of the Proud Boys, was held in Portland along Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It attracted counter-protestors from labor groups, a local Democratic Socialists of America chapter, clergy, anitfa activists, and community groups. Hundreds of police in riot gear, from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and the Oregon State Police, used rubber bullets and flashbangs in an attempt to keep the opposing groups apart. Police, were reportedly hit by rocks and bottles. They confiscated weapons including fireworks, long sticks, baseball bats, pepper spray and home-made shields. Patriot Prayer attracted some 400 supporters for the rally from across the nation, with many wearing Proud Boys colors, Trump-branded merchandise, InfoWars merchandise, or the slogan "RWDS" (Right-Wing Death Squad). Patriot Prayer member and known brawler Tusitala “Tiny” Toese was seen at the event wearing a "Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong" shirt.
Portland police later reported they had encountered Patriot Prayer members with loaded firearms on the roof of a parking garage overlooking the August 4 protest site. Although the individuals had concealed carry permits, police confiscated the weapons and cleared the roof prior to the protest scheduled for the afternoon.
August "Liberty or Death" rally Seattle
On August 18, 2018, Patriot Prayer and the Washington Three Percenters held a "Liberty or Death" rally in Seattle. The right-wing supporters, some armed and in tactical gear, were met with a counter protest from Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party. Three people were arrested.
On November 17, 2018, an offshoot of Patriot Prayer scheduled a Him Too rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland and was met with counter protestors.
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January doxing campaign Portland
In January 2019, Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, Proud Boy Tusitala "Tiny" Toese and former Proud Boy Russell Schultz initiated a campaign to tear off the bandanas of antifa demonstrators to take pictures of their faces, in order to doxx them. The "demasking" announcement followed an altercation when Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys members attempted to invade a chapter meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America. After being denied entry to the meeting, the group clashed with nearby anti-fascist activists and claimed to be attacked.
May Day brawl at Cider Riot Portland
Main article: Cider Riot
On May 1, 2019, following a full day of public demonstrations and counter-protests in Portland for International Workers Day or May Day, a brawl between Patriot Prayer and anti-fascist cider house patrons took place outside Cider Riot in the early evening. A police detective described video of Gibson, "taunting" and threatening members of antifa and later “physically pushing” a woman before she was hit with a baton and knocked unconscious by someone else.
Gibson, and five other Patriot Prayer affiliates were arrested for their actions in connection with the May Day riot, during which Patriot Prayer member Ian Kramer beat a Cider Riot patron unconscious and broke her vertebrae. A Navy veteran referred to as "Ben", who had infiltrated Patriot Prayer and took videos of the violence at their rallies, was expected to testify at Gibson's trial.
Events related to George Floyd Protests in Portland
Main article: Killings of Aaron Danielson and Michael Reinoehl
On August 29, 2020, Aaron Danielson, a Patriot Prayer supporter, was shot and killed after participating in a pro-Trump "caravan" during the ongoing George Floyd Protests in Portland. The alleged shooter, Michael Reinoehl, charged by police with second-degree murder, and a self-described antifa supporter, was shot and killed by police.
Covid-19 restriction protests
In late 2020, Patriot Prayer organized a rally to protest Covid-19 public health restrictions in Washington state. Gibson participated in and promoted several events that took place at state Capitol buildings and governor’s mansions in Washington and Oregon. In November, he led a rally at the private residence of a Washington state Liquor and Cannabis Board officer, in opposition to business restrictions imposed in Washington state for the coronavirus pandemic.
At December 2020 rally at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem organized by Patriot Prayer, protesters used chemical agents against troopers and some entered the building unlawfully, resulting in several arrests.
Relationship with the Portland police
The Guardian reported that Lt. Niiya told Gibson in December 2017 that the police would not execute a warrant for the arrest of Toese. In a text, Niiya wrote: "Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention. [...] If he still has the warrant in the system (I don’t run you guys so I don’t personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason." He also indicated that police officers had ignored previous arrest warrants for Toese.
In February 2019, Willamette Week reported that Portland police lieutenant Jeff Niiya kept in close touch with Gibson, and provided him with intelligence about the anti-fascist movement in the city. He also advised Gibson on how a Patriot Prayer member could avoid arrest. On February 21, a public "listening session" convened by the Portland Police Bureau consisted in large part of strong criticism of the bureau.
On March 1, 2019, The Guardian obtained video which showed Portland police officers approaching Gibson at a June 3, 2018 rally, telling him that although Niiya had probable cause to arrest several group members, they could avoid arrest by leaving. Officers informed Gibson that Tusitala "Tiny" Toese and another man would be arrested, and told him that they had already arrested members of "the other side". Five days after the rally, Toese and Proud Boys member Donovan Flippo, allegedly attacked a man in Portland, an incident for which they were indicted for by a grand jury.
Portland's Independent Police Review investigated Niiya and cleared him in September 2019, determining that he was gathering information on the groups and trying to defuse potential clashes with his advice.
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The pro-Trump, anti-left Patriot Prayer group, explained
Last weekend, a man associated with the far-right group known as Patriot Prayer was shot and killed in Portland, Oregon, amid ongoing protests that have taken place in the downtown area of the city for months.
The victim of Saturday’s shooting, identified by the group’s founder Joey Gibson as Aaron “Jay” Danielson, was 39 years old. He died after a pro-Trump truck caravan advertised on Facebook wound its way through the city on Saturday night, which protesters then attempted to disrupt.
Danielson was shot twice, allegedly by Michael Reinoehl, a 48-year-old man with a police record who expressed support for antifa online. Thursday night, Reinoehl was shot and killed by police who were attempting to arrest him.
Danielson, a native Portlander, was wearing a hat emblazoned with the Patriot Prayer logo when he was killed. In an interview with Reason Magazine’s Nancy Rommelmann, Gibson, who described Danielson as a good friend, said the truck caravan “wasn’t even a Patriot Prayer thing.”
What a “Patriot Prayer thing” is — andwhat Patriot Prayer is, exactly — depends on whom you ask. The group described itself on its Facebook page as an organization based on “encouraging the country to fight for freedom at a local level using faith in God to guide us in the right direction.”
That fight has often been physical. Patriot Prayer members have dedicated themselves to fighting antifa and leftist groups in cities across the Pacific Northwest, including Portland. Brutal street fights between the two groups, often captured on video posted online by observers and members, have taken place since 2017. Gibson, its leader, has been indicted on a felony rioting charge.
The group, founded in 2016, has also had close associations with far-right groups like the Proud Boys and with white supremacists. A man who murdered two people on a train in May 2017 had previously attended a Patriot Prayer event, giving fascist salutes and yelling racist slurs. (Gibson said in an interview with the Guardian that the man had “nothing to do with” Patriot Prayer.)
The group’s goals seem, at best, amorphous. But their enemy is not: They want to fight the left, and win.
Patriot Prayer’s origin story: Trump, Jesus, and anti-leftism
The story of Patriot Prayer begins in 2016, when Gibson, a half-Japanese Vancouver, Washington, resident and a former football coach who makes a living flipping houses, formed the group in reaction to the rise of left-wing activist groups in the Pacific Northwest — with the intention of confronting those groups. I contacted Gibson for an interview, but he did not respond.
Before Patriot Prayer, Gibson was a prominent supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential run, and spoke at Trump rallies in Washington state. At a rally on October 2, 2016, he railed against culture war touchstones (transgender rights, for example) while saying that Trump will “slim” down Washington “just how you run a business.”
“Humans are beautiful creatures with hearts that just glow,” he said. “When we don’t have people with boots on our necks, we can do amazing things.”
He also ran for the US Senate in 2018 as a “libertarian”-leaning Republican who wanted to abolish the IRS and spoke at anti-Covid-19 shutdown rallies across the Pacific Northwest.
But what Gibson claims about himself, and about Patriot Prayer, differs significantly from what he and the group have actually said and done.
In an interview with professors Daniel Martinez HoSang and Joseph E. Lowndes for the 2019 book Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity, Gibson said his influences were Jesus Christ and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “with him preaching love and peace and nonviolent resistance. A lot of stuff that he did is stuff that I have been trying to do.”
He decried mass incarceration and denounced mandatory minimum sentencing to HoSang and Lowndes: “It’s been completely disruptive to the Black community. Do we really need to put all these people in a jail cell and take away their freedoms because they have an addiction? It’s crazy to me.”
But as HoSang and Lowndes note, Gibson’s descriptions of his influences and inspirations don’t match the group’s activities.
Lowndes described Patriot Prayer as a “kind of far-right gang or crew” that participated in a “broad range of identifiably right-wing causes,” like anti-feminism and anti-communism. For example, in 2018, Patriot Prayer took part in a #HimToo rally aimed as a reaction to the Me Too movement against sexual assault. Led by Patriot Prayer member Haley Adams (who declared that “men are under attack in the US”), attendees decried a supposed rise in false rape allegations they deemed to be tied to the Me Too movement.
To be clear, Patriot Prayer is not explicitly a white nationalist group, Lowndes said. Its members, like the Proud Boys, “pride themselves on being multiracial.” But he added that Patriot Prayer is “definitely far-right, if not openly fascist”: “Members celebrate Latin American far-right regimes, wear shirts that read ‘RWDS’ (for right-wing death squads), [and] claim to be defending the nation against communists and anarchists in their attacks.”
That was clear at an August 2018 Patriot Prayer rally, where Patriot Prayer member Tusitala “Tiny” Toese and others wore shirts that said “PINOCHET WAS RIGHT” (referring to the late Chilean dictator) on the front, with “RWDS” on the sleeve and “Make communists afraid of rotary aircraft again” on the back — a reference to so-called “death flights” used by far-right military forces in Argentina and Chile during the 1970s and 1980s, where victims were hurled from helicopters into rivers or the open sea.
This January, Toese pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge for attacking a protester in 2018. In June, a warrant was issued for his arrest for his involvement in another fight with protesters.
Anti-“leftist” actions create bad bedfellows
If Patriot Prayer has a unifying characteristic, it is avowed and strenuous anti-leftism, with “left” interpreted broadly by the group. Sometimes that means protesting cities with “sanctuary” policies for unauthorized immigrants or holding rallies to protest stay-at-home orders aimed at stemming the tide of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group’s laser focus on the city of Portland is because of the city’s left-leaning reputation. Gibson lives in Vancouver, Washington, and few members of the group interviewed in 2018 actually lived in Oregon. (Patriot Prayer often uses Facebook to recruit attendees to events in Portland and other left-leaning cities.)
In a 2018 interview with conspiracy theorist and Infowars founder Alex Jones, Gibson said his reasoning for focusing on Portland was because of the city’s “darkness”:
Portland is one of the worst cities in this country. It’s full of so much darkness. That’s why I’m so motivated to go there. If we don’t bring all of this hate onto the streets from antifa and communists, well, people won’t see it. I’m happy to go down there and stand up for freedom and stand up for God.
But the real motivation for Patriot Prayer’s activities in Portland seems to center largely on generating a reaction. In Portland and in other left-leaning cities, Patriot Prayer is likely to find the two things the group seemingly desires: a physical confrontation with protesters, including anti-fascist and anarchist groups, and a sympathetic reception from right-leaning viewers watching the action at home across the United States. (That has allegedly even included Portland police officers, who have been accused of overlooking the group’s violence while targeting counterprotesters.)
For example, in 2017 the group showed up at a protest of a store in Portland that sold Confederate flag memorabilia, acting, in their words, as “antifa watchers” and arguing with attendees about the Civil War. At a “Free Alex Jones” protest in Austin, Texas, in September 2018, Patriot Prayer members walked to a street festival, where Toese and others screamed obscenities at a group of young people wearing Obama hats. (Police eventually restrained Toese.)
In a January interview with journalist Sergio Olmos, a Patriot Prayer member said that without the opposition the group receives in Portland and elsewhere, Patriot Prayer would receive no attention whatsoever.
“Nobody would pay attention to us” without antifa, he said. “In liberal Portland we would be a couple of crazies, nutcases carrying a flag. We wouldn’t have a platform. We’d have been like four or five guys waving flags over an overpass. They’re the ones that made us famous.”
But Patriot Prayer is also perfectly able to generate violence on its own. Gibson was charged with starting a riot at a bar where anti-fascists were drinking following May Day celebrations in 2019, a fight allegedly instigated by Patriot Prayer members.
Patriot Prayer has a “close affinity” with right-wing militia groups
Because of Patriot Prayer’s anti-leftist perspective, Lowndes told me that the group has developed a “close affinity” with right-wing militia groups who share their disdain for the left, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. The Three Percenters’ name stems from the historically inaccurate claim that just 3 percent of Americans fought against the British during the Revolutionary War, and is used by the group’s founder to refer to the supposed “three percent” of “gun owners who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act.”
Gibson “claims only to support vague principles, like ‘freedom’ and ‘law and order,’ but he’s made a clearly defined enemy in anti-fascists and the left more broadly,” Cassie Miller, senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “This has created space for groups and individuals across the political right to join Gibson’s rallies. ... Anyone who wants to confront the left appears welcome at Patriot Prayer events, no matter their other beliefs.”
That welcome has extended to white nationalist individuals and organizations, despite Gibson’s purported disavowals of their ideology. Leftist groups like Rose City Antifa have compiled lengthy lists of white nationalists and white supremacists linked to Patriot Prayer and even invited to speak at Patriot Prayer events. As HoSang and Lowndes note in their book, Patriot Prayer events in 2017 and 2018 “drew members of white-supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and Identity Evropa, and featured racist speakers and renowned streetfighters.”
Most infamously, on April 29, 2017, Jeremy Christian, the man who killed two people on a train in May 2017, attended a Patriot Prayer-led “free speech” event held in Portland. According to reporting by the Willamette Week, “He carried a baseball bat. He threw Nazi salutes and shouted racial slurs in a Burger King parking lot.”
While some attendees of the rally wanted him to stay (arguing that the right to unpopular speech was part of the point), he was eventually asked to leave the rally. In video of the rally, you can see Christian, wearing a Revolutionary War-era flag as a cape, being told by another rally attendee, “Dude, you’re giving the Nazi sign and you’re saying the n-word, so please go away.”
The following month, Christian (who had a long history of mental illness) stabbed two men to death and wounded another after the three men tried to stop Christian from harassing two young Black women on a Portland MAX train. He had been screaming at the women to “go back to Saudi Arabia” and saying that “colored people” had ruined Portland before the three men stepped in.
Gibson disavowed Christian after the murders, saying he had nothing to do with Patriot Prayer. But in a January interview with Olmos, he said that Christian had been a Bernie Sanders supporter, adding, “Jeremy Christian is not a racist,” before asking Olmos to name one racist thing Gibson had ever said. A few days after the murders, Gibson organized another rally, saying in an interview, “There is no way that we will stop. It is even more important that we come out with a strong message of love.”
A memorial rally, and removal from Facebook
On September 5, a memorial was held for Danielson in Vancouver, Washington. Attendees, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Justice for J,” prayed together and listened to remarks made by Gibson, who told the crowd that anyone who started violence in Danielson’s memory was not associated with Patriot Prayer.
One day earlier, Facebook removed Patriot Prayer’s page from the site, as well as Gibson’s Instagram page, as part of an effort described by a Facebook spokesperson as “part of our ongoing efforts to remove Violent Social Militias from our platform.” In response, Gibson said in a statement, “Antifa groups murdered my friend while he was walking home, and instead of the multibillion dollar company banning Portland antifa pages they ban Patriot Prayer, Joey Gibson, and several other grandmas that are admins.”
Patriot Prayer has long attempted to straddle two sides of a political demarcation that exists in Portland and far beyond. The group purports to eschew violence while welcoming violent members and allies into its gatherings, and alleges to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and MLK Jr. while making friends with white nationalists and anti-government militia groups. Danielson’s killing wasn’t the fault of Joey Gibson or Patriot Prayer. But his death was part of a longstanding battle between the group, its allies, and the far-left activists they loathe, one with tragically real consequences.
Proud Boys, Antifa clash with paintball guns, pepper spray at Portland prayer service
Far-right and far-left activists exchanged paintball fire and pepper spray in Portland on Sunday as the Proud Boys and antifascists clashed at a controversial Canadian pastor’s rally.
A Christian group led by pastor Artur Pawlowski organized a prayer service at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where about 50 people attended. Members of the Proud Boys appeared to be working as security armed with paintball guns and batons, reported the Portland Tribune.
The service was disrupted by members of Antifa, clad in black, who began throwing smoke grenades and attempting to dismantle the group’s PA system, the paper said.
Videos on Twitter show the confrontation between the groups during the service, where an individual in all black sprays what appears to be pepper spray at the speakers.
Pawlowski is a well-known agitator in Canada, known for his brazen anti-homosexuality stance, and was arrested there in May for confronting law enforcement and calling them “Nazis” for enforcing COVID-19 restrictions.
He was found guilty of contempt of court in June for hosting large maskless gatherings for church services in Calgary, and denied health officials entry to the church.
The religious service lasted for about 90 minutes, the Portland Tribune said, before both sides began to get in each other’s faces.
The altercation spilled into nearby streets, where the groups continued fighting and exchanging pepper spray on the sidewalk in front of stores, a video from freelance journalist Sergio Holmes shows.
The video shows a police vehicle responding to the action, but not intervening.
“The Nazis came out and we drove them off again,” Wade Varner, a 64-year-old Navy veteran who served on the submarine tender USS Fulton, told the Portland Tribune. Varner said he was passing through the park with his dog when he decided to get involved.
“I’m sitting here, totally unarmed, in a wheelchair, and this f–ker shoots me in the face with a paintball.”
“Antifa had threatened to beat people up and do what they do — and then they showed up and did it,” an unnamed attendee from the right-wing side told the paper. “The police were not even far from there and they were laughing in their vehicles and doing their thing. It’s probably hard to care as an officer in a place where they take away all your funding.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had a message on Friday for the brawling right-wing groups predicted to pour into downtown on Sunday and clash violently with the anti-fascist counterprotesters they meet: “Choose love.”
The plea, delivered over a Zoom call, was ostensibly targeted at the far-right groups that are planning a rally downtown on Sunday. That rally, on the anniversary of a similar event last year that turned into hours of violence, is expected to once again turn the city’s downtown into a battleground.
Wheeler’s Zoom call was preceded by a song performed by local musical group The Brown Sisters, similarly encouraging people to choose love, which, they crooned, was “the best choice to choose.”
Sunday’s event falls on the one-year anniversary of a particularly violent political clash in which the opposing groups brawled on the street next to police headquarters for hours with no police intervention. The police later said they were stretched thin from a protest the prior night and had to “be judicious” with their police response. Police Chief Chuck Lovell said they have no plans to intervene Sunday, either.
In his remarks, Wheeler broadly condemned the political violence that has become routine in Portland. He did not specifically mention the protests slated for this weekend.
“Hate and hate groups have no place in our city,” he said. “Violence has no place in our city. Bigotry has no place in our city. We will not tolerate acts of violence, destruction, prejudice or intimidation.”
Wheeler was joined by local business, political, and civil rights leaders including Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Western States Center’s Eric Ward, and City Commissioner Dan Ryan. Commissioners Carmen Rubio and Mingus Mapps were not in attendance. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is on vacation and did not attend.
Amid the strong condemnations of violence and hate, the commitments to Portland values, and the calls for the city to rise to the occasion, a plan to prevent or de-escalate violence that may occur on Sunday was notably absent.
Lovell said officers won’t be standing in the crowd to keep the groups apart.
“People can and should keep themselves apart and choose to avoid violent physical confrontations,” Lovell said.
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Lovell said Sunday is an “all hands day,” meaning officers’ days off have been canceled and all available officers will be on duty. He said there will be a large police presence at the event and that while officers may not intervene in violence as it takes place, they will investigate crimes and possibly make arrests after.
Metro president Lynn Peterson sounded skeptical the far-right groups would be listening to local leaders in the love-themed press conference. Instead, she addressed the counterprotesters, asking them to avoid downtown and volunteer with the United Way.
“It might feel good to yell or taunt or chase a bunch of pathetic boys around downtown Portland. You might feel like you’re an element of justice when our society and our system have let you down,” Peterson said. “But this has been going on for more than two years, and violence doesn’t make anyone feel safer.”
Within an hour of Wheeler’s Zoom event, the mayor had strayed from the love-themed message.
In a follow-up press briefing on the city’s plan to police the protests, reporters were limited to one question per media outlet. Senior mayoral adviser Sam Adams discouraged additional questions and barked at reporters multiple times for making follow-up inquiries. Adams later said he was addressing someone else.
Community activists and civil rights leaders held their own press conference Friday morning condemning the city’s failure to prevent the political violence that routinely plays out on Portland streets.
“The violence that has been perpetrated against Portlanders for over a hundred years in this state is continued because of policies that are aligned along with [Wheeler’s] values,” said Teressa Raiford, the founder of the anti-gun violence organization Don’t Shoot PDX. “Those values do not serve us, they do not serve our future, and they do not serve a diverse community which is being brought to the forefront of these fights, because of the necessity for our humanity to stand clear.”
Dustin Brandon, a well-known anti-fascist activist in Portland, said members of the far-right had been putting up stickers around town of him being decapitated. “If the government won’t prevent hate groups from inciting violence, then community members will step up to fill the void.”
“The people that we need to rely on right now — our police, our government — are not here,” Brandon said. “They haven’t been, they weren’t, they’re not going to be.”
Asked if unchecked political violence is inevitable, Wheeler said there are discussions online suggesting people are coming to town specifically to get into fights.
“We’re telling them, ‘Hell no,’” Wheeler said. “If they come here, if they engage in that type of activity, we’re going to do the best we can, with the resources we have available, to hold people accountable.”
Oregon leaders have, in the past, taken decisive steps to quell these sorts of clashes. In September, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Portland ahead of far-right rallies that were expected to draw an unruly crowd. That protest fizzled quickly.
Related:Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declares emergency in Portland as Proud Boys rally approaches
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Rally portland prayer
Portland officials and progressives unite to oppose far-right protest
A united front against far-right groups appeared to be paying off for authorities and progressive groups in Portland, Oregon, ahead of a planned protest on Sunday.
Faced by a coalition which staged joint events on Friday, far-right organizers appeared to be in some disarray. Some promoted a new venue for their own “Summer of Love” protest. Others fell silent. Groups including the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, prominent in often violent protests in the city in recent years, did not promote the event.
Haley Adams, a long-time far-right, pro-Trump organizer in the Portland area, said on Telegram late on Friday that the venue for the Sunday protest, which does not have an official permit, had changed. In part, her message said “the event is to be relocated to another location to be released tomorrow”, indicating that it may be moving out of downtown Portland.
Local officials and nonprofits repeatedly identified the Proud Boys as key organizers of the event but on social media and websites associated with the group, there were few signs of direct involvement.
The Proud Boys are designated as a terrorist organization in Canada and defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the US, as a hate group.
The group has been involved in large summertime rallies in Portland over the past three years, including one which saw police fire gas canisters at counter-protesters, another which saw the city close a bridge to make way for the protest, and one last September which was met by a large inter-agency police presence.
Portland government officials, who have endured criticism for alleged inaction or bias in their response to far-right protests, spent much of this week building a united response to the planned Sunday event.
On Friday the mayor, Ted Wheeler, and representatives of progressive groups including the Western States Center and Integrity First for America participated in events to promote the message that the city should, as Wheeler put it “choose love”.
At a virtual event which featured several speakers and a gospel group, Wheeler said: “Hate groups have no place here. Violence has no place here.”
Amy Herzfeld-Copple of the Western States Center said there was a direct relationship between such shows of solidarity and apparent disorganization on the right.
“We’ve seen that when broad and deep coalitions of community leaders and elected officials unite in support of inclusive democracy, bigoted far-right events often fracture and their impact on the community is blunted,” she said.
“Similarly, the right kind of public attention can put pressure on anti-democratic actors and sharpen divisions between them.”
Wheeler repeated the message of love in a press conference that also featured Portland’s police chief. Chuck Lovell warned anyone intending violence to “stay away” but added: “You should not expect to see police officers in the middle of crowds, trying to keep people apart.”
Earlier in the week, officials including Wheeler and the Oregon governor, Kate Brown, issued a joint statement condemning the “threat and use of violence against people and the destruction of property to further bigoted political or social objectives”.
Not everyone on the left was united, however. Earlier the same morning, speakers at a rally organized by groups including the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC) condemned Wheeler and Lovell’s approach to rightwing protests.
Juan Chavez, an attorney with OJRC, demanded the two men resign, telling attendees: “We know that whenever the Proud Boys show up in our town, police stand up and stand by while fascists assault the community.”
Sunday’s planned protest falls on the first anniversary of a “Say No to Marxism” rally at which far-right protesters fired airsoft rounds at leftists protesting police violence, drew guns, destroyed a snack van and beat reporters.
One of the more prominent and violent protesters at that event, Alan Swinney, was arrested the following month. The self-proclaimed Proud Boys member remains in Mutnomah County jail, having pleaded not guilty to charges including assault, unlawful use of a weapon, pointing a firearm at another, and unlawful use of tear gas, stun gun or mace.
Airsoft guns are weapons designed to fire non-metallic projectiles. Last year, a Guardian investigation found their use by rightwingers to have been carefully planned. It has continued. Earlier this month a Portland man, Mark Lee, was arrested after being photographed pointing an airsoft gun at a journalist on a weekend which saw fighting between counter-protesters and rightwingers also armed with batons and chemical spray.
In response to questions about whether airsoft guns could or should be treated as firearms, a Portland police spokesperson pointed to a city ordinance which defines firearms as projectile weapons which use the “force of gunpowder or any other explosive”. The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about airsoft guns.
There were some indications that at least a few rightwingers were still planning for action on Sunday. The OJRC event was briefly disrupted by rightwing YouTube streamers associated with Haley Adams. Apparent threats to local journalists circulated on social media platforms associated with the far right.
‘Patriot’ rally unravels in clash with counter-protesters
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A rally featuring right-wing activists and some members of the group Patriot Prayer quickly unraveled Saturday afternoon after witnesses reported at least two shots fired downtown.
In a statement hours later, Portland police said that while they were aware of the rally, they were “unaware of any evidence that there was gunfire.”
The rally, which began around 12:30 p.m., started with alt-right group members standing in front of the Justice Center in downtown Portland. There were roughly 30 people in attendance for what some described as a protest against Antifa, while others said it was a Back the Blue demonstration. Several members of the group were armed with firearms; however, it is unclear what kind they were.
Meantime, Black Lives Matter counter-protesters had also gathered across the street.
A chase ensued around 1:15 p.m. through nearby downtown streets that led to both groups clashing. At one point, someone used pepper spray and another person used a paintball gun.
Counter-protesters blocked off an exit outside of a parking garage where several members of the self-described group of “Patriots” had parked their cars.
At 2 p.m., KOIN 6 News photojournalist Robby Sherman tweeted that at least two gunshots rang out in the area. No one appeared to be injured.
“That was about 15-20 minutes ago. We were shot at, unprovoked,” said one man who witnessed the incident. “The police are still not here. Two live rounds and the police have still not shown up.”
A spokesperson for the Portland Police Bureau said that while they had received reports of a scuffle, as well as the use of pepper spray and a paintball gun, they were “unaware of any evidence that there was gunfire.” Police said no one had reported being a victim of a crime, and that if anyone was victimized or had evidence of a crime, they were encouraged to report it for police to investigate.
In another statement released shortly before 8 p.m., Portland police clarified they had “few resources available throughout the city” as officers responded to an armed barricaded suspect in Forest Park.
An officer later took a report after someone was injured when a paintball fired from a paintball gun hit them in the face. However, police acknowledged the reports of shots fired, and asked “anyone who is a victim of a crime” to come forward.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported that “automatic weapons” were seen at the demonstration. It is unclear at this time what kind of firearm it was.Furthermore, an earlier version of this story identified the rally as a Patriot Prayer event. There were members of Patriot Prayer in attendance but it was not a Patriot Prayer event.
Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.Sours: https://www.koin.com/news/protests/justice-center-flag-waving-rally-08152020/
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