The 34-year-old far-right provocateur and his fellow "patriots" have been stoking conflict in Portland for over a year now. In YouTube videos he created last year, Gibson put out calls to right-wing allies to "trigger some snowflakes."
The rallies he's organized under the banner of "Patriot Prayer" are often platforms for bigotry and nationalism—intended to provoke leftist organizations like Rose City Antifa. In April 2017, Gibson organized a march that attracted Jeremy Joseph Christian, the man who later killed two people on a rush-hour MAX train while ranting about Muslims and free speech.
Gibson told The Oregonian that his chances of winning the Senate race are slim, as he's hoping to unseat three-term incumbent Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who won by an over-60 percent margin last election.
"This is David versus Goliath," he said, "and I'm going to embrace that."
Gibson added that campaigning for Senate will mean less Patriot Prayer presence in Portland.
"Antifia is nothing more than a distraction to me at this point," Gibson said. "There's no need to focus on them now."
That's convenient. Gibson may be on a street-brawl hiatus for now, but it's hard to forget the chaos his group created in Portland between May and September of last year.
To refresh your memory, here's a timeline.
April 26, 2017:
Patriot Prayer's plans to confront anti-fascists at the 82nd Avenue Parade of Roses led to the event getting canceled. Parade organizers said they feared political violence would erupt. Gibson organized his own "March for Free Speech" on the canceled-parade route."You have adults behaving like children," Commissioner Nick Fish said at the time. "That's a damn shame."
April 29, 2017:
Jeremey Joseph Christian—the man currently being tried for murdering two men and injuring another after spewing anti-Muslims sentiments on a MAX train on May 26—showed up to a "free speech" march organized by Gibson in Southeast Portland. Christian was wearing a Revolutionary War flag like a cape, throwing Nazi salutes, shouting racial slurs and wielding a baseball bat. "Jeremy Christian has nothing to do with us," Gibson told WW at the time. "He showed up [to our march] with violent intentions. We asked him to leave several times. We did what we could. You can't make too much sense of a lot of things he said."
May 13, 2017:
Gibson and his pro-Trump crew of around two dozen squared off with left-wing black bloc members in Chapman Square during an anti-police brutality protest organized by Oregon Students Empowered. Tiny Toese, a friend of Gibson's, leveled an antifa protester with a punch to the face. The victim did not press charges. "We got another event that's coming up," Toese said in a YouTube vlog that evening. "You guys will see us there. That event is on my birthday. So I guess I'm going to be celebrating my birthday kicking some antifa ass."
August 6, 2017:
As Portland police stood by, alt-right and antifa beat each other bloody in what was one of the most violent brawls to date. The Patriot Prayer event at Tom McCall Waterfront Park was small, with about 100 on either side, but left several men bleeding and soaked in pepper spray. "You have the right of free speech, the right of assembly," Gibson said in a speech at the protest. "When [antifa] show up beating their drums and yelling, do you know what that means? It means we're winning."
August 28, 2017:
Gibson was attacked with pepper spray at a white supremacist rally in Berkeley, Calif., and had to hide behind a line of riot police who escorted him from the clash in handcuffs.
September 10, 2017:
A Patriot Prayer event planned for Portland's waterfront was met by hundreds of counter-protesters, but Gibson had moved the event to Vancouver. Conflict between counter-protesters, the few Patriot Prayer members present, and police was still heated. Protesters were peppered sprayed and at least seven were arrested.
September 15, 2017:
In the wake of the September 10 brawl, Gibson says that stoking conflict between antifa and police was his intent all along—because any clash is a "win" for the far right.