Wherever there's a fascist beating up a person, Abram Goldman-Armstrong will be there.
OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But the 41-year-old cider maker finds himself at the center of several Portland disputes over public display of support for antifascism.
He runs a cidery and pub, Cider Riot, that's become a gathering place for antifascists who physically confront right-wing protesters. On May 1, far-right brawlers attacked masked antifa revelers. Goldman-Armstrong sued Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson later that month for interfering with his business. In August, Gibson was indicted on charges he started the May 1 riot.
Goldman-Armstrong is also one of the faces of the Timbers Army fan rebellion against Major League Soccer. Last month, he received a three-game ban from Providence Park for waving a flag bearing three arrows—an antifascist symbol—during Portland Timbers matches. He won: On Sept. 24, league officials agreed not only to rescind the ban but to form a diversity and inclusion working group that includes members of the Timbers Army's nonprofit arm.
Goldman-Armstrong says his love of soccer and distaste for fascism blossomed at the same time. During his junior year in college, he studied abroad in Ireland, where he discovered Cork City FC and was introduced to anti-racist skinheads.
He also started making cider as a college student in St. Paul, Minn., where he would hoard apples from the school cafeteria to press into cider in his dorm room. "It was pretty wretched stuff," he says. "It was made almost exclusively from Red Delicious apples from the dining hall. But I stuck with it."
He opened his Northeast Portland cidery to acclaim in 2016. But the recent political battles haven't been good for business.
On Sept. 18, Goldman-Armstrong put Cider Riot up for sale. He says he's strapped for cash because of overly ambitious expansion efforts. But he says political clashes, branding Cider Riot in the public imagination as "the Antifa Pub," haven't helped.
This week, WW sat down with Goldman-Armstrong to ask whether the fight was worth it.
WW: Has Cider Riot always been a popular hangout for antifascists?
Abram Goldman-Armstrong: It just kind of became a gathering space for people who had similar views. Groups like the Industrial Workers of the World and the Burgerville workers' union started coming to our cidery to have their meetings because we have these awesome meeting rooms that community groups, as long as they're buying pints, are welcome to use.
That just kind of organically happened. It wasn't necessarily something we set out to do, to be a dedicated antifascist bar or anything like that. I wanted to create a sense of being in an English pub in the West Country and a bit of an Old Portland establishment as well. Being Old Portland kind of ties in nicely with a long tradition of activism that is part of the fabric of what it means to be Portland.
When did you first notice Cider Riot was a target for right-wing groups like Patriot Prayer?
They started harassing us pretty heavily in the summer of 2017. I just kind of was like, "Well, this is annoying." But I didn't think too much of it. I was like, "Hopefully, you guys will start just leaving us alone, go on to the next thing." But really since 2017, they've been harassing us on a pretty regular basis.
Were they calling? Posting on Facebook? Coming into the pub?
They've never been inside the pub, to my knowledge. We're pretty good about making sure we've got an eye on who's around, and big groups of bigots marching around with their bullhorns and flags and whatnot would never have been welcome here.
But they dropped off some fliers outside one time, before we were having an event here, about how it was like open season on antifa. And then they doxxed me, I believe that same summer of 2017, and said I was the financier of Rose City Antifa. I think they saw the Jewish name and just thought I was George Soros or something like that.
What was the nature of the harassment?
It's been everything from like, "We're going to burn your place down," to anti-Semitic remarks and homophobic comments. The recent phone message was them calling me a "shank-smoking faggot." I don't know what that means.
You're saying this has been happening since 2017—were you surprised about the May Day brawl?
Yeah, definitely. We'd gotten so used to them making these threats that we were like, "That would be suicide for them if they tried to show up and get away with assaulting a business." But apparently they think they can. And that's why we have this lawsuit, that's why they're facing felony charges now. You can't just attack someone's place of business. That's just not acceptable, nor is it legal.
What was it like to be there on May 1?
It felt like it dragged on forever and ever, because these guys showed up and surrounded our patio. They had armored helmets and all this crap on them, and then they started Macing people and everyone was just really freaked. I put on a bandanna and safety glasses to try and protect myself from the Mace, but it was crazy.
Do you take any credit for police arresting Joey Gibson and others based on the attention brought to them via your lawsuit?
I wouldn't take any credit. The credit would go to the community and the Oregon Justice Resource Center. I think that perhaps we raised attention to the issue by taking legal action in a civil suit. But I can't speak to [the Portland Police Bureau's] motivations and why they finally have actually taken some enforcement action against these guys after so many years of them running around and terrorizing people in the street.
When did you learn about the Major League Soccer ban on Iron Front flags?
We knew at the beginning of the season. That's when we said, "OK, this is ridiculous. We need to make a show of force here," and got both groups [in Portland and Seattle] to work together to be silent for the 33 minutes at the match following that.
What's your stance on how Timbers owner Merritt Paulson is supporting the fan base right now?
I think [Paulson] has done a really great job of actually connecting with people over this issue and meeting with some stakeholders and saying, "OK, let me learn about this," and, "Let's discuss this." He's done a good job of listening and signaling that he wants to work in support of the supporters and really push back against the league. And that's quite admirable.
Have sales gone up since you put three arrows on your label?
The Tres Flechas has been very popular. But I can't say there's been a noticeable uptick in off-premise sales. We've seen some people say they're coming in out of solidarity, but I think there's an offset of people who are afraid because they're afraid these fascists are going to come back.
Has your opinion of Portland changed?
I thought, when we opened in 2016, we were going to have all these folks in the pub all the time. It was going to be a great, happenin' sort of place. I guess I thought that I opened during the heyday of Portland [craft brewing]. Maybe it was the past. And that's disappointing to me. I don't know that people care anymore—if everybody wants to just drink White Claw.
Do you regret or resent that the pub became more prominent for its politics than its cider?
I think it's ridiculous that we get called the antifa bar all the time. We never got any media coverage when we opened. We really haven't gotten much for many of the events that we've done. This is what I've wanted to do since I was in college, is have my own brewery or cidery. That's what I would have dedicated my life to. Being an antifascist is just a normal state of being. I shouldn't be getting credit for being against the fascists. That should just be the normal attitude of any decent-minded human.
So there's nothing you would have done differently? This is an instance of a failure of the press?
Part of me thinks I should've just kept my day job as a carpenter and a beer writer and just kept making cider on the side in my garage—not tried to grow, not tried to live the American dream. But the other side of me is really proud of what I've done. When I have folks say, "I love coming here, I feel safe here," that's really something that I never expected. I didn't expect we would become regarded in that way.
Do you see Cider Riot continuing to be an antifascist headquarters? If it sells, will antifascists congregate elsewhere?
I don't know, but there will always be a place—there's always been an activist space of some sort in Portland. That used to be the Red and Black Cafe. It was the Back to Back Cafe that was located near us on Burnside. It was Liberty Hall for a while on North Ivy Street. There's been an activist space for a long, long time in Portland and there will continue to be.