The owner of Cider Riot, a northeast Portland bar, filed a $1 million lawsuit today against Joey Gibson, leader of the far-right protest group Patriot Prayer, for instigating a brawl outside the bar.
The suit, filed this afternoon in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges Gibson interfered with business at Cider Riot on May 1, after he showed up to "expose" antifascist protesters who had gathered at the bar after participating in largely peaceful May Day demonstrations.
The suit also names Ian Kramer, who is accused of striking a woman with a baton to the back of her head hard enough to knock her unconscious, along with 25 unnamed right-wing defendants who participated in the clash.
"Patriot Prayer exists as a cipher for other violent groups to conduct paramilitary actions in the Portland metro area," the suit says. "Their activities have culminated in a number of protests marked by state and right-wing violence. Patriot Prayer's strategy and intent for doing so is to a) force a confrontation with leftist groups, b) utilize police departments and city governments into imposing harsh crowd control measures on leftists, and c) intimidate groups into not showing up."
The suit mentions a history of violent incidents involving Patriot Prayer, including an attempt in January to crash a Democratic Socialists of America meeting at the Industrial Workers of the World union hall in Southeast Portland. A week later, an unidentified person spray painted anti-Antifa messages on the IWW building, vandalized a mural at Cider Riot and left graffiti on the Democratic Party of Oregon offices.
Gibson denies that his followers had anything to do with the vandalism.
On May 1, Gibson and his followers approached an outdoor patio outside Cider Riot where several dozen black-clad protesters had gathered. He allegedly yelled at the antifascist group, taunting them to "do something."
In a video of the initial clash, one man standing near Gibson pepper-sprayed the people on the patio, who immediately fired back with bear mace. A brief skirmish broke out, with people on both sides throwing glasses and rocks.
Video by Mike Bivins.
The lawsuit says Gibson then became ringmaster for a one-on-one fistfight between two men in the street—one right-wing, one left-wing.
"Gibson then facilitated and refereed a street fight between two persons outside of Cider Riot," the lawsuit alleges. "He dictated the rules, and kept others from intervening while livestreaming to his followers. Gibson continued to antagonize the patrons at Cider Riot, whom were trying to force his retreat. Defendant Ian Kramer, a frequenter of Patriot Prayer rallies and associate of Gibson, used a baton to crack a Cider Riot patron on the head, knocking her unconscious."
The lawsuit alleges that the woman suffered a vertebrae fracture, which was the most serious injury reported during the incident. (The woman has not spoken to police, although antifascist organizers are raising money for her medical care.)
Although there was limited property damage, the lawsuit says Gibson acted negligently, trespassed and intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the patrons at Cider Riot. Police did not show up until the conflict had largely dissipated.
"No property was damaged, other than a few pint glasses broken, but one of my customers was knocked unconscious and one of Joey's goons was attacking people with a baton and spraying people in my patio with pepperspray," says Abram Goldman-Armstrong, who owns Cider Riot. He also says a dog was injured by a right-wing brawler. "We have been receiving death threats and abusive phone calls and social media posts, and Joey is apparently trying to attack again tonight, while we host a documentary screening."
Indeed, Gibson encouraged his social media followers to leave negative reviews on the Cider Riot Facebook and Yelp pages. He also posted a link to a movie screening planned at the bar May 3.
When asked by WW about the lawsuit, Gibson says he's unconcerned.
"I think that's great because they have to spend money for their lawyer, my lawyer, and the fines coming down on them for allowing drunk customers to spit and spray me with pepper spray numerous time while they are on Cider Riot property as I am standing on a public sidewalk," Gibson tells WW in a text message. "They also allowed their security at the front door to attack a neutral journalist who was seeking help from the owner at the front door."
Goldman-Armstrong is being represented pro bono by lawyers at the Oregon Justice Resource Center.