The chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party has agreed to defend Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson in a $1 million civil lawsuit, adding another tie between Gibson's far-right group and the mainstream GOP.
The owner of Portland ciderey and pub Cider Riot sued Gibson after his followers showed up at the business May 1 seeking a confrontation with antifascist demonstrators. Fights broke out and were captured on film outside the bar.
James Buchal, who heads the Multnomah County GOP, will represent Gibson in the civil suit, which seeks $1 million.
"Like many of us, I grew up reading books like To Kill a Mockingbird, and was always taught that it was to an attorney's credit to represent those unfairly maligned in a local community," Buchal tells WW. "Mr. Gibson falls into that category. His visit to the public spaces adjacent to the Cider Riot premises constituted political expression on a on a matter of public concern—the menace Antifa poses to the future of Portland and indeed the Nation—and should not be deemed tortious conduct."
Gibson's Patriot Prayer stages protests that often devolve into brawls. The group has close ties to the Proud Boys, a collection of men who call themselves "western chauvinists" and has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Proud Boys have drawn closer to the mainline GOP in the past two years.
Dozens of self-avowed Proud Boys have attended Gibson's rallies as well as Republican events, like Trump campaign rallies. Last year, a high profile assault of antifascist demonstrators in New York after an event at the Metropolitan Republican Clubhouse made headlines and resulted in multiple arrests.
The Multnomah County Republican Party is a vastly outnumbered organization in deep-blue Portland. But Buchal has made headlines in the past for affiliating the party chapter with fringe groups on the far-right.
In 2017, he agreed to allow paramilitary organizations like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters provide security at GOP events in Portland.