Portland Police Launched a Criminal Investigation After Joey Gibson Complained About an Antifascist Demonstrator

A video labeled “ANTIFA scumbag” was used to make the arrest.

Joey Gibson at a March 2019 rally in Battle Ground, Wash. (Justin Katigbak)

The Email:

Sent: Jan. 25, 2018

From: Jeffrey Niiya of the Portland Police Bureau

To: 10 recipients, including Franz Schoening of the Portland Police Bureau

Subject: FW: ANTIFA scumbag Luis Marquez trolling bicyclist at Trump impeachment rally – YouTube

"Joey Gibson sent this to me and was upset we allowed Luis Marquez [to] violate this person's 1st amendment rights. I want you to see how Luis is dressed to blend in with the normal people who came out for this event. Yet, he is still leading the other black bloc.

"We need to watch for these tactics of them trying to blend in on these more mainstream events. I would argue Luis could have and maybe should have been arrested since they were in the back of the march and most likely would not have caused a huge flashpoint."

What It Meant: Portland Police Lt. Jeff Niiya was the officer leading the bureau's rapid response team that patrols protests. That made him one of the primary officers collecting intelligence about protest groups in Portland—especially the extremists who repeatedly gathered in the streets for organized brawls.

In January 2018, Niiya forwarded a YouTube video sent to him by Joey Gibson, organizer of the Vancouver, Wash., far-right group Patriot Prayer.

In the video, a well-known Portland antifascist organizer, Luis Marquez, repeatedly blocks a man on a bike from getting near a large march of people protesting President Donald Trump.

The email from Niiya appears to have launched a criminal investigation of Marquez and the incident. Three days later, another police officer, Lt. Franz Schoening, replied: "Looks like a prosecutable case to me. Ask Joey if his friend wants to sign a complaint?"

WW exclusively obtained the emails this week via a public records request.

More than a year after the email exchange, prosecutors filed a harassment charge against Marquez for repeatedly blocking the path of Gregory Isaacson, a Portland parks employee who has frequently attended Patriot Prayer rallies. Marquez has been arrested several times for his actions at past protests.

Why It Matters: Communications between Niiya and Gibson have drawn criticism for appearing to show coordination between police and the right-wing extremist leader. After WW and The Portland Mercury published friendly texts between the two men in February 2019, Mayor Ted Wheeler called the messages "disturbing" and, in response to their publication, launched an independent investigation into whether the Portland Police Bureau showed bias in policing protests.

Wheeler's office did not express alarm at Niiya's email about Marquez.

"When police have information about a crime occurring, they investigate regardless of who is sharing the information," the mayor's office said in a emailed statement.

More recently, the bureau has drawn criticism for not arresting violent protesters more quickly, after a conservative videographer was assaulted during a June march.

The Police Bureau says it is limited in what it can say about the case because it is an open investigation.

"I would ask that you refrain from drawing conclusions based upon two emails without the greater context or picture," bureau spokeswoman Lt. Tina Jones wrote in an emailed response to questions from WW about the exchange. "Given the ongoing investigations, I am unable to provide further context for these two emails within the timeline you have provided."

The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office reviewed the case after WW sent the police emails to the agency. The DA's office says it did not know the criminal investigation started with Gibson, but prosecutors believe Marquez committed a crime based on the evidence shared by Portland police.

"Neither Mr. Gibson, nor anyone else, had any influence on the charging decision in this matter," says DA spokesman Brent Weisberg.

Weisberg adds the DA's office does not make its charging decisions based on politics. Prosecutors recently pursued charges against two far-right brawlers, including Proud Boy Donovon Flippo, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault this month.

Yet much of the worst violence in Portland, often captured on video, has not resulted in arrests.

"Seems unusual that the police and prosecutors felt that these prosecutions were worthwhile uses of their time," says Michael German, a retired FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice, "when people were being attacked and injured on videotape and the attackers bragged about it in public social media accounts, yet weren't arrested."

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