Patriot Prayer Leader Joey Gibson Will Face Criminal Charges In May Day Riot, His Lawyer Says

Gibson led a group of right-wing brawlers to Cider Riot on May 1, accompanied by Patriot Prayer supporters, at least one former Proud Boy, and people affiliated with a newer group called Portland's Liberation.

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

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson will soon face criminal charges related to a May 1 riot in front of a Portland cidery, his lawyer says.

Gibson led a group of right-wing brawlers to a bar called Cider Riot on May 1, accompanied by Patriot Prayer supporters, at least one former Proud Boy, and people affiliated with a newer group called Portland's Liberation.

At least five men now face criminal charges related to the May 1 riot. Police arrested Matthew "Deme" Cooper and Russell Schultz on felony riot charges Aug. 15. Police allege the men were involved in a violent altercation outside Cider Riot on May 1, after the far-right extremists attacked a group of antifascists sitting on the pub's outdoor patio.

Gibson's lawyer, James Buchal, who also chairs the Multnomah County Republican Party, says prosecutors mistakenly posted details about a search warrant for the Patriot Prayer leader's arrest Thursday morning. Buchal says the pending criminal charges are "part and parcel of the dishonest campaign by Portland leaders to blame out-of-town demonstrators for violence that began and persists because Antifa wants to shut down any right-wing demonstrations in Portland."

Buchal says Gibson faces a charge for felony riot. He describes the charges as unfounded.

"There are multiple videos of the events at Cider Riot, and not one of them shows Mr. Gibson engaging in violent conduct," Buchal said in a statement.

The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office declined to confirm the existence of a warrant for Gibson's arrest. A spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment responding to Buchal's allegations that the criminal charges in the May Day riot are politically motivated.

The May Day arrests come as city officials have taken a hard stance against potential violence at a far-right rally planned for Aug. 17.

Portland Police have come under fire in the past for treating right-wing rallies with a light touch while cracking down on leftists. Friendly texts between Gibson and a police lieutenant led Mayor Ted Wheeler to order an independent investigation  into whether the bureau has shown bias in policing protests. Police also launched an investigation after Gibson complained about a non-violent confrontation between a well-known antifascist and a Patriot Prayer supporter.

But the May Day arrests signal a shift in how law enforcement officials are handling Gibson and his far-right supporters. After nearly two years of violent far-right riots in which police rarely made arrests, a half-dozen men now face felony charges for brawling in Portland's streets.

Gibson, 36, a former real-estate agent in Vancouver, Wash., first appeared in Portland to lead rallies for "free speech" and then to drum up headlines for his U.S. Senate campaign. He has led a group of far-right extremists who frequently rally and brawl in downtown Portland. He told WW in 2017 that his aim was to bait antifascists into fights and capture the violence on video for news reels and his social media channels.

Although Gibson's personal political views often align with mainstream Republican talking points, his rallies have attracted hard-line racists, xenophobes and white supremacists. The Proud Boys have marched with Gibson on many occasions in the past, although recently the two groups have distanced themselves from one another.

Gibson also faces a civil lawsuit filed by Cider Riot's owner, Abram Goldman-Armstrong, for damages caused by the May 1 riot and Gibson's behavior afterward. Gibson encouraged his online followers to harass Goldman-Armstrong and write fake reviews on his cidery's Yelp and Facebook pages.

A second civil suit was filed last month by an antifascist who Gibson has baselessly called a "pedophile" in Facebook videos.

Almost every named defendant in the Cider Riot civil suit now faces criminal charges for their alleged roles in the brawl that left a woman unconscious.

The arrests appear to be a signal by Portland law enforcement of zero tolerance for violence to would-be violent extremists who will gather at the waterfront in downtown on Aug. 17. City officials have repeated warnings that violent actors will face criminal charges in the run up to the event.

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