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Jury selection starts for Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson’s riot trial

A 2017 file photo of Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson addressing a crowd at a rally and holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Portland MAX train stabbings.
Bryan M. Vance
A 2017 file photo of Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson addressing a crowd at a rally and holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Portland MAX train stabbings.

Patriot Prayer founder and far-right provocateur Joey Gibson stands trial this week facing one charge of riot, a class C felony in Oregon.

Jury selection began Monday and is scheduled to continue through Thursday.

Prosecutors allege Gibson instigated a street fight between Patriot Prayer and antifascists on May 1, 2019, at the now-closed bar Cider Riot. In an arrest warrant affidavit, Deputy District Attorney Brad Kalbaugh says video of the brawl shows Gibson and his two co-defendants, Russell Schulz and MacKenzie Lewis, “taunting and physically threatening members of the Antifa group in an effort clearly designed to provoke a physical altercation.”

Three other brawl participants with the Patriot Prayer group, Chris Ponte, Ian Kramer and Matthew Cooper were indicted and pleaded guilty.

Kramer, who knocked a woman unconscious and fractured her vertebrae with a baton, pleaded guilty last May to riot, second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison and five years of probation.

Ponte, who prosecutors said threw a rock and injured a woman, was charged with riot and recklessly endangering another person. He pleaded guilty to riot and the other charge was dropped. He was sentenced to three years probation and 10 days in jail. Cooper pleaded guilty to riot and was sentenced to three years probation.

Gibson founded the Vancouver, Washington, based Patriot Prayer in 2016 and spent several years organizing “free speech rallies” in liberal cities along the West Coast. Gibson and his movement have attracted and planned events with violent white supremacists. The year before the Cider Riot brawl, Gibson held a May Day rally in Seattle along with the Proud Boys. A few months later, also in Seattle, he held a “Liberty or Death” rally with the III% militia, and then went to Portland for a “Him Too” rally, meant to mock the Me Too movement against sexual assault.

Kyle “Stickman” Chapman, the founder of the violent extremist group Fraternal Order of the Alt Knights, attended a Patriot Prayer rally in Berkeley, California, where he was recorded on video beating an antifascist with a stick.

May Day is a holiday celebrating workers and the labor movement. In Portland in 2019, demonstrators marched through the city peacefully advocating for workers’ rights, and afterward, a group of anti-fascists went to Cider Riot. Earlier in the day, Patriot Prayer had made attempts to provoke altercations that fell flat. Gibson and other Patriot Prayer members returned to Vancouver before getting a phone call that some people were considering going to Cider Riot for a confrontation.

Video recorded by an undercover antifascist embedded with the Patriot Prayer group that day shows them carrying weapons and planning for the altercation. One woman in the video is carrying a brick, another person is carrying a large wooden dowel. Several people are wearing helmets and goggles.

When Gibson and the group arrived at Cider Riot, the video shows him taunting the antifascists on the bar patio, telling them to “do something.”

After the sides exchanged mace and projectiles, a brawl ensued. Gibson ultimately helped orchestrate a one-on-one fight in the street between a bouncer at Cider Riot and a member of the far-right group.

Cider Riot has since closed, but former owner Abram Goldman-Armstrong filed a civil suit against Joey Gibson and several other Patriot Prayer members alleging Gibson used his platform to make the bar a target for far-right violence. That lawsuit is still open in the Oregon court of appeals.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Jonathan Levinson