For years, a far-right group has led bloody brawls in the streets of Portland, Oregon. Now the fight appears headed for the courthouse, thanks to a local brewery that’s had enough of the throwdowns.
The group is Patriot Prayer, whose members champion Islamophobic causes and violence against their opponents on the left. Headed by Joe Gibson, the group’s members were involved in a bloody brawl against anti-fascists at the Portland bar Cider Riot on May 1.
Cider Riot, which sometimes hosts events like film screenings and a “Rock Against Fascism” concert, has been a repeated target of Patriot Prayer’s ire.
Now the bar is asking for a jury trial and $1 million from Patriot Prayer and its leaders, citing negligence, trespass, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“Since its formation in 2016, the right-wing extremist group Defendant Patriot Prayer USA, LLC marked Portland as a target for violent intimidation,” reads the Cider Riot lawsuit, which was filed Friday. “This intimidation serves to shutdown public democratic spaces through incitements of violence. Defendant Joseph Gibson then uses these self-initiated conflicts to fundraise.”
Cider Riot’s lawyers were not immediately available for comment Saturday.
Gibson responded to the suit on Facebook late Friday night where he blamed anti-fascists for violence at the bar, adding that “maybe Cider Riot should stop co-hosting parties” with a local anti-fascist group.” He used the post to promote Patriot Prayer’s online merchandise store.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, he accused anti-fascists of being violent toward him, claiming the group “committed crimes against me standing on a public sidewalk.”
But video footage of the event cited by the Portland Mercury shows Patriot Prayer starting the fight. “After shouting insults and hateful language at the patrons, one man in a MAGA hat sprays the people sitting on the patio with mace, kicking off a violent melee,” the Mercury reported.
Although Patriot Prayer claims not to be a hate group, it draws a motley crew of extremists, including a man who allegedly murdered two people in a 2017 attack on Muslim women.
Cider Riot’s argues that the violence is the point.
“Patriot Prayer and Gibson’s tactics vary from convening protesters to intimidate minorities, immigrants and/or leftists, to direct violence, to campaigns of terror under cover of night,” the suit reads. “Patriot Prayer exists as a cipher for other violent groups to conduct paramilitary actions in the Portland metro area.”
The bar has been attacked before: in January, Cider Riot and Portland’s International Workers of the World headquarters were vandalized overnight. Vandals defaced windows, a mural on the side of the bar and spray-painted “fuck Antifa” on the building. (“Antifa” is short for “anti-fascist.”) No one has been charged to date in the incident.
But on May 1, when Cider Riot was hosting an International Worker’s Day celebration, Cider Riot claims Patriot Prayer led an open attack on the bar.
“Leading up to May 1, 2019, Gibson coordinated with Patriot Prayer members to arrive
at Cider Riot in the afternoon to ‘Take the fight to Antifa,’” the suit alleges.
Approximately 20 Patriot Prayer members, many armed or wearing armor allegedly began harassing patrons. One Patriot Prayer member, Ian Kramer, “used a baton to crack a Cider Riot patron on the head, knocking her unconscious. Upon information and belief, she suffered a serious vertebrae fracture,” the suit reads. (Patriot Prayer members are notoriously misogynist. Commenters on Gibson’s Facebook posts can be found dismissing anti-fascist women as “not women,” and discussing attacking them.)
Like many Patriot Prayer street fights, Gibson livestreamed the confrontation on Facebook, where he posted a link to a page soliciting donations. The stream also appealed on viewers to take action against the bar.
“On his livestream from this particular event, he introduced Cider Riot as “Antifa central,” then asked his followers to look into the business, its owners, and its landlord,” the suit reads. “He then told his audience that ‘If they cared about Portland… take care of this establishment.’’’
Shortly before news of the lawsuit broke, Gibson had had been rallying his followers to oppose Cider Riot’s upcoming screening of a documentary about LGBT icon Marsha Johnson. In comments below Gibson’s Facebook post about the event, followers called the bar “a terrorist camp,” and urged each other to “light them up,” “clog the toilets with paper towels, piss on the bathroom floor,” and to get the bar’s liquor license revoked.
According to Cider Riot, the threat of future attacks is just another expense. “Citing threats of violence, Cider Riot has had to increase security, give staff additional training on safety in case of another Patriot Prayer attack, and has lost business,” their lawsuit reads.