Patriot Prayer is a far-right group based in the Portland, Oregon area. Patriot Prayer describes itself as advocating in favor of free speech, and opposing big government. The group has organized rallies in support of Donald Trump and far-right protests in predominantly liberal areas, which have been met with large numbers of counter-protesters. White nationalists as well as far-right groups, such as Proud Boys, and Hell Shaking Street Preachers, have attended the rallies organized by Patriot Prayer, sparking controversy and violence.
An infiltrator into Patriot Prayer said that the group had only around 15 core members.
Patriot Prayer was founded in 2016 by Joey Gibson. Gibson says he became an activist after seeing a brawl start between supporters of the Trump presidency and counter protesters. Patriot Prayer is a far-right group, part of the right wing of American politics. It holds rallies in areas known as centers of liberal politics.[failed verification] It has also been described as anti-government. The San Jose Mercury News describes Patriot Prayer as a "right-wing group ... [whose] events ... have attracted white supremacists and ended up in violent confrontations among demonstrators on both sides". In 2017 Gibson described himself as Conservative libertarian.
According to the BBC, Patriot Prayer have been connected to the alt-right as well as other far-right groups. Gibson denies this, saying the group is neither white nationalist nor alt-right and that they support "freedom, love and peace". The group's stated aim is support of the First Amendment, free speech and to "liberate the conservatives on the West Coast".
The Seattle Times and The Washington Post have described Patriot Prayer as a "pro-Trump group". According to The Weekly Standard, "In the early days, his [Gibson's] rallies had overtly pro-Trump themes. These days, mentions of Trump have mostly been scrubbed from his own rhetoric, as he knows even invoking the name can be alienating."
Patriot Prayer has made allegations against the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) calling the group a "Muslim extremist organization". Its supporters have made threats online against CAIR, prompting an investigation by authorities.
David Neiwert, writing for the Southern Poverty Law Center blog Hatewatch, described Patriot Prayer as "trolling" the Pacific Northwest with the intention of provoking a response from far-left antifascists. Neiwert noted that Gibson denounced white supremacists and neo-Nazis during an August 13 rally in Seattle the day after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, and described that Gibson explained in subsequent interviews that he aims to "actively exclude" white supremacist groups. During the August 13 rally in Seattle such groups had no obvious presence; however, a week earlier at another rally in Portland, Oregon, which was led by Gibson, members of Identity Evropa were in attendance. The SPLC reportedly does not list Patriot Prayer as a hate group. SPLC narrates them as "violent extremists" on their website.
Prior to the violence at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlotteville, the Patriot Prayer rallies featured "right-wing nationalists". Since Charlottesville the group has tried to distance themselves from the alt-right.
On April 2, 2017, approximately 300 people of both, supporters and opposition of President Donald Trump exchanged words, during a pro-Trump rally at Vancouver's Esther Short Park on Sunday afternoon, near Portland, but was relatively peaceful. Security for the Patriot Prayer rally, "Rally for Trump and Freedom" was provided by the 3 Percenters (often spelled III%).
Following the cancellation of a Rose Festival event due to threats of violence against the Multnomah County Republican Party who were to take part in the rally, allegedly from anti-fascist groups, Gibson organized a "March for Free Speech" to occur on April 29, 2017. Gibson told the Guardian, "We are going to continue with our rally. There is no way that we will stop. It is even more important that we come out with a strong message of love." There were an estimated 60 counter protesters and police said there had been three arrests. Jeremy Joseph Christian, who was later arrested for the fatal stabbing of two men in an apparently racially-motivated attack, was seen at the march yelling racial slurs. Gibson denounced Christian's actions and said he ejected Christian from the April 2, 2017, event due to his "bizarre behavior".
On May 11 and 13, 2017, Patriot Prayer organized the attendance of a dozen "antifa watchers" at a protest at a south-east Portland grocery liquidator. Interviewed by The Oregonian, Gibson said the group were there to watch the protest and report any property damage, and that he attended "to start conversations".
A June 4 "Trump Free Speech Rally" in downtown Portland attracted a large counter-protest and 14 people were arrested, after Portland's mayor Ted Wheeler unsuccessfully sought to have the event's permit revoked. That has held rallies from the San Francisco Bay Area. According to The Washington Post, this rally provided "a vivid illustration of the city's divisions". The rally caused controversy as it was scheduled one week after the stabbings by Jeremy Christian. The mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler had requested that federal authorities revoke the permit saying he was concerned over increasing tensions in the city due to the stabbings. The General Services Administration denied the request, stating that the permit had been lawfully obtained weeks beforehand. The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union's legal director, Mat Dos Santos, said it was unconstitutional of Wheeler to attempt to prevent the demonstration based on the political and personal viewpoints of those who organized the event. Gibson cancelled the event citing safety concerns.
By the end of the month Patriot Prayer gathered for their "Freedom March" on June 30, 2017, at the Portland Waterfront near the annual Blues Festival, and were met by counter-protesters. The often heated exchanges of the dueling rallies ended with minimal violence and no reports of arrests. The rally occurred in the midst of a national debate on the First Amendment, one which has seen violent clashes between right-wing and left-wing groups over appearances by contentious public figures, often in liberal cities such as Portland. The atmosphere in Portland had also become tense after Christian's recent arrest for the train attack.
On August 6, 2017, it was much smaller crowds for their "Freedom March" at Salmon Street Springs, Portland, but it followed the well-established pattern with a few arrests of counter protesters and a lot of shouting and chants from both the Patriot Prayer group and counter protesters.
For the September 10, 2017, Portland, "Peaceful Portland Freedom March", Joey Gibson asked followers take a new non-violent approach though not all appear willing to go along and the counter-protests also appear to be settling on a number of different measures depending on the organization. In an attempt to out-maneuver counter-protesters, Patriot Prayer switched their planned march to Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland and changed the time of the event; but a small cohort of followers intend to go to the original march site to provoke the counter-protesters. In another change, this once pro-Trump organization, will now be collecting charitable relief for the victims of the recent Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge, and the new rally is renamed, "Peaceful Vancouver Freedom March". The small rallies drew large counter-protest crowds in both Portland and Vancouver with several arrests and the detention of the driver of a pickup that sped through a crowd of counter-protesters, no injuries were reported. Among those drawn to the rallies were the militia-style Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys, a white nationalist group.
On June 3, 2018, Patriot Prayer and anti-fascists again fought in parks in downtown Portland. Police arrested four people for disorderly conduct. Participants threw rocks, bottles, ball bearings, and fireworks at each other. The Portland Mercury reports that Patriot Prayer organized the rally as a counter-protest to another leftist rally led by the Empower Portland Alliance and the Direct Action Alliance. This earlier rally was intended to protest police violence and to commemorate the anniversary of an incident a year earlier when Portland police detained 200 people for several hours. In response to Patriot Prayer's plans to counter-protest this earlier rally, local antifa groups organized a counter-protest of Patriot Prayer, calling this third rally "Call to Resist Patriot Prayer Bringing Nazis to Portland." Pepper spray was used by a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy and by demonstrators. Police report that although there were several people who were evaluated medically at the parks, no one was transported to the hospital.
On June 30, 2018, a Patriot Prayer rally that consisted of 150 supporters clashed with anti-fascists protesters who had been waiting for them at a barricaded street. Police observed “assaults, criminal behavior, and projectiles being thrown". Reports suggest that the counter-protesters initiated the violence when they began assaulting the Patriot Prayer supporters with thrown projectiles. Subsequently, the permit to march through downtown Portland was revoked, and the police declared the Patriot Prayer rally a riot. The police fired non-lethal ammunition towards the counter-protestors and 9 people in all were arrested.
A rally called the "Gibson for Senate Freedom March", including members of both Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, was held in Portland on August 4, 2018, along Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It attracted counter-protestors, both from a coalition of labor unions, immigrant rights advocates, and other groups, and from organized antifa ("anti-fascist") activists. Hundreds of riot-geared policeman, from both the Portland Police and the Oregon State Police attempted to keep the two groups apart, using rubber bullets and flashbangs when protestors refused to move. At one point, the police forces came under attack from rocks and bottles. Police reported that they confiscated weapons including fireworks, long sticks, baseball bats, pepper spray and home-made shields. There were injuries, and arrests were made, but the police characterized the event as a "civil disturbance" and not a "riot". The event also featured people wearing T-shirts saying "Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong" with an image of people dropped from a helicopter and "RWDS" (Right-Wing Death Squad) both of which were also spotted in Charlottesville.
In October 2018, the Portland police announced that it had found members of the organization carrying loaded firearms on the roof of a parking garage overlooking the site of the August protest; the people carrying them had concealed carry permits. The police confiscated the weapons and made the people leave the roof.
In January 2019, Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, Proud Boy Tusitala "Tiny" Toese and former Proud Boy Russell Schultz intitiated a campaign to tear off the bandanas of anti-fascist (antifa) demonstrators and taking pictures of their faces. The announcement of the campaign came shortly after an altercation that took place when Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys members attempted and failed to invade a chapter meeting of the left-wing organization Democratic Socialists of America. The groups clashed with anti-fascist activists nearby after being denied entry to the meeting, and claimed to be attacked.
In August 2019, Gibson, along with five other far-right extremists, was arrested for his actions in connection with a riot that took place in Portland on May 1. As a result of the riot, which took place outside a tavern, a woman was beaten unconscious and had her vertebrae broken. A Navy veteran referred to as "Ben", who had infiltrated Patriot Prayer and took videos of the violence at their rallies, was expected to testify at Gibson's trial.
On June 15, 2017, Patriot Prayer members held a rally at Evergreen State College, timed to coincide with one by the Evergreen Anti-Fascist Community Defense Network. The former promoted solidarity with Bret Weinstein, whose critical comments about an event for racial awareness had ignited campus protests. One arrest was made at the event after the vehicles of the group leader Joey Gibson and one other person had their tires slashed, allegedly by a member of antifa.
On August 13, 2017, the group held the "Freedom Rally Seattle" at Westlake Park with a large police presence to keep thousands of counter-protesters away. The concurrent events came one day after the death and injuries in Charlottesville and tensions were high with arrests of counter protesters made by police.
On February 10, 2018, Patriot Prayer were invited by the University of Washington College Republicans to speak at their "Freedom Rally" in Red Square. Several groups organized counter-protests, leading to skirmishes. Five people were arrested.
San Francisco Bay area
A rally which was to be held at Crissy Field in San Francisco on August 26, 2017 was cancelled by Gibson. In response to allegations by Nancy Pelosi that the event was intended to be a "white supremacist rally", Gibson said "For those of you who believe we are seriously going to throw a white nationalist supremacist rally in San Francisco, it's time for logic," In a video posted to his Facebook page Gibson said, "We have a black speaker, two Hispanic speakers, we've got an Asian, a brown speaker right here (referring to himself) – we got a transsexual, and we aren't talking about race." Security for the event was to be handled by the Oath Keepers.
On August 26, 2017, news of a planned Patriot Prayer press conference in San Francisco's Alamo Square Park drew over 1000 counter-protesters to the neighborhood. The group, which had already canceled a planned a rally at Crissy Field due to safety concerns, held the press conference in Pacifica instead. Prior to the event, the group's leader, Joey Gibson, denounced white supremacists before an August 2017 rally, saying "Don't show up, you're not welcome." Group organizers arrived at Crissy Field later that afternoon to talk with counter-protesters.
A September 26, 2017 Patriot Prayer demonstration near Sproul Plaza resulted in violence between the group and left-wing activists, including By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). The demonstration continued in a march to People's Park, where Kyle "Stickman" Chapman, a self-described American nationalist claimed there was "a war on whites" and a "battle for Berkeley". Police made three arrests, including Yvette Felarca.
Relationship with the Portland police
In February 2019, Willamette Week reported that Portland police lieutenant Jeff Niiya kept in close touch with Gibson, passing on to him intelligence about the anti-fascist movement in the city. He also advised Gibson on how a Patriot Prayer member could avoid being arrested. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) announced that they were beginning an investigation into the relationship between the office and Gibson. On February 21, a public "listening session" convened by the PPB consisted in large part of strong criticism of the bureau.
On March 1, 2019, The Guardian said that it had obtained video which showed Portland police officers approaching Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson at a June 3, 2018 rally, and telling him that even though Niiya had probable cause to arrest several members of the group, they could avoid being arrested by leaving. The officers inform Gibson of who the members who would be arrested were (Tusitala "Tiny" Toese and another man), and tell him that they had already arrested members of "the other side". Five days after the rally, Toese and Donovan Flippo – a member of Proud Boys – allegedly attacked a man in Portland. They were later indicted for the incident by a grand jury. The Portland Police Bureau did not comment on the video because their investigation on the relationship between Niiya and Patriot Prayer is ongoing. 
The Guardian also reported that in December 2017, Lt. Niiya told Gibson that the police would not execute a warrant for the arrest of Toese. In a text, Niiya wrote "Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention. ... If he still has the warrant in the system (I don’t run you guys so I don’t personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason." He also indicated that police officers had ignored previous arrest warrants for Toese.
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- Weill, Kelly (February 15, 2019) "Antifa: Portland Police 'Protect White Supremacy' by Passing Intel to Patriot Prayer" The Daily Beast
- Wilson, James (March 1, 2019) "Exclusive: video shows Portland officers made deal with far-right group leader " The Guardian
- O'Sullivan, Joseph (June 16, 2017). "Counter-protesters clash with pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer at Evergreen State College". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
- Steinmetz, Katy (August 25, 2017). "A Right-Wing 'Free Speech' Rally Planned for San Francisco Has Been Cancelled". Time. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
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