For the past week, Vancouver activist, provocateur and senate candidate Joey Gibson has been talking about guns — guns that his friends and supporters with the groups Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys will likely bring to a self-described “Freedom Rally” in Portland on Saturday.
“Everyone should be carrying around guns at all times, especially in our situation,” Gibson explained in a video, posted to Facebook June 30 to promote the event.
The buses picking people up from Vancouver to the rally will have armed guards to protect people from antifa counter-protesters, according to Gibson.
“If they try to charge a bus, I want them to know they are armed,” he said.
In another video promoting the event, a young boy appears behind Gibson, giggling and waving a black rifle — a replica? Not a replica? Gibson leaves it up to the viewer’s imagination.
“We have several guns in our house, everywhere. I always have a gun on me at all times,” he said.
Gibson posted the videos after a watchdog group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, suggested the Aug. 4 rally could be the most violent the city has seen.
“Another Charlottesville?,” their headline read.
They warned that Oregon’s open carry gun law, combined with the promotion of the event by national figures on the far right — such as InfoWars’ Alex Jones and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes — set the stage for particularly dangerous clashes.
However, in the run-up to Saturday, both Gibson and the Southern Poverty Law Center report neglected to mention a key fact: While Oregon is an open-carry state, the law also allows local regulation of guns. And Portland bans loaded firearms in the city without a concealed carry permit or other exemption. Further, Oregon does not automatically recognize concealed handgun licenses issued in other states, including Washington, where Gibson and many of his supporters live.
Gibson said he will not be carrying a gun at Saturday’s rally.
“I can’t legally carry in Portland,” Gibson confirmed to OPB in an interview. “In Portland, you have to have your concealed license.”
Public records show Gibson was barred from gun ownership for more than a decade as a result of pleading guilty to a felony theft charge in 2002.
He successfully petitioned in Clark County to have his right to carry re-instated in 2015, because his theft didn’t involve a weapon and he’d maintained a clean record for five years.
Regardless of whether Gibson is armed, he said he expects his rally to draw both a local and a national crowd. More than 300 people have committed to attending on the event’s Facebook page.
“We’ll have people locally showing up from Vancouver, Portland, Hillsboro, California. We have people flying in from Texas and the East Coast,” he said.
Gibson was “not sure” if he’d mentioned to out-of-state participants that they need to obtain an Oregon permit in order to carry a loaded gun in Portland.
“That’s part of the difficult part of being a responsible gun owner, is knowing where you’re going and what the laws are,” he said.
Gibson’s rally is scheduled to convene at the Salmon Street Fountain in Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
City code prohibits a wide range of weapons in parks, including tear gas, stun guns, slingshots and knives.
For its part, Rose City Antifa released a “hype video,” encouraging people to counter-protest Gibson’s rally. They also promised violence.
“History has shown that militant resistance is a necessary and important tool in the fight against fascism,” the video’s narrator intones. “We make no apologies for the use of force in keeping our communities safe from the scourge of right-wing violence.”
The Portland Police bureau issued a statement Friday directing people attending the protests not to bring weapons “or any items that can be used as weapons.”
The police will have weapon screening locations near the entrance to Tom McCall Waterfront Park and will deploy explosive detection dogs before and during the event.