Oregon Justice Resource Center attorney Juan Chavez said legal action against Patriot Prayer, a Vancouver-based far-right group that attracts white supremacists and has engaged in violence, is akin to past lawsuits against the Ku Klux Klan.
Chavez is representing Cider Riot owner and cider maker Abram Goldman-Armstrong pro bono. He also represented Aaron Cantu, a protester who said he was injured by a Portland police flash-bang last year.
The Cider Riot lawsuit is requesting $1 million in damages from Patriot Prayer members due to fights that broke out during a May Day event last week at the bar.
“When the Klan first appeared and began their terror campaign, Congress passed laws to allow people to fight back against that terror in court, effectively paralyzing the Klan for decades,” Chavez said during a press conference at Cider Riot on Tuesday.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson and his group have traveled to Portland for years to engage in street fights with anti-fascist protesters, which Chavez said needs to end.
“We are here again today to avail ourselves to the court and to the law to stop this terror,” he said.
The May Day event at Cider Riot was hosted by Rose City Antifa, a far-left, anti-fascist group that has also engaged in violence.
The Cider Riot lawsuit alleges that a group of about 20 Patriot Prayer members harassed Cider Riot patrons on May 1 and that the group’s leader, Joey Gibson, facilitated a street fight. It lists Patriot Prayer LLC, Gibson, long-time Patriot Prayer member Ian Kramer and others as defendants.
“For too long, Joey Gibson and Patriot Prayer have used violence and intimidation to drive a wedge between our community members,” Chavez said.
During the May Day violence, people used pepper spray and threw bricks, Goldman-Armstrong said.
One of Cider Riot’s patrons was knocked unconscious. The lawsuit alleges specifically that Kramer hit the woman on the head with a baton, giving her a “serious vertebrae fracture.”
“Thankfully, more people were not injured by these guys. They’re a gang. They’re a hate group that came down to attack a peaceful gathering,” Goldman-Armstrong said. “I had to turn my production area into an emergency medical station.”
He also said he felt “hung out to dry” by Portland police, who he said did not respond to the scene until about an hour after the group of Patriot Prayer members had left.
“We phoned them. Numerous neighbors phoned them … and there was no appropriate response,” Goldman-Armstrong said.
Videos of the confrontation show Cider Riot patrons also fought with Patriot Prayer members. Chavez said it was self-defense.
“What we saw were people who were fighting back against people who were pepper-spraying them, who were intimidating them, who wanted to start a fight with them,” he said. “They drove them back; they didn’t follow them down the streets. It was about self-defense.”
Gibson has denied that he and his supporters attacked first, and has alleged online that antifa members attacked them.
Goldman-Armstrong said Patriot Prayer has been targeting Cider Riot for two years.
“I don’t see how being an inclusive space for people to drink cider is a threat to them,” he said. “We believe in standing up for what’s right and what you believe in and we’re not going to be kowtowed by these fascist bullies coming down, crossing state lines, to attack our establishment and our patrons.”
The lawsuit claims that Patriot Prayer has repeatedly harmed Cider Riot’s business.
In late January, Cider Riot, and other Portland organizations such as the IWW Union Hall and the Democratic Party of Oregon, were vandalized with graffiti. The lawsuit alleges Patriot Prayer was involved.
Goldman-Armstrong also said the group “doxed” him by posting his home address online.
“They’ve been targeting me personally and my business now for some time,” he said, “but this isn’t just a threat to me; this is a threat to everyone in our community.”
Cider Riot had to recently shut down its social media and unplug its phone due to an influx of threats and hate speech from Patriot Prayer supporters, Goldman-Armstrong said.
I stand with people who stand against hate! Cider Riot walks the talk! https://t.co/98dWm1QKH7— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) May 7, 2019
Cider Riot has received support from community members after the May Day brawl. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, stopped by the bar Monday to show his support for the business.
Although he said he’s worried about the safety of himself and his staff because of the May Day incident and corresponding lawsuit, Goldman-Armstrong said he’s proud to stand up “against this sort of hate.”
“It’s come to this point and enough is enough. Gibson and his gang have been intimidating us for so long,” Goldman-Armstrong said. “I’m not going to take it anymore and hopefully if we make a stand, we can remain being open and remain being a safe and inclusive space for everybody in the community — and hopefully get them to stop harassing other folks in Portland as well.”