A civil rights lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson.
Patriot Prayer is a far-right group that has engaged in violence and has attracted white supremacists to its events.
The charges, filed on behalf Thurston County resident Joseph Robinson, allege that Gibson, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, three Washington State Patrol officers, and a handful of other Patriot Prayer associates violated Robinson’s civil rights during a 2017 protest at Evergreen College that turned violent.
The protests came after months of tension on campus in the wake of Donald Trump's election. The school's traditional day of absence, when students of color stay home to demonstrate their important role in the community, was changed to address fears from undocumented and immigrant students. Instead of its traditional approach, the school asked white people to leave campus, which led to then-professor Bret Weinstein writing a letter to the faculty expressing his disapproval.
Right-wing media latched onto the story after Weinstein was a guest on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight."
The suit alleges that during a protest at Evergreen College, Gibson and members of Patriot Prayer dragged Robinson by the neck and handed him over to police.
“Patriot Prayer has no business making arrests, which is effectively what happened,” said Larry Hildes, Robinson’s attorney. “They grabbed him, threw him to the ground, searched him and dragged him over to the police and said, ‘Arrest him.'”
Charges against Robinson were dropped almost a year later.
Hildes said the goal of the lawsuit is to change how the Washington State Patrol operates and to put Patriot Prayer out of business.
“He has a First Amendment right,” Hildes said of Gibson. “He does not have the right to threaten abuse, attack, bully, assault. He doesn’t only just incite violence, he engages in violence. They act like the brown shirts,” he added, referring to the Nazi Party’s paramilitary organization whose violence and intimidation facilitated Hitler’s rise to power.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal troubles for people associated with Patriot Prayer. Toese currently faces multiple assault and harassment charges in Multnomah County. Gibson is also facing a $1 million civil suit and a felony riot charge in Multnomah County for his role in a violent May Day brawl outside a Portland bar.