On Thursday, Willamette Week and the Mercury reported on text messages between a police officer and Joey Gibson, founder of the Vancouver, Washington alt-right group Patriot Prayer. Portland elected leaders, nonprofits, and the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) have all responded to the texts, which reveal a protective relationship between PPB and Gibson.
The texts also suggest that Lt. Jeff Niiya, the officer in contact with Gibson, may have broken PPB policy by helping another Patriot Prayer member, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, avoid arrest. The Mercury obtained the text messages through a public records request.
Mayor Ted Wheeler released a statement Thursday afternoon, calling the messages “disturbing” and directing Police Chief Danielle Outlaw to investigate the issue.
In her own statement, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said that she was neither shocked nor surprised by the content of the text messages, and that the information brought to light “simply confirms what many in the community have already known—there are members of the Portland police force who work in collusion with right-wing extremists.”
Hardesty also echoed a joint statement released last evening by CAIR Oregon, the Oregon Justice Resource Center, and the Western States Center—all anti-racism, social justice-oriented organizations—which demanded an independent investigation into the relationship between PPB and Patriot Prayer.
“The investigator should be determined in consultation with community groups, and the results made public,” the groups’ statement read in part.
They also demanded that Portland accelerate its training of all city employees on the history of white supremacy in Portland—training the city was already planning after passing a resolution condemning hate groups earlier this month. They called on Outlaw to speak about PPB’s position on the resolution as well.
“[O]ur communities need to hear from Chief Outlaw directly on whether she aligns with City leadership on this issue and how her department rejects hate and bigotry,” the statement reads.
In a press release sent late Thursday evening, PPB announced that it had made all of the text messages available to the public on its website, as they had “generated a lot of public interest.”
Local activists plan to hold a rally in response to the text messages at 3 pm Friday at Portland City Hall.
Update: Commissioner Chloe Eudaly also issued this statement Friday afternoon.
Read my full statement on the Portland Police Bureau's text messages. Thanks to @katemshepherd and @alex_zee for your diligent reporting.— Commissioner Eudaly (@ChloeEudalyPDX) February 15, 2019
Also available here: https://t.co/53HS8h9mHW#portland pic.twitter.com/DEPmpdyXr4