Abe Goldman-Armstrong speaks during a Tuesday press conference.
Abe Goldman-Armstrong speaks during a Tuesday press conference. Alex Zielinski

Since hosting a May Day celebration that attracted violent opposition at his NE Portland business Cider Riot, Abe Goldman-Armstrong has shut down the business' Facebook page, disconnected its phone, and requested security patrols to guard employees shutting down the shop at the end of the night.

"This is how bad it's gotten. We don't feel safe in our own business," said Goldman-Armstrong at a Tuesday morning press conference inside Cider Riot's warehouse. Goldman-Armstrong has filed a lawsuit against Patriot Prayer, the Vancouver, Washington-based alt-right organization, and its leader Joey Gibson, for inflicting violence on his property and at his patrons on May 1. Tuesday's press conference outlined new additions to the initial lawsuit, filed May 3.

Cider Riot was specifically targeted by Patriot Prayer for hosting an event attended by members of Portland's anti-fascist (or, antifa) and progressive community after a day of peaceful May Day demonstrations.

"Gibson and his followers spent most of May 1st walking from peaceful march to peaceful march looking for a fight," said Juan Chavez, the attorney representing Goldman-Armstrong pro bono through the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC). "When they couldn't start one in the streets, they came to Cider Riot, to make one."

Videos of the confrontation show armored, baton-carrying members of Patriot Prayer walk up to Cider Riot's outdoor patio and begin shouting insults and taunts at the patrons. Some on the patio were dressed in all-black and wearing bandanasā€”a familiar uniform for antifa groups.

"Gibson and his followers spent most of May 1st walking from peaceful march to peaceful march looking for a fight. When they couldn't start one in the streets, they came to Cider Riot, to make one."

After provoking some of the patrons out of their seats, a member of Patriot Prayer appears to spray the patio with mace. Some on the patio return fire, spraying the unwelcome rabble-rousers with mace. This quickly turns into an all-out street fight between Patriot Prayer and a few Cider Riot patrons trying to keep them off the property. One woman was allegedly knocked unconscious by Patriot Prayer member Ian Kramer, and suffered a vertebrae fracture, according to the lawsuit.

"These thugs came accross state lines to assault us. They attended a peaceful gathering where people were enjoying themselves," said Goldman-Armstrong. "Thankfully our community stood up and our pub didn't get destroyed, and thankfully more people were not injured by these guys."

Goldman-Armstrong's four-count lawsuit accuses Patriot Prayer of neglecting to prevent physical harm against Cider Riot patrons, trespassing on the businesses property to cause harm, inflicting emotional distress on both employees and patrons, and interfering with Cider Riot's economic relationships (specifically, Patriot Prayer harassing Cider Riot investors and sending false reports to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission).

The original complaint specifically identified Gibson and Kramer as defendants.

But, since filing the lawsuit on Friday, Chavez has added three other members of Patriot Prayer as defendants: MacKenzie Lewis, Christopher Ponte, David Willis, and Matthew Cooper.

According to the updated lawsuit, Willis helped coordinating Patriot Prayer's May 1 visit to Cider Riot and, in earlier online messages, "had announced his intent to 'cleanse the streets.'" Lewis and Cooper allegedly "battered" Cider Riot patrons. The suit didn't clarify why Ponte, a known "cop watcher," was added as a defendantā€”aside from noting his longtime involvement to Patriot Prayer.

Joey Gibson speaking at a Vancouver rally.
Joey Gibson speaking at a Vancouver rally. Lester Black

During the press conference, Goldman-Armstrong expressed his disappointment in the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), who were called as soon as Patriot Prayer began assaulting Cider Riot patronsā€”but didn't show up for an hour.

"That's really disturbing," he said. "If we didn't have such great community support, we were kind of hung out to dry by the police. There was no appropriate response."

PPB admitted this delay in a May 2 press release, noting that "it takes time for police response to spontaneous fights between groups of individuals who are armed and actively engaging in violence." Goldman-Armstrong said he has scheduled a meeting with Mayor Ted Wheeler's public safety policy aide, Robert King, to talk about PPB's response.

The clash at Cider Riot is only the latest instance of Patriot Prayer members arriving in Portland seeking to assault progressive activists, whether it be during a downtown rally or small union meeting. It's also not the first time Cider Riot's been in Patriot Prayer's crosshairs.

"When we opened in 2016, we were determined to be a safe space for people of all walks of life, and that's something we've kept to," said Goldman-Armstrong, citing recent fundraisers for houseless veterans, the LGBTQ community, and the Feral Cat Society. "Unfortunately, that's put us on the radar of these hate groups."

Goldman-Armstrong said his business has been targeted by Patriot Prayer for hosting progressive events for two years.

"Abe and Cider Riot represent the best of Portland. It's a small business creating original product, creating a safe and inclusive space for this community. This is what Patriot Prayer is threatening."

Bobbin Singh, director of the OJRC, said that this focus on Cider Riot illustrates how Patriot Prayer is systemically harming the Portland community.

"Abe and Cider Riot represent the best of Portland. It's a small business creating original product, creating a safe and inclusive space for this community," Singh said at the press conference. "This is what Patriot Prayer is threatening. They are threatening what is great about Portland and what we want to foster and nurture."

The Western States Center (WSC), a nonprofit focused on civil rights in the Pacific Northwest, has helped inform OJRC's legal case against Patriot Prayer. During the press conference, WSC's Amy Herzfeld-Copple spoke on the broader implications that normalizing violence from Patriot Prayer, a group that's attracted white nationalists, has on democracy.

"To characterize white nationalist violence as a free speech issue or as isolated outbreaks of street brawling ignores the growing political crisis," says Herzfeld-Copple. "That's why it's critical for local government to clearly denounce white nationalism."

She applauded Portland City Council's February passage of a resolution doing just that. According to Herzfeld-Copple, members of the WSC are meeting with city hall staff to plan employee-wide trainings on white nationalism.

Goldman-Armstrong's litigation has received outright support from US Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who dropped by Cider Riot to purchase some six-packs yesterday. No local politician has signaled this kind of approval.

"I hope we'll get more support from elected officials," Goldman-Armstrong said.

The city and PPB have faced harsh criticism in past years for not cracking down harder on Patriot Prayer members assaulting Portland activists. Earlier this year, an investigation by the Mercury found that a top PPB officer frequently texted Gibson during protests, helping him and other allies avoid arrest. PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw told the public she would request an outside investigation into those conversations in February. There's been no discussion of this investigation since.

Alex Zielinski

This, paired with PPB's inaction on the Cider Riot brawl, and Mayor Ted Wheeler's failed attempt to pass stronger (and constitutionally questionable) protest rules last November, has left the community doubtful that future Patriot Prayer attacks will play out any differently.

This legal action may change that. In his comments Tuesday morning, OJRC attorney Chavez noted this case's historic similarities.

"After the Civil War the Klu Klux Klan operated as a paramilitary group whose goal was to intimidate and cause violence," Chavez said. "When the Klan first appeared, Congress passed some laws allowing people to fight back against that terrorism in court, effectively paralyzing the Klan for decades. We're here today to avail ourselves to the court, to the law, to stop this terror."