Text messages retrieved by Willamette Week between Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson and the Portland Police Department have shown coordination between the violent far right group and law enforcement. The texts were between Gibson and Lt. Jeff Niiya, the commander of the Portland Police Bureau rapid response team, which is the police unit that is assigned to protests in the city.
Some of the texts show that Niiya shared information with Gibson regarding antifascist movements during protests, and Niiya also texted Gibson that PPB was hesitant to arrest violent Proud Boy Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, a close Gibson lackey, despite a warrant for his arrest. Tusitala is a fixture in the Portland alt-right scene, and has assaulted people without physical provocation.
Lt. Niiya also gave information to Gibson instructing him where to position his group so that Antifa protesters would be searched for weapons and Patriot Prayer would not.
Some of the texts suggest that Niiya was at times trying to ascertain information from Gibson while attempting to convince him to avoid violent confrontation. Many, however, suggest a relationship that, according to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, “appear[s] to cross several boundaries… Moreover, the texts appear to unnecessarily encourage Joey Gibson, the leader of a group that perpetuates hate speech and violence” Wheeler has called for an official investigation into the correspondence.
In one of the texts, Niiya congratulated Gibson on his (soon to fail) bid for U.S. Senate. “”Your [sic] running for office?!! Good for you,” texted Niiya.
Gibson seemed to be convinced that Niiya was working on his behalf. “Sorry I accidentally said that [P]ortland [P]olice has our back,” texted Gibson on September 9, 2017. “It slipped.”
Left wing protesters have long criticized the PPB for appearing to favor the alt-right. These claims were buttressed by a report that Portland Police had discovered Patriot Prayer members positioned in a rooftop parking structure with several firearms prior to an August 4 demonstration. The weapons were seized, but later given back with no charges filed. The far right protesters in question were all authorized for concealed firearm carry, and presumably still are.
The texts between Lt. Niiya and Gibson can be viewed here.
By Jay Sharpe