As white supremacists go, Joey Gibson makes for a lousy one. For meet black people com, he’s half Japanese. Not to be a stickler for the rules, but this kind of talk could get you sent to Master Race remedial school. The founder of Patriot Prayer—a Vancouver, Wash.
Joey tends to sound less like an alt-right bully boy than a conflict-resolution facilitator or a Unitarian Sunday school teacher. No Nazis, Communists, KKK, Antifa, white supremacists . So much for free speech. Hispanics, one Asian, one Samoan, one Muslim, two women, and one white male. If becoming a liberty movement fixture doesn’t work out for Gibson, he has a promising future as a UC Berkeley admissions officer. Antifa mayhem and malice in Martin Luther King Jr.
Antifa have shown up at one right-leaning gathering after another this year to administer random beat-downs with everything from metal poles to bike locks to bear spray, causing multitudinous injuries and large-scale property damage. Back in February, they literally set fires on the Berkeley campus, smashing windows as they rampaged through the city streets, to prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from appearing, even though the professional provocateur frequently speaks about his penchant for sex with black men, which used to count as a social-justice twofer during less polarized times. Sorry, you’ve reached the limit on the articles you can view. Donald Trump, of course, who draws frequent Hitler comparisons in some quarters, has already set nerves on edge with his nativist rhetoric, perpetually divisive style, and what’s widely perceived as his winks ’n’ nods to white nationalists. Democrats have been on the prowl to paint everyone to the right of Angela Davis as a dangerous racist lunatic. They seem to have forgotten that the far right hardly has a monopoly on political violence.
Just a couple of months before Charlottesville, a Bernie Sanders supporter opened fire on a baseball-field full of Republican congressmen, almost killing Rep. Gibson secured a permit for his free speech rally to be held at Crissy Field, a former Army airfield next to the Golden Gate Bridge. No matter, Pelosi had lots of company. Patriot Prayer’s incitement, hate and intimidation. The mayors of San Francisco and Berkeley denounced the group, too.
Viking raid, but to put everyone on notice about the Patriot Prayer rally. Perhaps Arreguin was worried antifa would unfriend him on Facebook. Properly whipped into an anti-racism frenzy, the Bay Area did what the Bay Area loves doing most. Or second most, after driving low-income minorities out of hopelessly expensive neighborhoods so that tech millionaires can live in them.
The events list ran to multiple pages. Crissy Field to mercilessly ridicule any neo-nazis, white supremacists, or alt-right trolls who dare show their face. Joey, for his part, wasn’t worried about menacing clowns or dog droppings. He was worried that his rallies would come to resemble Altamont, a hellscape of dark and eruptive violence. Since rally-goers would likely be outnumbered by hecklers and antifa ninjas by about 10-to-1 in one of the most aggressively liberal enclaves in the world, Joey was growing increasingly uneasy with the security arrangements, or lack thereof, by Park Service and law-enforcement officials. Convinced the security situation would resemble an antifa turkey shoot for his attendees, Joey canceled Liberty Weekend.
I heard the news on TV during my flight. But when I landed, he told me there was no need to board a return flight home. Toese, in front of their budget hotel on San Francisco’s Lombard Street. Tiny, you might have guessed, is named ironically. I ain’t fat, I’m stab-resistant. We pack into a compact rental Toyota so small that the steering wheel crushes Tiny’s crotch. Joey always buys the full-insurance package, since antifa has done everything from slash his tires to douse his car in degreaser to strip the paint job.
Tiny shows me a slash wound on his arm, courtesy of an earlier antifa encounter at one of their rallies, and a gnarled bruise on the bridge of his nose, where he caught an axe-handle from a nominal ally who thought Tiny was antifa and whacked him by mistake. Joey is fully aware of the ridiculousness. Never particularly political—he detests labels, but allows that he’s a moderate libertarian with a strong taste for freedom—Joey came to activism through anger, as most people do these days. Joey himself, though, rarely loses his cool, and even in high-pressure situations appears as calm as a Zen monk. Joey counted himself a vague Trump supporter. Like many people, he enjoyed watching someone upset the establishment.
But he was radicalized after watching online the aftermath of the June 2, 2016, Trump rally in San Jose, where departing rally-goers were hunted down, egged, and beaten like dogs in the street by vicious mobs. Joey believed that a person should be able to attend the political rally of his choice in America, or to wear a MAGA hat in a place like Portland, Ore. So he started Patriot Prayer in 2016—it has no employees, and he takes no money from it. He began throwing rallies and marches in liberal cities on the West Coast. In the early days, his rallies had overtly pro-Trump themes.
These days, mentions of Trump have mostly been scrubbed from his own rhetoric, as he knows even invoking the name can be alienating. Plenty of those who show up at his events are ardent Trumpers, with whom he maintains an easy rapport. Instead, his emphasis is on freedom and unity. People get mad when I say that, because they say that’s not good enough. What’s your view on abortion? They want all these political messages.
But politics, as the last several years have evidenced, are by definition divisive. They have both amped up and divided us as a people. The division is allowing extremists to be involved. He learned that lesson the hard way earlier this year when Jeremy Christian showed up in the crowd at one of his rallies in Portland, spewing hatred and Nazi talk. Joey and his cohorts were wigged out by him and showed him the door. A month later, Christian stabbed three people on a Portland commuter train, killing two of them, after they came to the defense of two girls at whom Christian was barking anti-Muslim slurs.