Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson wants to defeat the so-called antifa movement so badly that he is willing to take a punch or even a beating, and he wants others on the right to do the same.
Mr. Gibson implored his backers to remain peaceful and not hit back when and if they are attacked by militants of the far-left-leaning antifa, or anti-fascists, at the Peaceful Portland Freedom March and Texas Donation Drive scheduled for
Sunday in the heart of liberal Oregon.
“It takes courage to take a beating, to take a beating and to not respond in hatred, but to respond in love,” Mr. Gibson said Friday on Facebook Live. “This is how we will win over Portland. This is how people will turn on antifa, and we will finally have a right, a privilege to march in Portland, or any of these areas, once the left and the media begin to call them out.”
The antifa suffered a public relations backlash on Aug. 27 when Mr. Gibson and Tusitala “Tiny” Toese were hit and pepper-sprayed by a mob of black-masked activists in Berkeley, California. The episode, caught on video, spurred a backlash against the left-wing extremists.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, had accused the free speech group Patriot Prayer of attempting to hold a “white supremacist rally,” even though neither Mr. Gibson nor Mr. Toese is white. She denounced antifa by name for the first time after the violence.
In his message, Mr. Gibson urged those planning to attend the Portland rally to follow the examples of Jesus, Mohandas Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in embracing nonviolent resistance to counter the narrative that “we’re a bunch of extremists.”
In Berkeley, he said, “So many people were so disgusted about how they treated us. The liberals were literally standing around with peace signs and love signs while antifa is just yelling and cussing and beating the crap out of us and pepper-spraying us.”
Persuading others on the right to shrug off the blows may be easier said than done. At the Patriot Prayer rally in Portland on Aug. 6, a brawl broke out between small bands of antifa counterprotesters and right-wing activists.
“As Portland Police Stand By, Alt-Right and Antifa Protesters Beat Each Other Bloody,” said the headline in the Willamette Week.
One of those who mixed it up with counterprotesters was Mr. Toese, who was clobbered in the nose and was cited for disorderly conduct, but Mr. Gibson said his friend threw no punches in Berkeley.
Mr. Toese’s heritage is Samoan, and Mr. Gibson describes himself as half-Japanese. Another prominent Patriot Prayer organizer, Will Johnson, is black.
“You know how Tiny is. Tiny doesn’t put up with a lot of crap. And we marched in there, we marched in there with our hands up ready to take the beating with the cameras rolling so everyone can see, so we can expose antifa for who they are,” Mr. Gibson said. “That was the goal the whole time. So we took a beating.”
Not everybody is on board with nonviolent resistance. One fringe right-wing Portland figure, Allen Pucket, said last week on Facebook that “any movement forward in the future will inevitably have bloodshed.”
Mr. Gibson insisted that violence will only backfire on those fighting socialism and communism, even though he agreed that liberals who have denounced antifa are lying. “They’re just trying to cover their asses,” he said.
“Yes, that is true, but the tides are turning,” he said. “If we would have gone in there and just had a huge fight, huge brawls, it would have been like, ‘See, we need to shut down these rallies. We need to shut down these rallies; they’re just a bunch of extremists.’”
Radical anarchist groups such as antifa and By Any Means Necessary have defended their use of force to suppress right-of-center speech as a “self-defense” strategy against the rise of fascism.
The antifa website ItsGoingDown.org hailed the Berkeley melee as a victory, saying activists “prevailed against the far right in Berkeley, pushing back their police protection and chasing them out of Martin Luther King Jr. Park.”
Thousands of mostly peaceful protesters showed to counter a scheduled “No to Marxism in America” rally sponsored by transgender Trump supporter Amber Cummings, who canceled on the day before the event over fears of violence.
“We take the recent conservative and liberal backlash against antifa as a confirmation of our sound judgment and recognize the establishment’s condemnation of our actions as nothing more than white noise from white supremacy,” the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement said Friday in a post.
Among those criticizing antifa after the mayhem was Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who described the group as a gang.
“They believe they’re defending themselves and others, but what I saw on Sunday is they were the aggressors,” Mr. Arreguin said about antifa at a Thursday press conference, as reported by Berkeleyside.
It was the harshest criticism of antifa by the Democratic mayor to date, but protesters were undeterred.
“The denouncement spurred on by Trump, his white supremacist minions, and the liberal establishment that buttressed these hate groups is a clear sign we have chosen the correct path,” the antifa post said.
Others on the left aren’t so sure. Bay Area activist Daveed Walzer Panadero urged antifa to stop trying to silence Mr. Gibson and “get that man a podium and a mike.”
He argued that the right’s nonviolent “Reverse Selma” strategy was working.
“The key is keeping an almost laserlike focus on antifa aggression by seeking out opportunities to be grossly outnumbered and, hopefully, assaulted,” Mr. Panadero said in a Berkeleyside op-ed. “Americans as a whole abhor political violence. It was a winning strategy back in the ‘60s; it’s a winning strategy now.”