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Leader of the Patriot Prayer movement faces a felony charge of riot, plus a $1 million civil suit in Multnomah County.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Joey Gibson, leader of the Patriot Prayer movement, is pictured at a Portland protest wearing a t-shirt promoting his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat. Lawyers for Joey Gibson say the leader of the Patriot Prayer movement can't get a fair trial in Multnomah County, citing the "volume and vitriol of pretrial publicity, and community contempt."

Prosecutors have charged Gibson with committing felony riot during a brawl with anti-fascists outside a now-defunct Northeast Portland bar called Cider Riot! on May 1 2019.

The lawyers — D. Angus Lee and James Buchal, chair of the Multnomah County GOP — say Gibson wasn't rioting on May Day, but at most was engaging in "taunting" as a form of political speech and throwing up his arm to ward off a counter-protester.

Instead, they claim local political leaders and the press "demonized" Gibson by potraying him as a violent white supremacist and Nazi. They submitted more than 300 pages of photocopied news reports and tweets in an attempt to convince a judge to move the case to a different county.

"The degree of community hostility is extraordinary and extreme, to the point where Mr. Gibson cannot appear in public in Multnomah County without encountering masked residents who spit upon him and physically attack him," according to the motion filed Feb. 18.

The lawyers also argue that officials, including U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, tipped the scales and "repeatedly exacerbated and exploited this propaganda campaign" via public comments.

Gibson — a 36-year-old Vancouver resident — was a prominent participant at Portland protests in 2018 and 2019, though he hasn't appeared at any major demonstrations in Oregon this year.

The Circuit Court hasn't ruled on the venue change motion yet. The case had been assigned to Judge Leslie Bottomly, sister of The Oregonian/OregonLIve top editor, but Gibson's lawyers objected and she won't oversee a trial, if it comes to that.

Gibson also requested a venue change in the million-dollar civil suit brought by Abram Goldman-Armstrong, the former proprietor of Cider Riot! It was denied, the Portland Mercury reported, as was Gibson's motion to quickly dismiss the suit as a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

Gibson and the others named in that complaint have appealed both rulings since then.

In the criminal case, two other people who joined Gibson outside the cidery — Matthew D. Cooper and Christopher Ponte — cut plea deals and have been sentenced, while Gibson and another three have entered not guilty pleas.

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