Cider Riot, Patriot Prayer prepare for $1 million lawsuit
A cider shop proprietor whose patio became an impromptu host of a May Day brawl has filed a million-dollar lawsuit against six right-wing activists — alleging that their harassment and menacing sparked the street scuffle.
Fought with projectiles, mace and fists, the battle outside Cider Riot!, 807 N.E. Couch St., was caught on camera after roughly 20 conservatives approached at least twice as many black-clad anti-fascists, who had gathered for a "May Day Afterparty" co-organized by Rose City Antifa; a term coined to mean anti-fascists.
"We are a safe space for all communities, and we can't let people intimidate us," said cidery owner Abram Goldman-Armstrong during a Tuesday, May 7, press conference. "Thankfully we have a great community who didn't let these thugs get into our business."
Goldman-Armstrong said an onslaught of online harassment has forced him to disconnect the phone and delete all social media accounts for Cider Riot!, which opened its Northeast Portland storefront in August 2016 and has seven full-time employees.
The amended suit, first filed May 3 in Multnomah County Court, seeks damages for negligence, trespass, emotional distress and interference with economic relations allegedly caused by Patriot Prayer, whose demonstrations have sparked numerous riots and fights since 2017.
The 10-page document says Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson "refereed" the May 1 fight and encouraged a co-defendant, Ian Kramer, to bludgeon a patron on the head, knocking her unconscious. Attorney Juan C. Chavez with the Oregon Justice Resource Center is representing the plaintiffs pro bono.
"Mr. Gibson has entered on to the highways and conspired to bring people here to commit acts that I would say are civil rights violations, so I would say we also have federal actions," Chavez said.
For his part, Gibson says he's "excited" for his day in court.
"I never fought back, never even said one hateful word. If that's illegal in this country then — guilty, I guess. But last I checked it's not," Gibson told the Tribune.
Cider Riot! was vandalized this January — foreseeably directed by Gibson, according to the suit — and the company must respond to many "frivolous" complaints now filed with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
In response, Gibson claims he's merely "asking people to witness what happened and give their honest opinion" to the OLCC.
Since the violent encounter, Goldman-Armstrong says he's purchased gas masks for his bartenders and hired night-time security guards. His personal information was "doxxed" — intentionally spread for purposes of harassment — once before, in summer 2017.
"I think they saw a Jewish name and thought I was George Soros or something like that," he noted, referring to the prominent Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist.
Though his 1,000-barrel production facility was turned into a makeshift medical bay during the melee, Goldman-Armstrong said his bar will remain a safe and inclusive space for Portlanders. He said all IDs were checked on May Day, and masks were put on only after Patriot Prayer arrived.
Goldman-Armstrong said he is less happy with the Portland Police Bureau, whose officers didn't arrive on scene until about an hour after the 7:30 p.m. brawl. In a news release defending their actions, police said their airplane unit was monitoring the fight one minute after it was reported.
Officers reportedly mustered a "hasty team" nearby to respond in case of a life-threatening incident, but held off on breaking up the fight. "They observed that both groups had opportunities to disengage and leave, but appeared to be actively engaging in the violent behavior against each other," police said.
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