Activism is already out in full force in the Pacific Northwest, where the streets are inhabited by a collection of bandana-wearing antifascists, radicals, artists, anarchists, anti-racists, gays and feminists on the left and the neo-Nazis and white supremacists on the vociferous right.
Demonstrations are a staple here and the participants are almost all under 40. For instance, this piece in the Williamette Week told how the Portland (Ore.) police stood by while militia groups, alt-right demonstrators and anarchist counter-protestors beat each other up recently.
So the presence of anyone religious in this messy drama is highly intriguing.
The Vancouver (Wash.) Columbian, whose airy newsroom is across the Columbia River from Oregon, decided to profile one of the most intriguing personalities on the streets today. This passage is very long, but it's essential. Read on.
Vancouver’s Joey Gibson always paid some attention to politics but had little practical interest in the process. Then he took to the streets outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer.
There, the leader of the Patriot Prayer online community-slash-movement, whose organizing and activism has garnered national headlines after recent clashes on college campuses and the streets of Portland, was caught on camera tearing up a demonstrator’s anti-police cardboard sign.
“Why would you destroy my property?” asked the man, who was wearing a T-shirt that read “F*** the police.”
Because Gibson, 33, was fired up. But then he felt bad for ripping up the sign.
He handed the guy a $20 bill, and the interaction ended with a handshake.
Now, a year later, Gibson said he is still evolving as an activist and organizer. On Facebook videos and YouTube, he preaches “Hatred is a disease.” He counts the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. among his political heroes. He once invited a transgender person to speak at one of his rallies because he said it’s time all people were accepted.
Yet trouble seems to follow his activism.
After mentioning violence that happened at one of his rallies, the article continues. Once again, it's hard to summarize all of the key details without looking at large sections of this text. Once again, read on:
... Gibson and others went ahead with a “free speech” rally in Portland on June 4, which prompted so much consternation the mayor asked him to hold off. He refused, and 14 were arrested as police clashed with protesters who came to face down Gibson and company.
Gibson called throwing that rally one of the tougher decisions he’s had to make.
Members of conservative nationalist groups, militia organizations and other corners of the so-called alt-right -- an amorphous category of online white nationalists, white supremacists, internet trolls and others bothered by “political correctness” and multiculturalism -- made appearances that day.
Gibson argued delaying or canceling the formal rally could have meant more trouble. There likely would have been hundreds down there anyway, he said, and with less organization or accountability.
“I truly believed God wanted me to have the rally,” he said. “I do believe the scheduling, the way it was scheduled, happened for a reason.”
Now this is one interesting guy, but what kind of religious person is he? What are the basic facts here?
We learn later that his family was Japanese, so he’s biracial, which takes some wind out of the sails of his leftist critics. Is he Buddhist? Christian? What does “Patriot Prayer” mean?
Gibson said he is driven by two forces: freedom and God. But he was also inspired by President Donald Trump. And one of his top goals is to “liberate the conservatives on the West Coast.”
The article does tell some of Gibson’s personal history, which ranged from being homeless to getting a college degree, becoming an athletic coach and getting into real estate. Politically, he’s libertarian, not an uncommon distinction in the Pacific Northwest. But there’s nothing about a religious awakening.
I cast about for other sources. The Southern Poverty Law Center sent someone to monitor a demonstration Gibson headed up in Seattle this past Sunday. The ensuing piece wasn’t sure whether to term the 33-year-old as a hatemonger or as a well-intentioned conservative who gives his opponents some time at the mic to voice their views.
Seattle’s KIRO radio interviewed Gibson on Monday about the melee that happened during the demonstration, which seems to be par for the course for street happenings around here. One thing Gibson said on the KIRO tape about his activism was:
It’s been about exposing how crazy it is out here. The hatred and the evil hides until you challenge it and when you challenge it, it comes up above for the whole world to see. I think a lot of people who live in these cities and they are kind of just moderate liberals and they stay out of the loop and I don’t think they understand how many people on their so-called team are crazy. So we go in there and challenge it and we show is this what you guys want in your city? Do you want this craziness to run your streets?
Charlotte Allen (as well as other media) has been reporting on the war zone that existed at Evergreen State College in Olympia, 60 miles south of Seattle, where quasi-Maoist students took over the campus this spring. That was another sign that parts of this country are sinking into more and more violence. There's a class and race war going on here. What happened in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend can be seen as a continuation of what's been happening out here in the West.
So when someone brings religion into the mix, your GetReligionistas are all ears.
What a shame that the Columbian didn’t ask more questions about Gibson’s Christian roots. (If you look at this video by Gibson, there is a small picture of Christ behind him and midway through, Gibson suggests praying to Jesus). Did he learn non-violence from Gandhi? From the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
What does he mean by “patriot prayer” at rallies where anything but prayer takes place?
Guess we’ll have to wait for a follow-up piece from somewhere else.