Police in Portland, Ore., are facing accusations of “collusion” with right-wing extremists following the publication of text messages between Portland Police Lt. Jeff Niiya and far-right activist Joey Gibson.
Gibson, the leader of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, reportedly communicated in a friendly way with Niiya, including about plans for demonstrations that often turned into violent clashes with left-wing "antifa" protesters.
Local newspaper the Willamette Week obtained a series of text messages between Niiya and Gibson through a public records request. The messages, dating back to 2017, show Gibson coordinating with law enforcement about policing protests.
Portland City Councilwoman Jo Ann Hardesty on Thursday released a statement saying she is “not surprised” at the revelation made in the newspaper.
“I am not shocked, and I am not surprised at today’s reporting of Lt. Jeff Niiya’s collaboration with Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson over text to provide aid and support for their hate marches,” Hardesty said, according to The Associated Press.
“This story, like many that have come before it, simply confirms what many in the community have already known — there are members of the Portland police force who work in collusion with right-wing extremists,” she said.
In one series of messages, Niiya appears to tell Gibson that he will not seek an arrest of Gibson’s assistant, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, despite there being an active warrant for Toese.
"Just make sure he doesn't do anything which may draw our attention," Niiya told Gibson in 2017, according to the Willamette Week. “If he still has the warrant in the system (I don't run you guys so I don't personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don't see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason."
A police spokeswoman told the Willamette Week that it was not unusual for law enforcement to encourage people to turn themselves in on an active warrant, especially if a “crowd management situation” is involved.
Patriot Prayer has been at the center of a number of violent clashes with left-wing antifa, or "anti-fascist," activists.
It is unclear if police had the same level of communication with any left-wing protesters.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) also directed police to conduct an investigation into the texts.
Gibson told the Willamette Week that his relationship with Niiya was “sweet,” but later issued a longer statement criticizing Wheeler over his reaction to the report.
“His job was to talk with as many activists as possible to be able to predict what the protests will be like,” Gibson said of Niiya. “His main goal was to prevent conflict as much as possible. The only time he told me the locations of other groups was when I was trying to avoid them and the conflict. He was literally doing his job and the mayor throws him under the bus like he usually does to the police."