Portland police accused of 'collusion with right-wing extremists' for texting Patriot Prayer leader

A Portland police lieutenant who commands a team that monitors protests in the city had frequently texted with Joey Gibson, leader of the protest group Patriot Prayer. At least one far-left City Commissioner is outraged about it and has demanded an investigation. Police Chief Danielle Outlaw has announced she will review the texts to see if anything improper took place, but the same police lieutenant had also texted extensively with at least one member of Antifa in 2017. From Willamette Week:

The texts, obtained by WW through a public records request, show that Portland Police Lt. Jeff Niiya had a friendly rapport with Gibson, frequently discussing Gibson’s plans to demonstrate in Portland and even joking at times…

Niiya is the commanding officer for the Portland Police Bureau rapid response team that patrols protests. That makes him one of the primary officers collecting intelligence about protest groups in Portland.

Niiya and the Portland Police Bureau have good reason to collect intelligence from right-wing organizers. Yet some of Niiya’s texts raise questions about whether Portland Police help Patriot Prayer supporters to evade arrest during events…

The texts also show that Niiya at times told Gibson where leftist protests were taking place, including unrelated protests as well as antifascist marches with people in black bloc intent on protesting Patriot Prayer. At least once, Niiya told Gibson that Portland police were not monitoring a protest hosted by the Queer Liberation Front in an attempt to dissuade Gibson’s right-wing group from showing up.

I haven’t read all the texts but my initial take based on what’s described in these reports is that Lt. Niiya was doing his job. He seems to be focused on making sure two opposing groups don’t try to occupy the same space at the same time which could ignite a street brawl. Part of that might involve warning Gibson that black bloc goons are moving their way to allow them to move rather than wind up in an unexpected confrontation. But the chatty, seemingly friendly texts with Gibson outraged City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. From the Oregonian:

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in a statement Thursday said the texts didn’t shock or surprise her and confirmed that “there are members of the Portland police force who work in collusion with right-wing extremists.” She said news of the text exchanges should be used to help buoy police reform that calls for “policing that treats all community members with respect and allows for peaceful protest free of intimidation and bias.”

Hardesty said she and other community groups are calling for an independent investigation into correspondence between police officers and members of alt-right groups and individuals…

[Police Chief] Outlaw issued a statement late Thursday night after posting all the text messages and emails between Gibson and the lieutenant on the bureau’s website.

“I have directed an internal investigation to review the context of these communications and determine if any Bureau directives were violated,” she said in the statement. “If anything is identified that is deemed outside of our values and directives, it will be addressed.”

What Hardesty doesn’t say is that Lt. Niiya is known to have texted with members of Antifa before as well and for much the same reason. Willamette Week reported in December 2017 that Lt. Niiya engaged in texting for months with an Antifa member called Tan. In that case, once the texts between Tan and the police were revealed, the young woman has judged a traitor and abandoned by her radical friends:

An exuberant 20-year-old with short, dyed-blue hair, Tan, whose legal name is June Davies and who identifies as gender non-binary, felt a magnetic pull to the left-wing protests in Portland that followed Donald Trump’s election…

In June, Tan met Portland police Sgt. Jeff Niiya at a small protest. Niiya frequently patrols protests. They started chatting, and Niiya gave Tan his business card.

It took only a day for Tan to become an informant. Tan texted Niiya—and began sharing details of Antifa’s marching routes during protests. For Tan, it made sense to work with police, to make sure Antifa medics weren’t arrested, swept up in kettles or moved by officers. At the same time, Tan never told other protesters about the conversations with Niiya…

One of Tan’s friends found four months of texts between Tan and the cops. The friend took screen shots—which were plastered across Facebook alongside warnings to stay away from the police informant.

It became, within the Antifa community in Portland, a scandal. And while the contents of the text messages didn’t reveal any closely held secrets of Antifa, the act of reaching out to police was viewed by many as traitorous to the cause…

“I knew what I was doing,” Tan says, expressing some bitterness at fellow protesters. “It was probably naive of me to think that I could change people’s mindsets. I saw the Portland police actually try. I never saw Antifa try.”

Lt. Niiya was texting amiably with someone feeding him information on what her group planned to do and would do. Was it because he supported Antifa? No. It seems he was trying to prevent things from getting out of hand and having information on the group’s plans helped him do that. The only difference is that no one is Joey Gibson’s group would consider him a traitor for talking to the police. That should tell you something about which group is more mainstream.

I have zero confidence in Commissioner Hardesty who sounds like a left-wing crank, but Chief Outlaw comes across as a much more reasonable person. Hopefully, her investigation will look at this and conclude Lt. Niiya was doing his job, not colluding with the far right.