The lawsuit alleges the two were punished for exercising their free speech rights while officials protected and fostered criminal conduct by the group known as Antifa
On Thursday, two prominent activists, Russell Schultz and Joseph “Joey’’ Gibson, filed a lawsuit in the Portland Oregon Federal Court against several city officials and entities, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, District Attorney Mike Schmidt, and the Portland Police Bureau. The lawsuit alleges the abusive misuse of governmental authority to punish their conservative political opponents for exercising their free speech rights while officials protected and fostered criminal conduct by the group known as Antifa.
Schultz and Gibson are represented in this suit by Portland-based attorney James Buchal and Vancouver attorney D. Angus Lee. Gibson is a long-time Clark County resident. Schultz is a former Clark County resident.
Schultz and Gibson claim that the defendants, who harbor a discriminatory animus against political and religious beliefs associated with patriotism, Christianity, and limited government, have targeted them and violated their fundamental civil rights. The plaintiffs argue that the defendants have engaged in a systematic campaign to discriminate against, repress, and violate the rights of a small political minority in the Portland community who hold such views.
The plaintiffs also assert that the defendants have shown a willingness to protect and support Antifa, an association of criminals and left-wing activists, which has engaged in multiple attacks on the plaintiffs and others. They further argue that this leniency towards Antifa and the excusal of criminal conduct has led to the increasing disorder and criminal behavior in the city of Portland.
“Amidst the chaos in Portland, Mike Schmidt’s office prioritized the prosecution of Russell and Joey for their political engagement,” said D. Angus Lee, attorney for Gibson. “Prosecutors aimed to stifle constitutionally protected political speech by signaling that the Multnomah County Prosecutor’s Office would go after visibly innocent conservative demonstrators, while turning a blind eye to the actual perpetrators responsible for the destruction and looting that engulfed this once picturesque city.”
The lawsuit stems from an incident on May 1, 2019, outside a Portland cider bar called Cider Riot, known as a gathering place for Antifa members. Schultz and Gibson appeared at the location to protest and did not cause any property damage, engage in assault, or commit any criminal acts. However, despite knowing about the ongoing criminal activities associated with Antifa at Cider Riot, the defendants prosecuted Gibson and Schultz despite their obvious innocence.
During the incident, Gibson livestreamed the event on Facebook, attempting to draw public attention to the nature of the bar and its patrons. While both plaintiffs were violently attacked by Antifa members, they repeatedly urged others outside the bar not to engage in violence. Surprisingly, despite multiple members of the Portland Police Bureau watching the events unfold, no action was taken to halt the criminal conduct, and no riot or unlawful assembly was declared.
The lawsuit alleges that defendant Traynor, a detective with the Portland Police Department, failed to investigate the attackers on the Antifa side adequately. Furthermore, despite being aware of the identity of at least one individual who kicked and spat on Gibson, Traynor did not make an arrest or request charges to be filed against the attacker.
Defendants conspired to target plaintiffs through a malicious prosecution. Secret indictments were issued charging both plaintiffs with riot based solely on their presence at the protest in front of Cider Riot. The lawsuit claims that the defendants knowingly presented false information, disregarding video evidence and police reports that proved the innocence of Schultz and Gibson. The malicious charges were intended not only as retaliation for their political activity but also as a means to chill future political activity by plaintiffs and others.
Buchal and Lee successfully defended Gibson in the underlying three-year legal battle with prosecutors in State criminal court. When the criminal cases were dismissed, Judge Benjamin Souede stated: “I am somewhat bewildered that the state has driven this case to this point, despite having all the evidence in this case… all the video,” he said. “As an institution, the District Attorney’s decision to push this case to trial is surprising based on the evidence.”
The lawsuit seeks to hold the defendants accountable for their actions and seeks damages for the violation of the plaintiffs’ civil rights. Schultz and Gibson hope that this legal action will shed light on the abusive misuse of governmental authority and protect the rights of all individuals to exercise their free speech rights without fear of retribution or discrimination.
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