Joey Gibson is a right-wing political activist. He is the leader and of the far-right Patriot Prayer group, an organization which has been accused of ties to the alt-right.
Gibson says that Patriot Prayer is not a white nationalist group and has no alt-right connections; he says Patriot Power is all about “freedom, love, and peace.”
Patriot Prayer is helping to organize a protest in Portland this weekend, and many people are concerned that the event will turn violent, like last year’s “Unite the Right” event in Charlottesville Virginia.
Here’s what you need to know about Joey Gibson:
1. Gibson Became Politically Active In 2016, When He Got Excited About Trump. His Movement Grew Into Patriot Prayer
Gibson has said that before 2016, he was politically unmotivated and unaware. But like many Americans, he was pushed into political activity by Donald Trump’s presidential run. Gibson was excited about Trump’s candidacy and wanted to support him. He was also angry by what he saw on TV — the brawls breaking out at Trump rallies which Gibson blamed on anti-Trump demonstrators.
“That put a fire in me that I never experienced in my entire life,” he told The Columbian. “Something changed in me at that moment in time, because at that point I decided that our country is not America anymore, and that was the first time I saw that.”
Gibson went to the Republican National Convention, vowing that the right would take back the streets from left-wing protesters. He told The Columbian, “I noticed that the left owned the streets, and so I came back committed to getting people involved, to getting people on the street, the libertarian, the conservative.”
He started organizing like-minded people, and the movement he created eventually grew into Patriot Prayer.
2. Gibson Says Patriot Prayer Is Devoted To Peace And Love. But The Group Is Planning to Bring Guns To Their Next Rally
Gibson has repeatedly denied that Patriot Power has anything to do with violent extremism. He preaches to his followers about God and about non-violence. And he says that reports that his group — and groups like the Proud Boys — are white nationalists are totally false; in campaign speeches, he talks about ignoring the color of one’s skin and focusing on religion and values instead.
Gibson says that Patriot Power believes in love, peace, and freedom.
But Gibson is also planning to come armed to his upcoming Portland rally — and he wants his supporters to do the same.
“We’ve always had guns at the rally,” Gibson said in a video on Facebook. “Everyone should be carrying around guns at all times.”
Gibson is also very friendly with groups like the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has been accused of violent extremism.
3. Gibson Grew Up in Washington State. He Had Strict Parents But Eventually Rebelled And Wound Up Jailed, and Later Homeless
Gibson grew up in Camas, a small city in Washington State. He described his parents as “strict” and “good.” In high school, Gibson was the quarterback on the football team. But towards the end of his senior year, Gibson started getting in trouble.
The details are vague, but Gibson told The Columbian that he started drinking and eventually broke into a restaurant in Washougal.
He did some time in jail and dropped out of school. When he got out of jail, he was homeless for a while, drifting from place to place and living in Portland, Seattle, Mexico, and Hawaii.
Finally, an athletic director from his high school contacted him and offered him a job coaching football. Gibson took the job and credits it with turning his life around.
4. Gibson Is Running a Long-Shot Campaign For Senate. He Wants His Followers to ‘Start the Revolution’
Gibson is running to be a US Senator from Washington State. In his campaign rallies, he lambasts Antifa and Nancy Pelosi, often in the same sentence. He rallies his followres by saying, “We will not bend the knee” and by saying that “it is time for those who believe in freedom to be more aggressive.”
He says that Second Amendment rights, and the freedom of religion, are some of the most important issues to his campaign. He calls on his followers to “spiritually empower” themselves so that they can “start the revolution.” He told his followers, “We have an Empire above us that wants to brainwash us” and has called on his followers to have “a revolution of the heart” and non-violently oppose the “empire.”
5. Gibson Says The Right To Bear Arms is God-Given. He Also Calls For Less Regulation of Pharmaceuticals
Reducing government regulation is a big issue for Gibson’s Senate campaign. He wants to drastically lower property taxes and income taxes (he supports a sales tax). He also wants an end to government regulations on pharmaceuticals; he charges that the price of medicine is too high, and that the big pharmaceutical companies have a stranglehold on the industry.
Gibson also speaks often about gun rights. He emphasizes that the right to bear arms is “God-given” and does not come from the government. He talks about non-violence but has also urged his supporters to carry guns with them “everywhere.”