Everybody’s talking about this Matt Labash story from Berkeley, and with good reason. It’s a stunner. Labash went to Berkeley to follow Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, as he and his cohorts tried to rally in that city. You may be thinking that Patriot Prayer is some sort of Trumpkin alt-right outfit. You could not be more wrong:
As white supremacists go, Joey Gibson makes for a lousy one. For starters, he’s half Japanese. “I don’t feel like I’m Caucasian at all,” he says. Not to be a stickler for the rules, but this kind of talk could get you sent to Master Race remedial school.
And it gets worse. The founder of Patriot Prayer—a Vancouver, Wash.-based operation that sponsors rallies and marches promoting freedom and First Amendment rights along with all-purpose unity—also spews hippie-dippie rhetoric like “moderates have to come together” and “love and peace [are] the only way to heal this country.” Joey tends to sound less like an alt-right bully boy than a conflict-resolution facilitator or a Unitarian Sunday school teacher.
Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein tried to get Gibson’s Liberty Weekend banned by the National Park Service as a threat to public order. Local officials got involved too, but to no avail:
Properly whipped into an anti-racism frenzy, the Bay Area did what the Bay Area loves doing most. Or second most, after driving low-income minorities out of hopelessly expensive neighborhoods so that tech millionaires can live in them. They planned counterprotests! Lots of them. The events list ran to multiple pages.
There would be “empathy tents” and “mobile dance” counter rallies. They slated candlelight vigils and Michael Franti concerts, “anti-hate” marches and “Flowers Against Fascism.” One event was titled “Calling All Clowns”—a “call for anti-racist, anti-fascist clowns to descend upon Crissy Field to mercilessly ridicule any neo-nazis, white supremacists, or alt-right trolls who dare show their face.” Then there was the invitation for concerned citizens to deposit “your dog poop on Crissy Field” in order to “leave a gift for our alt-right friends.” A Guardian headline-writer billed this the “Turd Reich.”
Here’s what’s so fascinating about Joey Gibson and his Patriot Prayer group. It’s not, as I assumed, some sort of kitschy nationalistic outfit, full of pro-Trump provocateurs. Gibson talks about bringing people together:
When Joey draws antifa out to show themselves, it’s not really conservatives he’s trying to reach. Conservatives already loathe antifa, he says. Rather, Joey’s interested in appealing to good, honest middle-of-the-road liberals. He likes them and believes there are plenty of them still out there. They’re just not terribly vocal at the moment when it comes to suppressing their own extremists, who seem hellbent on suppressing everyone else. As with some of the rancid elements of the right, when the moderates are quiet, extremist voices become amplified. “I’m also trying to help conservatives understand that they have a warped perception of liberals, because the good liberals are keeping quiet.” Joey says. “You go on YouTube and see thousands of videos of social justice warriors acting like crazy Batman because that’s what gets the views. You’re not going to see a video of a normal liberal making sense, you know?”
Joey holds the door open for liberals in his freedom-loving unity movement, and some, including liberals of color, have joined. One African-American liberal I meet, Ryoga Vee, signed on after having an antifa member call him a Nazi and then try to set him on fire with a road flare when Vee attempted to attend Milo’s Berkeley speech out of curiosity. “I don’t care who you vote for,” Joey says, so long as you’re pro-freedom.
Labash talks about Gibson’s past, including a short jail stint. Then:
But Joey came back. People helped him. He remembered who he was and got his heart straight again. Maybe because of his own time in darkness, he thinks everyone’s redeemable and anyone can be helped, including those we think are bad guys who don’t even know they need it. This is a truth that he thinks we’ve all but forgotten.
I don’t want to quote much about what Labash saw when antifa jumped Joey Gibson and his friends. You really need to read it yourself. Here’s a taste:
First he catches a slap in the head, then someone gashes him with something in his ribs. He keeps his hands up, as though that will save him, while he keeps getting dragged backwards by his shirt, Tiny trying to pull him away from the bloodthirsty ninjas. Someone crashes a flagpole smack on Joey’s head, which will leave a welt so big that Tiny later calls him “the Unicorn.” Not wishing to turn his back on the crowd, a half-speed backwards chase ensues, as Joey and Tiny are blasted with shots of bear spray and pepper spray. They hurdle a jersey barrier, crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way while antifa continue throwing bottles at them. The mob stalks Joey and Tiny all the way to an Alameda County police line, which the two bull their way through, though the cops initially look like they’re going to play Red Rover and keep them out. No arrests are made. Except for Joey and Tiny, who are cuffed.
A crack reporter for the Los Angeles Times will later write that they were arrested for charging the police, which couldn’t be less true. A Berkeley cop tells me they were arrested for their own safety (and weren’t charged). When I catch up and reach the police line, the cops won’t let me past to follow my subjects. My reportorial dispassion has worn thin. I yell at the police for doing nothing, for standing by while two men could’ve been killed. One cop tells me there’s a thin line between solving one problem and being the cause of more, as though they’re afraid to offend antifa. I am sick at what I just witnessed. Angry, even. I wheel around on some protesters, asking them if they think it’s right to beat people down in the street. “Hell yeah,” says one. I ask them to cite anything Joey has said that offends them, as though being offended justifies this. A coward in a black mask says: “They’re f—ing Nazis. There’s nothing they have to say to offend us.”
All around me, good non-antifa liberals go about their business, pretending none of this has happened, carrying “Stand Against Hate” signs. There’s the sound truck with preachers in clerical garb, leading a “Whose streets/our streets” chant. There’s the gray-haired interdenominational “Choral Majority” singing peace songs: “There’s no hatred in my land / Where I’m bound.” I want to vomit on the Berkeley Peace Wall.
It’s incredible. If these thugs were hiding their faces behind white sheets and beating up black people while the police stood by, we would know exactly what they were and what to do with them. If this were the South, the media would have turned it into a national crisis. But this is Berkeley, and antifa are leftists, so … nothing. Nothing.
Did you know that most of the speakers at Joey Gibson’s rally were people of color? I didn’t, until I read Labash’s story. Did you know that Joey Gibson and his team have nothing to do with the alt-right racists? I didn’t, until I read Labash’s story.
This isn’t the first time things like this have happened in California. In that state (and elsewhere), it is impossible for American citizens who hold political beliefs antifa don’t like to assemble peaceably to speak without risking a beating by a mob of masked thugs. And all the “good non-antifa liberals” tolerate it. Why?
It’s an outrage and a disgrace. If the police and civil authorities don’t start taking a very hard line against antifa, this is very quickly going to spiral out of control, and they will bears some responsibility for the widening violence sure to come. Likewise with the media and its coverage, and Democratic politicians. I was glad to see Rep. Pelosi call for arrest and prosecution of the violent members of antifa. But deeds are more important than words. It ought to shame any city and state where peaceful people cannot exercise their rights to speech and assembly. The Justice Department ought to investigate whether or not the police in Berkeley and in other places have been instructed to hang back and tolerate antifa — and if so, charges should be brought.
Next time Joey Gibson and people like him want to hold a public rally in California, one hopes to see Sen. Feinstein, Rep. Pelosi, and other elected officials joining them in solidarity — not with their cause, necessarily, but with their right to speak freely.