PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — At a Sunday afternoon rally and protest in Terry Schrunk Joey Gibson said that he would be attending a Montavilla Neighborhood Association board election scheduled for Monday evening at Montavilla United Methodist Church.
He has since backtracked, stating on Facebook that he’s no longer attending.
Interestingly, running for a board seat is Micah Fletcher, the survivor of a stabbing attack by white supremacist Jeremy Christian on a MAX train in May.
Three men tried to intervene when Christian started shouting racist rants at two young girls.
Christian killed two men, while Fletcher, whose throat was cut, survived.
Christian attended a “March for Free Speech” event in Portland organized by Gibson in April prior to the attacks, but Gibson has distanced himself from Christian.
Speaking about Antifa, Gibson is heard saying: “If they took half their energy to do something for the community, one thing for the community just one, other than just trying to take over neighborhood associations like Montavilla association, which I’ll be down there tomorrow, extremely excited.” It was captured in a video clip posted by KOIN 6 news reporter Jennifer Dowling.
Now neighbors are wondering who’s responsible for his invitation.
Mid-morning Monday, Gibson announced via Twitter he was not going to attend the meeting:
The neighborhood association has been split in two in recent months over differing ideologies.
Current board chair Jonathan Ogden is also part of the group called Portland Assembly, which is anti-police, anti-fascist and anti-President Donald Trump. Others involved in Portland’s protest community and the Portland Assembly have taken interest in joining the neighborhood association.
A group split off creating “Montavilla Initiative,” accusing Portland Assembly of a methodical overtaking of the neighborhood association, including saying the group has involved Antifa.
Portland Assembly members deny any planned take over, although Ogden created a document before joining the board, titled “Silent Neighborhood Association Takeover.” An anonymous person under a “Take Back Montavilla” email address circulated the document last week.
Ogden, however, said the document was just his “first proposal” to the Portland Assembly spokescouncil and that it was shot down “at the NAC level,” meaning the Neighborhood Action Councils that the assembly works with. The new neighborhood model was created following Trump’s November election and was inspired by a similar system in Seattle.
“I think that there is a very consistent tendency for people to kind of turn whatever they don’t understand into a bogeyman. This whole idea of Antifa as a cohesive, organized group — it’s really not. We’re anti-fascist, we do follow that ideology. This kind of seems like a shock to a lot of people I imagine,” Ogden told the Tribune in a phone interview over the summer.
Current and former board members have said that Montavilla Initiative members have dug into their backgrounds, including showing up at their door steps.
“It’s gotten to the point where they’re vicious enough to get people fired and get people sent back to prison. That’s no joke,” said board secretary Louie Ballinas.
Much controversy surrounded the neighborhood association when the board passed a resolution in June critical of the city’s “sweeping” of homeless people and proposed to ban the practice.
The resolution wasn’t actually legitimate, however; the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement stepped in and determined board members didn’t follow procedure during meetings.
Then neighborhood association board banned anyone not from the neighborhood and media from attending an organized town hall about homelessness in July, but it was canceled after the city pressured the association over potentially violating Oregon’s open meetings laws.
‘Would that be a takeover?’
While those involved with Portland Assembly pointed to Montavilla Initiative for bringing in Gibson, those members say otherwise.
“PA has been trying to connect us to Joey for months. We are thinking it’s a false flag. They invited him to make us look bad,” said member Jeff Church. Church started a petition following the resolution to ban homeless sweeps to counter to the board’s decision.
Michael Sonnleitner, the current vice chair of the association, isn’t seeking re-election, saying things have gotten too emotionally heated to be a board member. He plans on devoting more time to his role on Portland Community College’s board of directors. Sonnleitner welcomes Portland Assembly’s presence.
“I saw personally, these relatively younger people as having good energy, good skills, in terms of computer skills we needed … so I wasn’t concerned,” he said. “I didn’t see it as a takeover, those were words I wouldn’t use as some in the neighborhood might see. On the other hand, the Portland Assembly-affiliated people did become a majority of the board and I consented to that.”
He wondered if he had members from his church run for the board, if that would be held under the same scrutiny.
“Would that be a takeover?” he asked.
The Office of Neighborhood Involvement will have staffers attending the meeting.
“Many checks and balances exist in the system that make it very difficult for any group to ‘take over’ one or more neighborhood associations and use this as a platform to force major changes in city policies — if they do not also build strong community support for their propsals,” said Paul Leistner, a neighborhood program coordinator at ONI. He pointed to a success in the Kenton neighborhood for a tiny-home village for homeless women. “A neighborhood association board that attempts to go in a direction that is opposed by many people in their neighborhood is not likely to have much political credibility or clout with the actual decision makers.”
The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.