FACT CHECK: Arms Cache Seized From Patriot Prayer Rooftop Snipers?

FACT CHECK: Arms Cache Seized From Patriot Prayer Rooftop Snipers?

Photo Credit: CK Ferrache

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Claim: Police seized firearms from members of the group Patriot Prayer who were positioned on a parking garage rooftop prior to an August protest.

During an October 15th press conference, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler stated regarding a previous August 4th Patriot Prayer rally:

“The Portland Police Bureau discovered individuals who positioned themselves on a rooftop parking structure in downtown Portland with a cache of firearms” 

The language in this statement was largely (and reasonably) interpreted by the media that Patriot Prayer had snipers positioned on the rooftop, ready to fire at people on the street below.

From the Newsweek article entitled Patriot Prayer Members Armed With Snipers Positioned Themselves On The Roof Ahead Of August Protest, Police Reveal:

“All firearms were confiscated, and the people, who had permits to carry concealed weapons, were moved on without any arrests being made.

The incident was finally revealed during a press conference involving Portland Police and Mayor Ted Wheeler after the city experienced yet another weekend of violence, when members of Patriot Prayer clashed with anti-fascist counterprotesters on Saturday, October 13.”

Similar stories were also run by RawStory and OregonLive.

It is important to note that there are two active claims being made, and both have been checked.

The first claim is regarding weapons being seized. This claim is False.

If weapons were seized (even if returned) a report for the seizure would exist. I sent an inquiry to the Portland Police Bureau (as did many other outlets) inquiring on this report, which it turns out didn’t exist. In response to the number of inquiries being received, the Portland Police Bureau released a statement regarding the claims in question, which can be read in full here.

From the report:

“After further review it has been determined that no firearms were seized or taken as safe keeping from the individuals in the parking garage, as police did not have lawful authority to do so. No arrests were made as no laws were broken.”

 Definitively, we can say no weapons were seized, nor were any laws broken.

The second claim is that these people on the roof were snipers, or were positioned on the roof in a manner where they would be prepared to fire on a crowd. This claim requires deeper analysis as there were actually two groups of people on that roof according to the police statement. Both groups, one large and one small, were both contacted by police.

According to Kathryn Townsend who participated in the rally and was on the rooftop, the group parked on the top floor of the city parking garage “to put distance and safety between themselves and the counter-protesters, specifically for when members of their group returned to their vehicles, and that there was no cache of weapons.” She is a Patriot Prayer supporter and has attended 22 rallies.

Townsend told The Libertarian Republic:

“At the event, several people parked on the top floor of a parking garage. It was the same parking garage that is right behind the police station and the one that many police officers use. It was chosen because it was thought to be the safest from Antifa crime.” According to Townsend, “While people were there, waiting for others, several policemen on motorcycles came up and asked if anyone was concealed carrying. Some people were and voluntarily showed their permits. The police let them know they could not carry in the park, and those people locked their guns in their cars and moved their cars.”

Regarding this first group of people, the Portland Police Bureau wrote the following in the same clarification statement:

“Officers contacted a group of approximately 20-30 people on the west side of the parking structure. Some of the individuals were putting on padded clothing, helmets and were gathering weapons. Police personnel reminded the group what they could not bring any weapons to the park. Police watched them place items that could be used as weapons, such as make-shift sticks and signs with sticks, into their vehicles and some of them kept these items and said they would not enter the park. The group eventually departed the garage on foot.”

The claim that members of this first group were rooftop snipers is also False.

Members of the second and smaller groups consisted of about four people. This is likely the group in question, whose weapons were not confiscated either. As no members of this smaller group have been identified, the only thing we have to go on is what was included in the Portland Police Bureau statement.

The statement said the following about this smaller group:

“Meanwhile, four individuals were located on the northeast side of the top floor of the garage. The sergeant involved contacted them and they confirmed they had three rifles and had concealed weapon permits. The men told the sergeant they were going to stay at the garage and act as a quick extraction team in case any of their group was injured during the demonstration. The men were compliant and allowed the sergeant to inspect the weapons. All three firearms were in cases (one was disassembled) and none were loaded. In consultation with the City Attorney’s Office, the sergeant told the men to store the weapons in a locked storage container in the back of the pickup and place the ammo away from the weapons in a different part of the truck.”

The claim that members of this second group were rooftop snipers is Probably False.

You can never definitively say whether something that didn’t happen couldn’t have happened, but the members completely complied with police whose weapons turned out to be unloaded or disassembled. The Portland Police Bureau did not believe these individuals posed any harm, though their presence or activity may have been over-zealous.

The Police Statement added:

“Based on information learned during the contact with the individuals, there was no imminent danger to the public and no police reports were written regarding this activity.”

It is important to note that media outlets reporting on that press conference aren’t delegitimized to Fake News for reporting on a press conference in good faith. That is unless you are The Huffington Post, who took this as an opportunity to spin a hot garbage narrative in an emotionally laden meltdown, passing off a tantrum as “news.”

The Huffington Post lays claim that the police are on the side of Patriot Prayer, even though the group has heavily criticized the city for police standing down and allowing confrontations. The press conference on October 15th where the false sniper claim was made, was originally in regards to a new city policy to keep opposing groups separated.

After reporting on the false weapons stash and supposed police bias, The Huffington Post continues:

“Portland is a city with a white terrorism crisis. It has long been a battleground for “alt-right” factions and counterprotesters, a haven for violent neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and a difficult city for people of color and non-Christians.”

Mayor Wheeler’s false statements are alarming to some members of Patriot Prayer, who believe this will likely make things much worse by ratcheting up tensions. A member of the Patriot Prayer group on Facebook named Susan wrote,

“It’s not merely lies that Wheeler is spreading; it’s potentially dangerous rhetoric that could result in more violence. If ANTIFA actually thinks there are snipers on rooftops – then the game has definitely escalated. I think the police have realized that.”

Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson spoke with KATU News in a press release, rebuking Mayor Wheeler for lying to the public to stoke tensions. Watch KATU’s video below.

Patriot Prayer' leader Joey Gibson speaks after Portland Police change statement on ?cache of firearms? found on Portland parking garage during protest

'Patriot Prayer' leader Joey Gibson speaks after Portland Police change statement on 'cache of firearms' found on downtown parking garage during protest: k2ne.ws/2J2JawL

Posted by KATU News on Tuesday, October 16, 2018

 

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