The Portland, Ore.-based group Patriot Prayer held two events over the weekend in the Gorge: one at Hegewald Center in Stevenson and one at the Centerville Grange Hall.
The group staged the events to protest the passage of Initiative 1639 (I-1639) and to rally the people of both counties to demand a new ordinance in response.
“We are asking local citizens all over the state of Washington and Oregon to begin to pass local ordinances stating that no public funds or officials shall be used to break the constitution. This takes the power away from the voters of Seattle and Portland and back to the people of local red counties, “according to the group’s website.
I-1639 implemented restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms. Such as increasing the minimum age to buy semiautomatic assault rifles from 18 to 21, requiring all gun owners to pass an in-depth background check and complete a firearms safety course.
Patriot Prayer was founded in 2016 by activist Joey Gibson. Gibson identifies himself as a Constitutional Libertarian and claims the group is “a group of people that are about using the power of love and prayer to fight the corruption both in the government and citizen levels that seek to gain power through division and deception.”
The group has been labeled as far-right wing by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). When it has held demonstrations in the past, particularly in larger cities, those demonstrations have turned into violent clashes with protestors.
With that in mind, The Enterprise reached out to law enforcement agencies, as well as commissioners, in both Skamania and Klickitat counties for comment. At press time, only Klickitat County District 2 Commissioner David Sauter had failed to respond.
Patriot Prayer has not been very active in Klickitat County but has made a few appearances in Skamania County with peaceful and respectful discussions. The Jan. 12 event was the third appearance for Patriot Prayer in Skamania County. The first gathering was held prior to the Christmas Holiday and focused on the state’s new gun laws and the sanctuary status of Skamania County.
“Our office prepared accordingly, gaining intel and insight from our partner law enforcement agencies in the Portland Metropolitan area. During that first event we staffed both uniformed and civilian clothed deputy sheriffs inside and near the event in case of protest or internal disruption,” said Skamania Undersheriff Pat Bond.
Bond reported that there were no incidents of violence, threatened violence, or civil disobedience and that they anticipated that the event on Jan. 12 would be the same. Law enforcement was present none the less, Bond said.
Skamania County Commissioners Richard Mahar and Bob Hamlin also commented on the group.
“We have received a couple emails in disagreement along with some in agreement to their presence here. Overall Skamania County supports freedom of speech and we the Commissioners all swear to uphold the U.S. and Washington State Constitutions,” said Mahar.
The event on Jan. 13 in Centerville was Patriot Prayers first-ever event in Klickitat County. The headlining speaker was to be Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer, who was hailed in a video interview with InfoWars Alex Jones as the “Bravest Sheriff in the Northwest.”
In the video, Songer stated he would not enforce the new laws under I-1639, which he reiterated in an email to The Enterprise.
“I believe Washington State’s Gun Control Law I-1639 is, in fact, unconstitutional and violates gun owners’ rights under the Washington State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. The provisions of Initiative 1639 obviously impair the right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, it is invalid because it changes the provisions of the Constitution by a method other than amendment as specifically required. As Sheriff, I took an oath to the U.S. Constitution and the Washington State Constitution to protect the rights of our citizens and that’s what I am doing,” said Songer.
Songer also said that county law enforcement would be present at the event in case of protests and/or clashes.
Due to a personal matter, Songer did not speak at the event. However, according to a person who attended the event, Gibson and Rob Taylor of an Oregon group called Coos County Watchdogs spoke to a crowd of around 60 people and lamented that the sheriff could not attend.
The person said that “Gibson and Taylor laid out a plan they have been working on to get the Klickitat County Commissioners to vote on making Klickitat County a “charter county.”
“A chartered city, county or, a municipality is one that possesses a unique set of laws that forms the legal foundation of its local system of government. The actual legal document that articulates these laws is called a charter. Charters stand in relation to a county, city, village, or town the same way that a state constitution does to a state or a federal constitution does to a nation. They define the powers and functions of elected officials as well as the organization and procedures of local government,” according to Ballotpedia, a government information website.
According to Gibson and Taylor, becoming a chartered county and using the sanctuary city model, counties can disregard the state’s new gun laws.