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This article has been updated to include breaking news on another attack.
This article has been updated to correctly attribute the breaking report on 2/17.
“A beloved member of our community was violently attacked from behind with a baseball bat possibly by multiple individuals in the Buckman neighborhood near S.E. Morrison,” the GoFundMe page for “Trauma recovery fund for our girl” reads.
The attack occurred sometime around 1AM on Sunday the 10th. The survivor, Sophia, said she was ambushed.
“I was bleeding for almost 2 hours,” she recounted on the GoFundMe page.
Jack Buckley, a former EMT, was visiting Portland with some friends for the weekend. They were walking back to their room that night.
“As we crossed the street, Sophia heard us talking and called out for help and just repeatedly kept asking us for help,” Buckley said. “I saw right away a contusion on her left cheek and her messed up left hand.”
Temperatures were as low as 23 degrees that night according to Accuweather. They got her off the cold ground. One of them held her as she sat on the hood of a car. Buckley said Sophia was disoriented and asked if she was at Yale, where she said a friend was a professor.
“She said she had been attacked,” Buckley recounted, “and that she hated herself for it. We tried to encourage her but it’s–obviously, what are you going to say to that?”
Buckley called 911 at 3:01 AM Sunday morning according to Portland PD computer-aided dispatch (CAD) logs. He and his friends waited with Sophia until the ambulance took off.
“I’m still processing it. It’s fucking terrible–excuse my language,” Buckley said, audibly distraught. “This person was just living her life and got attacked for no reason but hate.”
Officer Edward O. Mitchell arrived on the scene five minutes later.
In the original GoFundMe description, Sophia’s friends said first responders didn’t take her seriously, “told her to be “more careful,”” and misgendered her.
Buckley doesn’t remember hearing this but doesn’t rule it out as he was told to stand “about 8-12 feet” away when the ambulance arrived.
In his initial remarks, Mitchell said Sophia had “a facial cut, bruises/scratches, thinks [she] was assaulted.”
The dispatch logs don’t appear to misgender Sophia, but when the incident was cleared, Officer Mitchell told dispatchers that she “admitted to being drunk” and “possibly fell and hit [her] head.” Mitchell said she “can’t remember what happened or where at.
On Wednesday, Sophia posted a Google Street View photo of McLeod Manor Apartments on SE Morrison Street between 15th and 16th Avenues. She said she remembered her left arm hitting the building’s obelisk-like gate tower.
Sophia was taken to Portland’s Emanuel Hospital. Officer Cuong D. Nguyen’s initial remarks at 8:01AM said she arrived by ambulance “approximately four hours ago”–about an hour after first responders arrived at the scene. Sophia’s friends said in the GoFundMe that the hospital staff treated her with “the same condemnable behavior” as the first responders allegedly did.
She received “CT scans and treatment for a series of wounds all over her body from the assault,” according to the GoFundMe, and later posted a photo of a handout the hospital gave her for physical assault. The first line of the handout reads “You have been examined today due to an assault. Someone attacked and tried to harm you.”
The organizers of Sophia’s GoFundMe did not respond to a request for comment at press time.
Antifascists and concerned people across the country quickly spread the link to the donation page. It reached its $5,000 goal within a day and as of this writing is at over $7,300. The money will be used for the costs of Sophia’s “hospital, ambulance, physical therapy, CT Scans, counseling post assault, and all obstacles that arise during recovery.”
A notice came in Tuesday from the Northwest chapter of Red and Anarchist Skinheads (RASH) pointing a finger for the attack at two Patriot Prayer associates.
Patriot Prayer is a diffuse far-right protest group with ties to militias like the Oath Keepers and III% Militia, white nationalists and the “Western Chauvinist” fraternal organization the Proud Boys. Based in Vancouver, Washington, they frequently travel to Portland to stage rallies that often attract extremists. There have been at least four murders tied to Patriot Prayer rally attendees and associates so far. The Portland Police Bureau has also recently come under fire because texts revealed an officer aided Patriot Prayer by telling them where leftist protests were taking place and overlooking outstanding warrants on members of the group.
“Deme Cooper and Proud Boy/Patriot Prayer/Copwatch affiliate Chris Ponte are currently claiming the attack on Twitter and in the case of Chris Ponte, posting information listing aspects of the attack and hinting at responsibility,” the RASH Northwest post reads.
Ponte posted an “Antifa Hunting Permit” meme at 6:43AM that morning.
“Baseball Bat beatdowns coming your way Antifa…Payback is a mother!” he captioned the picture. The tweet was later reported and taken down.
In response to antifascists connecting this tweet with the attack, Ponte took to Facebook.
“Yeah fucking right losers! I don’t attack anyone with baseball bats,” he said.
Deme Cooper responded to the same antifascists by apparently admitting to the attack.
“Sucks for your retarded comrade, we should’ve ended them instead of let them live. Next time I’ll make sure they don’t make to a hospital,” Cooper wrote on Tuesday. Ponte responded with “Lol.” The tweet appears to have been deleted.
Ponte was definitely in town at the time. At 1:41AM Sunday morning, Ponte posted an eight minute livestream titled “Snowtime CopWatching Portland.” Cooper’s location wasn’t revealed through social media at the time of the attack, but a tweet he sent the day before tagged his location as Portland and he was in Portland filming on Wednesday.
According to a 2017 article by Rose City Antifa researchers, Cooper “has been seen physically attacking activists on multiple occasions and generally tries to antagonize leftists while filming their reactions.”
The Rose City Antifa article also cites a 2016 complaint that states a Matthew Demetrius Cooper fled Virginia to Oregon to avoid charges for “two counts of forcible sodomy on a victim under age 13.”
LCRW attempted to verify this was the same person as Deme Cooper. Online records searches at the Oregon Judicial Department and Multnomah District Attorney’s office prove it was a real case. A related court record from Virginia lists his race as black, which Cooper is. His Facebook page shows the same birthdate as the court document. Posts from Cooper’s Facebook page show he claimed to live and work in Oregon at the time the state of Oregon was prosecuting the case. The Facebook page for his personal “Airliner World and More” media presence lists the founder as “Demetrius Demster Cooper” and his Facebook page’s extension is “demetrius.cooper.376,” indicating that “Deme” is short for “Demetrius” for him. In the Rose City Antifa article, Cooper was photographed with a press badge for a media collective called Common Sense Conservative (CSC,) which has filmed many of the violent confrontations between Patriot Prayer and counter-protestors. LCRW reached out to CSC through their Facebook page and asked if a Matthew Cooper was ever associated with them.
“No Comment,” a CSC representative who declined to give their name said, adding in their response to LCRW “I know who you are and I know what you do. Any information on Matthew Cooper, you can get from get from Matthew Cooper. This organization has nothing to give you.”
Cooper did not respond to requests for comment sent through his Twitter and an email associated with his YouTube account at press time.
One post on Cooper’s Facebook seems to allude to the crime. On October 30th, 2016 he posted “Apparently I did something wrong, what thing was is anyone’s guess. But it’s apparent that I had something to with it…..life…”
Given the facts uncovered so far, if Deme Cooper isn’t the person listed in these court records, then a person of the same race with the same birthday who lived in the same county in Oregon at the same time as him with an almost identical name faced pedophilia-related charges.
The Oregonian reported last year that Ponte’s police watchdog activities, including filming in front of officers’ homes, prompted a stalking order from Portland Police Captain Mark Kruger, who himself was previously disciplined in part for erecting memorial placards to Nazi soldiers. Ponte also faced an investigation from Portland PD. He received six months in jail and six months home detention for target shooting in a national forest last year. He was previously convicted for possessing a stolen car and was forbidden from handling guns.
Ponte is associated with Cooper through a cop-watch group called “Film the Police.” Both are also involved with “PDX Crew,” a group of Patriot Prayer members and Proud Boys lead by Haley Adams, who’s on the record saying she “support[s] white pride.” Ponte claims he was unaware of the pedophilia-related allegations against Cooper and that Cooper never mentioned such allegations to him. He also said Cooper’s threats weren’t serious.
“In my opinion i believe he is just using his free speech to troll them. He is not a violent person,” Ponte told LCRW via Facebook messenger.
Ponte donated six dollars to the recovery fund, saying on Twitter that he chose the number six because it’s “bad juju.”
“This Is a false flag event for a group called Antifa that terrorizes the people of Portland. This is a scam,” Ponte wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Ponte also directed his social media followers towards the campaign.
“They made up this fake attack and injury to collect money to fund there [sic] terrorism. Please go flag this fake gofundme account,” he wrote on his Facebook.
Claiming something is a “false flag” or staged event has become a common response to events that don’t further the narratives of the far-right. Perhaps the most infamous case of this was with conspiracy theorist and radio show host Alex Jones, who claimed the Sandy Hook massacre that killed 26 people–20 of which were children–was a false flag and part of a plot to seize U.S. citizens’ guns. A lawyer for one of the victims families’ claimed in one episode of his show that Jones broadcast families’ home addresses after a viewer called in and threatened the family on air. Jones is currently facing defamation suits from families of the victims, who faced death threats, stalking and harassment after Jones claimed they were “crisis actors,” or people hired to play the part of a victim in a staged event.
“At the moment, a nationally recognized hate group is targeting this campaign. A member of the LGBTQ community was beaten a block from a gay bar in cold blood with bats to the back of the head. There is no “false flag” or hoax to queer bashing. Hospital injury reports and police logs exist which are not subjective banter,” the GoFundMe’s organizers said in an update posted two hours after Ponte’s comment. Ponte’s seems to be the only publicly viewable harassment of the GoFundMe.
“It is horrific to see trolls attacking me online just for being hate crime’d,” she said. “I am trying to get my head back together to be able [to] teach in the fall.”
The day after, Sophia responded to Ponte’s harassment in the updated description by posting more evidence of the attack–some of which has since been taken down in further updates. She included photos of the injuries on her arms and face that match not only her friends’ description, but Jack Buckley’s and the CAD log’s. She also posted the street view photo of the location she was attacked at and details she remembered, like her arm hitting an obelisk-like fence gate.
The way traumatic events shape memories came into the national spotlight last year during the controversy surrounding Dr. Christine Blaise Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. NPR spoke to scientists about the nature of traumatic memories in a September 2018 article while Ford was testifying about the incident before Congress. In the article, Harvard psychologist Richard McNally says that the brain, in a heightened emotional state, remembers key details at the expense of others. He uses the example of a robber pointing a gun at a cashier. The cashier might remember the gun in vivid detail but forget if the robber was wearing glasses or not. Sophia’s recollections therefore appear to be consistent with the way people generally remember trauma.
Ponte backpedaled when LCRW asked if he stood by his “false flag” claims and complained about it being assumed to be a hate crime.
“This is a false flag as far as the claim that some white supremacist or nazi attacked them people,” Ponte said, continuing, “Why do they claim its a hate crime? Is every attack on a transgender a hate crime just because they changed there[sic] gender. These people are liars.”
Ponte did not respond to follow-up questions at press time.
LGBTQ+ people–trans people especially–are disproportionately more vulnerable to violence than other groups of people. 2017 FBI statistics show that 1.5% of all hate crimes are against trans people who, according to a 2016 UCLA study, make up 0.6% of the population. In other words, the ratio of anti-trans hate crimes to hate crimes in general is more than double the ratio of trans people to the general population. The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence’s 2015 Transgender Survey Report concluded 9% of respondents had been physically attacked and 46% were verbally harassed because they were trans. The same survey found 65% experienced homelessness, 47% were sexually assaulted at least once in their lives and 54% had dealt with intimate partner violence.
Statistics about trans people are difficult to track for a number of reasons including inability to safely come out, misgendering, and difficulty getting the state to acknowledge their identity. ProPublica found in 2018 that in 74 of 85 cases they studied of trans people being murdered, police used the victim’s “deadname”–the name they abandoned after transitioning. For the victims’ families, friends and communities, this wasn’t just painful and insulting–it indicated to them that law enforcement didn’t take violence against them seriously.
Threats of violence towards LGBTQ+ people aren’t new for Patriot Prayer. In December, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who is sometimes described as group founder Joey Gibson’s “right hand man,” said he was starting an “anti-faggot movement, anti-butthurt movement, anti-butt-fucking movement…real patriotic American movement” in a two-minute rant.
“You want to tell me I can’t wear my Trump shirt somewhere? Try to rip it off and you’re going to get your teeth knocked out and you’re going to get treated like a faggot,” Toese said.
Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, once virtually in lockstep in the Pacific Northwest, have recently suffered from internal conflicts. Toese left Patriot Prayer and reaffirmed his commitment to the Proud Boys while other members have gone on video to air feuds.
Jared Holt, a research associate at Right Wing Watch, said that right-wing extremist organizations are usually hard to control and prone to in-fighting. He said that as groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer fall apart, their members often become more violent.
“Although the group may be falling apart, the figures and participants don’t disappear or become less hateful,” Holt told LCRW.
As Patriot Prayer’s internal conflicts started to show in the last few months, leader Joey Gibson began escalating violent tactics with his “Demask Antifa” campaign. At the same time, Adams, Toese and the PDX Crew targeted an organizing hall used by the Portland Industrial Workers of the World and Democratic Socialists of America.
“Groups like this are already powered by rage. Members fantasize about violence and glorify those who engage in it,” Holt said, “But without a group and a collective image to maintain, there’s less incentive to be nonviolent.”
Other threats of violence from Patriot Prayer affiliates came Wednesday after Luis Enrique Marquez, an antifascist activist who’s received a lot of ire from the local far-right, was acquitted of misdemeanor theft charges brought after he took a tripod from a PDX Crew member named Kerry Hudson during a protest scuffle. Marquez claimed he was disarming Hudson, who Marquez said was using the tripod as a weapon.
“I’m at the point where there’s no justice, so there’s not going to be any peace,” Hudson said in a now-deleted livestream preserved on Twitter.” He added that he isn’t “calling to beat down on Antifa, but if they come at us–find out, you know what I mean? It’s time. We’re done.”
Patriot Prayer followers took to two posts on Haley Adams’ Facebook to vent their rage. One read “If you see Antifa recording or taking pictures on any device while at an event you are allowed to take their property. Its legal.” The other read “The time of the communist revolution is over; the time for our Counter-Revolution is now.” People posted graphics of brass knuckles, American flags and skulls and one that said “Hospitalize your local antifa.”
In response to Marquez’s taunts on one post, Christopher Ritchie said “I’ve been to prison before and i ain’t scared to go back. Your bitch ass times coming.”
On Thursday, Ponte pinned a Tweet that read “antifa are a joke and I’m done kicking there [sic] ass. I forgive you antifa. [Portland Mayor] Ted Wheeler we coming 4 your job!”
Ponte’s Twitter account as of this writing is viewable with a notice that it is “temporarily restricted.” According to the Twitter Support page on temporary restrictions, this is done when an account “appears to be compromised or in violation of the Twitter Rules or Terms of Service.”
Cooper responded to the not guilty verdict by taking to Twitter to dox Marquez, posting what he claimed was Marquez’s address and phone number. As of this writing, the dox tweet has only one like–from Ponte.
“Tell him how upset you are, he prefers face to face confrontations,” Cooper said in the tweet.
On Wednesday, the campaign for Sophia’s recovery posted an update revealing more attacks had occurred.
“In the time I’ve been trying to get through to gofundme, (whom has no contact phone). 2 more lgbtq people have been jumped and beaten in the same neighborhood,” the update reads in full.
Several Portland-area activists and LGBTQ+ community members have written about these attacks online. Because one attack survivor has already been harassed online, LCRW will not quote them at this time in order to protect their safety.
Cameron Whitten, director of the LGBTQ+ space The Q Center told Fox12 on Thursday that he’d heard of two more attacks, saying that “[m]ost of these folks have been assaulted by a group of men with bats and wooden planks.” Police haven’t received other reports of assault, according to the Fox12 report, but there is now an ongoing investigation into Sohpia’s attack.
The Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective (PNWAWC), one of the first groups to alert people about the attack on Sophia, said they’d received reports of two attacks. One, according to PNWAWC, was in the same area as the attack on Sophia. Another was in the 67th and Sandy Boulevard area.
“[B]oth reporting multiple attackers,” PNWAWC’s post said, “1 says they were hit from behind with a plank of wood.”
Another attack was reported on February 17th around 3:00PM by Portland resident Jenny Bruso. Bruso said her partner, Brie, was attacked by “two young white men in a maroon Bronco or Suburban at SE 7th & Madison.”
“She was walking to her car after work and they pulled up beside her, yelled DIE FUCKING DYKE!,”” she said, recounting that Brie “was struck with an unopened beer in the face thrown from the vehicle and was lacerated, shaken up but she’ll recover.”
Twitter user @anarchojet, who brought the attack to the attention of Portland’s antifascist community, posted an update at 4:22PM saying “This may be a string of attacks today, possible victim in the Kenton neighborhood within the last hour, same description – burgundy SUV, two white males, young, verbal and physical.”
Bruso later deleted the post about the attack, claiming the original post “was taken over by homophobic, white supremacist scum and apologists.”