Originally published Feb 2, 2020 6:39 PM EST
In November 2019, an antifa pub in Portland linked to a homicide and a violent riot shut its doors for good. Cider Riot closed on Nov. 10 following a series of violent events at or near the establishment that brought scrutiny to its alleged ties with violent far-left extremists.
Cider Riot, stylized as “Cider Riot!,” first opened its storefront location in 2016 after a successful kickstarter campaign that raised more than $20,000. It quickly became known as a popular left-wing hang-out due to the outspoken political views of one of its owners, 41-year-old Abram Goldman-Armstrong. But the pub also embraced a far-left political identity by producing products featuring antifa-inspired names and images.
“Our Black Bloc Series ciders are our most hardcore and intense, and apt to disappear into the crowd before you know it,” read the advertisement on the website for a series of drinks, nodding to the antifa tactic of wearing black masks and outfits in order to commit crimes anonymously. Beyond branding and marketing however, evidence suggests the pub openly operated as a meeting and organizing space for far-left, violent extremists in Portland.
A report by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), a government agency, into the pub following a riot on May Day in 2019 details the length the owner and its staff went to allegedly obstruct and mislead state investigators.
On May 1, 2019, Cider Riot co-hosted a party with Rose City Antifa that devolved into a neighbourhood riot after right-wing group Patriot Prayer showed up outside the business. Rose City Antifa is the Portland antifa chapter whose members have been involved in violent riots since the election of Donald Trump. Two journalists, including myself, were attacked in the May Day brawl and a woman was knocked unconscious. Clips recorded at the scene by independent journalists show masked patrons from the pub armed with brass knuckles, batons, a pick and bear mace. Six suspects, all reportedly right-wingers, were eventually arrested. Last month, two of them took plea deals and were sentenced. Portland Police released photos of black-clad antifa suspects last August and asked the public for help in identifying them. There have been no further arrests, however.
Within 48 hours of the riot, pub owner Goldman-Armstrong filed a $1m lawsuit against Joey Gibson, leader of Patriot Prayer, and other right-wing individuals for alleged loss of business. The stunt, coupled with a press conference organized by a left-wing legal group, presented Cider Riot as the victim of political violence. Attorney Juan Chavez compared the case to civil rights lawsuits against the Ku Klux Klan. The event generated favorable local media coverage for the pub for months until the redacted OLCC report was finally released to the public in September. The Post Millennial has now obtained the full, unredacted report.
The state investigation accuses the pub’s owner of knowingly allowing his patrons and security guard, Joseph LeVasseaur, to participate in a riot with illegal weapons. Investigators found that Goldman-Armstrong did nothing to remove violent patrons, nor did he call or instruct his staff to call the police for help, despite claiming otherwise.
“The licensee [Goldman-Armstrong] took pictures and was aware of patrons with illegal weapons on his premises and was aware that patrons were using those weapons,” the report reads. The OLCC recommended that Cider Riot’s owner and staff be charged for providing false statements, failing to evict and allowing unlawful activities.
Additionally, the agency recommended the pub be charged with concealing or destroying evidence. The details of the recommendation were previously redacted but The Post Millennial can report that it stems from Goldman-Armstrong allowing the pub’s security footage be deleted.
On May 16, Christopher Traynor, the detective assigned to the case, wrote an email to Goldman-Armstrong: “I need the internal video surveillance from Cider Riot for the time of the May Day incident. I am looking to track the movements from outside to inside and visa versa (via the front door) of a patron who was assaulted during the event. Will you please let me know how we can go about obtaining it. Thanks.”
The same day, Goldman-Armstrong wrote back: “Unfortunately the video only stores for 48 hours, then deletes itself, so I don’t have access any longer.”
He also claimed at one point that the establishment did not have a camera that captured the riot outside. However, photographs taken of the pub’s exterior on May Day show a business security camera pointed at the patio area.
Additionally, the report details how the pub’s staff were reluctant to speak with investigators, and in one case, tried to mislead them. Pub manager Breanne Gearheart spoke to state investigators only after she was reminded that as a permit-carrying bartender, she was obligated to cooperate. Joseph LeVasseaur, the pub’s licensed security, is accused in the report of lying to investigators about his actions that day.
The report states: “In [LeVasseaur’s] second interview on 6/13/19 he admitted that he had not been at the door during the riot and that he had not been maced and gone inside but in fact had been all over the premises patio and had maced people and engaged in a fight in the street.”
Videos recorded at the scene support the report’s finding.
Noah Bucchi, 22, who was a student journalist at Oregon State at the time of riot, also accuses the pub’s owner of assaulting him after he attempted to identify a masked individual who smashed his camera and ran inside the pub to hide.
“Only someone who was trying to protect those members of antifa would do something like that,” Bucchi says. “[Goldman-Armstrong] never tried to help me. He never called the police.” The OLCC report backs up Bucchi’s allegation that he was assaulted by Goldman-Armstrong. Stills included in the investigation show him shoving Bucchi outside Cider Riot. He says that he was later punched and pulled to the ground by a group of masked people. The report also documents Goldman-Armstrong lying or mistating that he had instructed one of his employees to call police during the riot. Manager Gearheart admitted she actually called the police non-emergency line on her own accord.
Additionally, a police report included in the unredacted investigation casts doubt on Goldman-Armstrong’s claim in his lawsuit that pub patron, Heather Ashley Clark, had a “serious vertebrae fracture” as a result of the right-wing attack. Some supporters of Cider Riot even spread rumors online that Clark, 32, had her “neck broken.” According to police, around 30 minutes after the brawl, they made contact with the owner to ask if anyone needed medical help.
The police report, written by Officer Chris Wheelwright, states: “I asked Mr. Goldman-Armstrong if anyone inside was the victim of a crime and Sergeant [William] Dunbar asked him if anyone needed medical attention … Mr. Goldman-Armstrong returned several minutes later and said there was nobody inside that wanted to talk to us or wanted medical attention.”
Rose City Antifa also tweeted on May 2: “When PPB approached Cider Riot twenty minutes after Gibson & his goons were repelled, they were not allowed into the establishment, but relayed a message asking whether anyone who had been assaulted wished to give a statement. The whole room erupted in laughter.”
Further, The Post Millennial has reviewed documentation from Clark’s hospital visit the day after the brawl. Doctors noted that “no acute fracture” and “no acute traumatic abnormality of the cervical spine” was identified. She was discharged shortly after visiting the hospital.
Ian Kramer, 45, was indicted and arrested for allegedly hitting Clark with a baton during the brawl. He is currently in state detention pending trial. The OLCC report also includes images appearing to show Clark rushing in to fight before she was knocked to the ground.
The still on-going investigation and lawsuit related to the brawl at Cider Riot has attracted attention in Portland partially because of Goldman-Armstrong’s own notoriety in the city. He is known for his involvement with the Portland Timbers soccer fan club, “Timbers Army.” The group has been marred in controversy for encouraging its members to display antifa propaganda symbols at games. Major League Soccer temporarily banned political symbols at games last year but lifted the restriction following protests.
Goldman-Armstrong has also found support from powerful political figures. Most notably, Democrat congressman Earl Blumenauer, whose Oregon district includes most of Portland. He has expressed support for Cider Riot and its owner on numerous occasions, including speaking at an event at the pub to support the $1m lawsuit as recently as September.
Blumenauer’s office did not respond to multiple inquiries for comment about the OLCC report and its findings.
But the violence outside Cider Riot didn’t start or end in May. The pub has hosted many events with Rose City Antifa, including a fundraiser for the violent extremist group in September 2018.
Five months after the May Day brawl, a 23-year-old antifa militant was killed under mysterious circumstances after leaving Cider Riot, where he was reportedly a regular. On Oct. 12, Sean Kealiher died after being hit by a car that had been fired upon outside the pub. A vagrant who witnessed his death said Kealiher’s friends dragged his body away from the scene, leaving a bloody trail. They never called police and antifa groups online urged their comrades to not cooperate with police in the homicide investigation.
Before Cider Riot closed last November, it was put on sale for a whopping $875,000. As of this story’s publication, the price listing on ProBrewer has dropped more than 80 percent, down to $150,000. Abram Goldman-Armstrong has denied that the riot and the ensuing fallout influenced his decision to close the business. He did not respond to inquiries for comment. His attorney declined to comment on the allegations raised in the official state report.
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