On June 29, 2019, Portland antifa rioters physically assaulted Andy Ngo, editor-at-large at The Post Millennial, who was reporting on the riot at the time. After police apparently failed to investigate the assault, Ngo took matters into his own hands in June, filing a lawsuit against Rose City Antifa and members of the mob who allegedly beat up Ngo. Benjamin Bolen, the antifa rioter whom Ngo blamed for one of the assaults, attempted to weasel out of the lawsuit via an Anti-SLAPP motion. Multnomah County Judge Kathleen Dailey rightly refused this move.
“This is finally a step in the right direction for the rule of law in Portland where the police, district attorneys office, and local politicians have totally failed to bring justice to the perpetrators of this heinous act,” Harmeet Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty and a lawyer representing Ngo, said in a statement Tuesday. “We brought this lawsuit as a last resort in the face of their unwillingness to enforce the law. As we have watched America’s greatest cities burn live on television at the hands of Antifa terrorists, we know they were emboldened by the inaction in Portland.”
Ngo sued Rose City Antifa, Bolen, Corbyn (Katherine) Belyea, Joseph Christian Evans, John Hacker, Madison Lee Allen, and fifty other antifa rioters. He alleged that Bolen punched him in the abdomen on May 1, 2019. According to the lawsuit, John Hacker threw an unknown liquid on Ngo’s head while the journalist was at his local gym.
Then antifa rioters threw containers full of liquid at Ngo’s head at a protest on June 29 — “milkshakes” that Portland Police warned might contain quick-drying concrete. Belyea allegedly threw one of these “milkshakes.” Finally, again on June 29, an antifa mob again attacked Ngo, throwing projectiles at him, punching him, and kicking him. Evans and Allen allegedly took part in this attack.
“Antifa members engage in rioting, property destruction, and armed brawls with political opponents and bystanders or journalists perceived to be allies of their opponents,” the lawsuit explains. “According to Antifa, any violence against public demonstrations by groups they view as fascist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, conservative, or right-wing is inherently ‘self-defense’—irrespective of whether such groups actually subscribe to such views— because such public demonstrations purportedly lead to violence against marginalized groups.”
Ngo’s lawsuit notes that antifa’s attacks on this particular journalist undermine the group’s “self-indulgent proclamations of protecting minority groups,” because Andy Ngo is both gay and of Asian descent.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages of more than $300,000, tripled to $900,000, along with “temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Defendants from harassing, threatening, harming, or attempt to do the same to Ngo, and prohibiting Defendants from further engaging in” violence against Ngo.
In response to this lawsuit, Bolen filed an anti-SLAPP motion, claiming that Ngo targeted him for his constitutionally-protected speech. This move amounted to an attempt to weasel out of the lawsuit on false pretenses. Judge Kathleen Dailey refused his motion and she struck from the record as inadmissible certain attacks on Ngo that Bolen included in his affidavit.
Bolen claimed that he did not attack Ngo. Rather, he accused Ngo of mixing him up with someone else and attacking Bolen because he exercised his constitutional right to protest. Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law shields people from lawsuits based on claims that “arise out of” their exercise of such rights.
Yet Ngo is not suing Bolen for taking part in a protest. Ngo claimed that Bolen physically assaulted him. Physical assault is not protected speech, and Bolen admitted as much.
Bolen may be innocent of assaulting Ngo, but he cannot use an anti-SLAPP law to strike Ngo’s claims against him. His attempt to weasel out of the lawsuit may only weaken his position.
Judge Dailey also struck some of Bolen’s remarks from the record. Bolen claimed that Ngo “appears at these rallies in an effort to dox leftists, which means to uncover their identity and then publicly post personal identifying information online so white nationalist or right wing groups can access the information and use it to target leftists and their families with harassment, threats, and sometimes even violence.”
Bolen claimed that Ngo “believes that racially motivated crimes are hoaxes” and that the journalist “engages in stochastic terrorism by both demonizing leftists and posting their personal identifying information online.” The antifa fellow-traveler also claimed, “Mr. Ngo does not care about the truth or about being accurate.”
The judge struck these accusations because they are either inadmissible or because they are based on “insufficient evidence” or a “lack of personal knowledge.”
Judge Dailey served the cause of justice by refusing Bolen’s attempt to weasel out of Ngo’s lawsuit, but the journalist still faces a difficult legal battle to hold his antifa assailants accountable.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.