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April 1, 2023

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State employee union condemns Patriot Prayer protest held outside Tri-Cities liquor agent’s home


KENNEWICK — The Washington state employees union is accusing those who protested outside a liquor enforcement officer’s Kennewick home of bullying.

The protest, led by Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer in Vancouver, came after warning notices were served by officers of the Washington state Liquor and Cannabis Board on a Tri-Cities bar and restaurants that continued to serve indoors in opposition to a state COVID pandemic order.

“There is nothing patriotic about far-right extremist groups who use fear and bullying tactics to intimidate front-line workers tasked with ensuring the health and safety of our communities,” said the Washington Federation of State Employees, WFSE, in a statement on Wednesday.

At least a dozen people, including Gibson, gathered in a quiet Kennewick neighborhood on Sunday, with speakers using an electronic megaphone as they called for the officer to come out and face them and to “stand down” from enforcing the state order.

Gibson’s group, Patriot Prayer, has planned and promoted rallies in cities like Portland, engaging in violence against their political opponents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group and People’s Rights Washington held a similar protest outside the homes of two Vancouver city attorneys in late June in response to a criminal charge against a local business owner for reopening her pet grooming business during the shutdown. Videos online indicate the group stayed at Kevin McClure’s home for six to seven hours. Afterward, they moved their protest to city attorney Jonathan Young’s house. The case against PetBiz owner Kelly C. Carroll, 61, of Battle Ground, was later dropped when city attorneys determined Carroll had taken proactive steps to make her business “essential” by adding dog day care services and serving essential workers.

Enforcement officers for the Liquor and Cannabis Board do not write policy. People who disagree with state policy should contact policymakers in a peaceful manner, said the WFSE.

“Harassing state employees and their families is despicable and should not be tolerated,” it said.

Four liquor control officers returned to Koko’s Bartini in Kennewick on Tuesday afternoon to follow up on the written warning with a notice of violation.

The bar has continued indoor service despite a state order that indoor restaurant and food service is banned until at least Dec. 14 because of rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Koko’s owner says they continued indoor service is a “peaceful protest” against restrictions on businesses. He was not there when the officers came on Tuesday afternoon.

Employees did not allow the four officers inside the bar, and the agents were followed by several cars as they pulled away. When they stopped, people confronted and yelled at them, saying the officers were infringing on their rights.