Seattle police arrested four people during two dueling demonstrations Sunday afternoon, as a right-wing rally drew a heated counter-protest that turned unruly and snarled traffic downtown.
The Washington Three Percenters, a far-right group that has been a vocal advocate for gun rights, had reserved a space for its rally near City Hall. The group dubbed its rally “United Against Hate” and billed it as an “exercise on tolerance” for a city it described “as the most politically intolerant” in the country, according to its Facebook page. The event drew about 100 people, and at least that many or more in counter-demonstrators.
Counter-protesters showed up early and refused to leave City Hall Plaza that had been reserved for the rally, according to the Seattle Police Department, which referred to the two groups only in terms of which had the permit and which moved to occupy the same space. Officers ultimately “moved members” of this first group from the plaza, and formed lines with bikes and fences to separate the two groups, according to a statement from the department. Police didn’t respond to requests for additional comment on Sunday.
Police said one woman, a counter-protester, was arrested for misdemeanor assault. Three men who were also protesting the rally were subsequently arrested for throwing “gravel and debris at officers,” the department said.
Speakers at the rally included Joey Gibson, leader of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer. Gibson has organized rallies that turned into clashes and was charged last year with one count of felony rioting after a brawl between self-described antifascists and right-wing supporters. Gibson has pleaded not guilty.
The rally’s speakers called for more love and tolerance in America’s politics; one speaker quoted Gandhi. But the speakers had few kind words for the city of Seattle, for the day’s counter-demonstrators, and for Democratic and Republican politicians who have drawn their ire.
Gibson criticized House Minority Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox, who last month suspended Rep. Matt Shea from the GOP caucus after a House-commissioned investigation found that Shea planned and participated in domestic terrorism in connection with the armed takeover at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Wilcox should have been supporting Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley, said Gibson, “instead of throwing him under the bus.” Joseph Brumbles, who is running as a Republican for lieutenant governor, went further, calling Wilcox a “tyrant” who has made a “traitorous assault” against Shea.
Outside the rally, counter-demonstrators waved signs and, in chants, likened the Three Percenters to fascists.
Seattle Times reporter Daniel Gilbert contributed to this report.