The Patriot Prayer group organized the rally for Westlake Plaza before the nation was stunned by the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. Several hundred anti-fascist and anti-Trump counter-protesters gathered at the park, some of whom marched from Denny Park a few blocks away.

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Three people were arrested and Seattle police deployed blast balls and pepper spray — while dodging fireworks and being doused with glitter bombs and silly string — while dozens of Donald Trump supporters and hundreds of counter-protesters marched and gathered downtown Sunday.

Tensions in Seattle flared and foul language flew, but police said there were no injuries and no property damage.

[Here’s how downtown pro-Trump and anti-Trump demonstrations unfolded]

The Patriot Prayer group organized the rally for Westlake Plaza before the nation was stunned by the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. Several hundred anti-fascist and anti-Trump counter-protesters gathered at the park, some of whom marched from Denny Park a few blocks away.

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

Coverage of the Charlottesville attack:

Riot-gear-clad police, using tactics honed during the May Day protests, used bicycle barricades, noisy “blast balls” and pepper-spray to disperse the crowd and sidetrack the protesters.

Still, some anti-fascist and anti-Trump counter-protesters made it to the plaza and surrounded the prayer rally at the plaza. There were speeches and a lot of swearing. Some attending the rally donned protective vests and helmets, and waved American flags or signs with slogans like “Christian Values.”

Leaders and others attending the prayer rally condemned the violence by white supremacists in Virginia, many showing support for President Trump and his vision of America. The counter-protesters weren’t making much of a distinction between the two.

“This powerful country needs to be waving high — red, white and blue — and never back down. Why? Because we are the patriots, and we’re going to fight for what’s right,” speaker Tiny Toese, of Vancouver, Washington, told the crowd. “It all comes down to respect.”

All the while, hundreds of counter-protesters booed, yelled expletives and held signs such as “Strength through diversity” from behind a fence separating them from the pro-Trump group. Organizers of that crowd said they were there to stand against hate. A few wore all black and masks.

Beyond Seattle, activists in cities across the country gathered Sunday to decry hatred and racism following violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday, resulting in three deaths. Those events included a march in Manhattan and candlelight vigil in Florida.

Seattle police reported making three arrests: a 40-year-old man for obstruction, a 37-year-old man for assault and a 25-year-old man for assault. Officers also observed some people “infiltrating” the rally at Denny Park carrying ax handles, two-by-fours and balloons containing an unknown liquid substance, according to the Police Department’s online blotter.

The protests come a day after a car driven by a purported white supremacist attending a white-supremacist “Tiki Torch” rally in Charlottesville plowed into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing one person. Two sheriff’s deputies died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the violence.

The pair of Seattle rallies had been arranged before Sunday’s tragedy.

Wearing a “Patriot Prayer” shirt, prayer-rally leader Joey Gibson of Vancouver, Washington, condemned the violence in Charlottesville on stage.

On Saturday, he posted a video on Facebook asking participants in the Sunday rally to not clash with counter-protesters.

“I’m not right wing. I’m not a conservative. I just believe in the Constitution, and I believe in freedom,” he said on Sunday.

Police prioritized the potential for violence by creating barriers to keep the two groups apart. Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien discovered that the hard way when the group he was marching with repeatedly was turned aside by police barricades.

O’Brien texted police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, and was told that the demonstrators — himself apparently included — would not be allowed to proceed to Westlake Park.

Later Sunday, King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a statement directed at “the white supremacists and fascists who gathered today at Westlake Center under the false pretense of patriotism.”

“We fought a Civil War against slavery, and you lost,” the statement reads. “We fought a World War against fascism, and you lost. Today, we stand united against the hateful rhetoric you have brought to our community. And you will lose again.”

Among the counter-protesters was Arthur Ford, 23, and friend Mario Cater, 26, who hijacked the stage from the pro-Trump group to lead a chant of “Black Lives Matter.”

A Trump supporter responded in the microphone: “Yes, black lives matter. White lives matter. Not even all lives matter — lives matter.”

Similar shouting matches between the two sides — and a few skirmishes — continued throughout the hourslong event.

At one point, officers used pepper spray and blast balls to disperse the counter-protest near the park at Second Avenue and Pine Street.

Anthony Gazotti tried to stop his fellow protesters from spraying silly string and throwing glitter at police. But he too was pepper-sprayed.

“This is a fight that isn’t going away,” said Gazotti, 47. “This means something. This is about the future for our children.”

The counter-rally at Denny Park was organized by the Seattle Chapter of the Greater Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World. It claimed the groups associated with the prayer rally were the same “street-fighting crews that have been hopping from Vancouver, WA to Portland, OR to Seattle, WA and back again,” including last June’s “anti-Sharia” march that led to arrests.

“When they come, they bring violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia (among other forms of bigotry) to our town,” according to a post on the chapter’s Facebook page.

The IWW has not been shy about confronting the “alt-right” and their white-supremacist underpinnings. Last January, an IWW organizer was shot and critically wounded while trying to break up a fight in Red Square on the University of Washington campus. A couple trying to attend a speech by former Breitbart editor and racist Milo Yiannopoulos has been charged.

The “alt-right” is a small far-right movement mixing racism, white nationalism and populism.

On Saturday, the Virginia governor declared a state of emergency after the chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white supremacists to come together in a decade. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others arrived to protest the racism.

As the Seattle protest marched back to Denny Park, Aneelah Afzali linked arms with other demonstrators under a banner reading “Love Wins.”

“I wanted to stand with other faith leaders to be a presence, be a witness to peace and love over fear and love over hate,” said Afzali, executive director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound.

“It was very powerful to sing, chant, stand in locked arms and really try to bring a positive presence to the event,” she said. “We actually just had someone say they came here with a lot of hate and anger in their heart. But they joined in singing and left feeling positive.”