“It’s time we go in there,” said a Patriot Prayer organizer planning a Thursday protest at The Evergreen State College. But counter-protesters are planning to confront the pro-Trump group.
The conservative, pro-Trump Patriot Prayer group, enraged by what it portrays as political correctness run wild at The Evergreen State College, is planning a protest for Thursday afternoon.
At least two groups, including Puget Sound Anarchists, have announced counter-protests, labeling Patriot Prayer a group aligned with fascists and white supremacists.
Given “potential disruption,” the college is suspending operations at 3 p.m., and limiting access to the campus shortly after that, according to a notice on Evergreen’s website. The interruption will not affect classes, which ended last week, but will mean the library, bookstore and administrative offices will close, college spokesman Zach Powers said.
It will be yet another time Evergreen has shut down operations or canceled classes after a rancorous campus debate over charges of racism and denial of free speech boiled over into the national news. Earlier this month, an anonymous caller threatened to come armed to campus and execute people, prompting closures over a string of days.
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The public college became a political flashpoint after professor Bret Weinstein questioned an “Day of Absence” in April in which white students were asked to leave campus amid activities on and off the college grounds to discuss racism and equity. Some 50 students later came to Weinstein’s classroom and angrily confronted him.
Campus police suggested Weinstein “stay away from campus for a day or two,” according to Powers.
“It’s time that we go in there,” said Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson in a video promoting Thursday’s protest, dubbed “Free Speech Evergreen State College” and scheduled to run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
“I am so angry right now,” he said, his voice rising to a fever pitch. “I am so upset at the culture that you guys have there. It is a culture of hatred. You have no right to kick someone out because of the color of their skin. That is called racism.”
But opponents said it is Gibson’s group that is racist.
Patriot Prayer held a “free speech” rally in Portland June 4 despite the mayor’s plea to cancel it in the wake of the fatal stabbing of two men trying to stop a man making anti-Muslim slurs.
At that and other events, “Patriot Prayer has coordinated and stood with neo-Nazis and neo-fascist groups,” said a Facebook post of a group calling itself the Evergreen Anti-Fascist Community Defense Network.
“We are putting out the call for a broad coalition to show up and confront hate this Thursday,” read the post, which asks people to begin arriving at 3 p.m.
Puget Sound Anarchists put out a similar call.
“To be successful in this we will need many different tactics, skill-sets and supplies,” a post on its website said. “Please bring your self, food, water, things to make noise, music, medic skills and supplies, masks, flags, art, banners and signs.”
In his video, Gibson encouraged those with different views to come, saying he and fellow protesters would debate anyone willing to talk to them. “I will do everything I can to keep this group peaceful,” he said.
That’s what law-enforcement officers are expecting, said Washington State Patrol spokeswoman Trooper Brooke Bova.
Evergreen has asked the Patrol to assist campus police, and troopers will be on standby.