OLYMPIA — One person was shot Saturday as clashes and violence erupted between pro-Trump demonstrators and counterdemonstrators in what is becoming a regular weekend occurrence at Washington’s Capitol campus in the wake of a bitter election season.
The shooting came after a couple of hours of on-and-off skirmishes at and around the Capitol, where supporters of President Donald Trump had gathered, displaying signs questioning the integrity of the election and flying campaign flags.
Trump has for weeks pushed to overturn the results of the November election that he lost. On Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit backed by Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory.
Also scheduled at the Capitol on Saturday afternoon was a demonstration to reopen schools that have been closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a “#MAGA Drag Toys 4 Tots” drive on the west side of the city.
Greeting those demonstrators in Olympia was a larger crowd of perhaps 200 counterdemonstrators dressed in black. As both sides taunted each other, the counterdemonstrators pushed the rallygoers back onto the campus and began throwing rocks and other objects.
The shooting occurred around 2 p.m. near the visitor center of the Capitol campus, as counterdemonstrators pushed Trump supporters back toward their vehicles in an adjacent parking lot.
Washington State Patrol spokesperson Chris Loftis confirmed the shooting. Two people have been detained in connection with the shooting, wrote Loftis in a text message, adding: “No information confirmed on victim or any injury status.”
Loftis described a “Fluid situation with two groups of size, both including heavily armed individuals.”
“Sporadic confrontations and movement since late morning,” Loftis wrote.
Robert Zerfing said he was near the shooting when it happened.
He saw “pretty much all of the patriot crowd came up here into the parking lot, they were running into their cars, trying to get out,” said Zerfing, a 36-year-old from La Center, Clark County, who records political events and posts them online.
As counterdemonstrators rushed after rallygoers, “that’s when I heard the shot,” said Zerfing.
Later on Saturday, the State Patrol tweeted about an improvised explosive device found on campus during the demonstrations.
“A reported IED was a large commercial firework,” according to the tweet. “Device had been lit and thrown, but failed to detonate. WSP Bomb Squad assessed and removed the device to an off-site location where it was rendered safe. Had the device detonated, it could have caused significant injury. “
During the afternoon, clashes also erupted as demonstrators and counterdemonstrators met on city streets. Olympia police arrested at least one person on a firearms-related charge, according to Lt. Paul Lower of the Olympia Police Department.
After the clashes wound down, several people in a group of black-clad demonstrators in a nearby park declined to comment.
As the state’s capital, Olympia has long been a focal point between right-wing and left-wing groups who routinely come to rally or protest.
But Saturday’s clashes come as one of a series of regular weekend confrontations at the Capitol since the Nov. 3 election between Trump and Biden.
In a similar incident last week, law enforcement arrested a Trump rally participant who allegedly fired his gun at counterprotesters, according to The Olympian. Just days after the election, law enforcement had to keep angry demonstrators apart in a tense but brief demonstration near the Capitol.