The pro-Trump Patriot Prayer group and counter-protesters held opposing demonstrations in downtown Seattle Sunday. The two groups converged at Westlake Park where police reported stopping people carrying shields and backpacks. Officers spritzed several protesters with pepper spray.
4:50 p.m. — The crowd in Westlake Park has basically dispersed. Tensions have cooled and the protesters who remain are standing around talking.
4:15 p.m. — Speeches are over at Westlake Park but the atmosphere is still tense. Some members of the crowd have covered their faces with bandannas, goggles and masks. A couple people got out a lighter to start a “Make America Great Again” hat on fire, until someone intervened.
3:30 p.m. — The rhetoric and vitriol continue to flow at Westlake Park. Anti-fascist protesters continue to shout down the pro-Trump speakers, and more than once someone from the crowd has jumped onto the stage to grab the microphone away.
Part of the crowd is on the move, back toward Denny Park from Westlake, while others have ignored a police dispersal order and continue to crowd the Westlake plaza or circle back around the police lines.
Pepper spray and blast balls have been deployed, to varying effect on the crowd. Reporters on the ground describe the crowd as tense and emotional, and point to a growing police presence.
3 p.m. — Some organizers of the anti-fascist and Solidarity Against Hate march are urging followers to return to Denny Park to avoid conflicts with police and attendees of the pro-Trump patriot rally in Westlake Park. Meantime, police have ordered the crowd to disperse and say they’ll start making it happen very soon.
2:40 p.m. — Seattle police are using so-called “blast balls” and pepper spray, not to mention a little physical herding, in an ongoing effort to keep anti-fascist protesters and participants in the pro-Trump prayer rally apart. Lined up in full riot gear with helmets and plastic face shields, so far the officers have been pelted only with harsh language and silly string. There’s a lot of shouting and swearing.
2:20 p.m. — What was first billed as a anti-fascist rally at Denny Park didn’t stay in one place to rally for very long; the protesters almost immediately started moving toward the pro-Trump patriot and prayer gathering at Westlake Park, just a few blocks to the northeast. Police reported stopping people carrying shields and backpacks, and police moved to cut them off. Officers spritzed several protesters with pepper spray. There were many people wearing black, a few in masks and helmets.
The violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., resulting in three deaths, will be the backdrop at a pair of rallies Sunday in Seattle — one a pro-Trump “Prayer Rally” at Westlake Park and the other, a counterprotest sponsored by so-called “anti-fascists” at nearby Denny Park.
The conservative pro-Trump group known as Patriot Prayer planned to march on Westlake Park as part of a so-called “Freedom Rally” featuring live music and speakers.
Meantime, the Seattle Chapter of the Greater Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World called for a counter-rally, saying the groups associated with the prayer ralley are 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.
Both the Patriot Prayer rally and counter-protest had been arranged prior to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville.
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 Brietbart editor and racist Milo Yiannopolous has been charged.
The protests come a day after a car driven by a purported white supremacist attending white-supremacist “Tiki Torch” rally in Charlottesville plowed into a crowd of peaceful protesters Saturday in Charlottesville, killing one person. Two sheriff’s deputies died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the violence.
That led one of the organizers of Seattle’s pro-Trump prayer, Joey Gibson, to post a video on Facebook asking participants in the Sunday rally to not clash with counter-protesters.
Opposing groups, including the anti-fascist IWW, Veterans for Peace and the Freedom Socialist Party, organized their own march to unite against “the bigotry, racism and violence that far-right organizers are bringing to Seattle.”
In his Facebook video, Gibson said “a lot of people are going to be frustrated” by his request that they do not fight with the counter-protesters.
“We’re not going up to Seattle to battle,” Gibson said. “It’s not a battle royale. We’re not up there to have street fights … It doesn’t look good.”
As of Sunday morning, about 200 people on Facebook planned to attend the Patriot Prayer group rally. Another 600 people were interested in attending the event.
Seattle Police Department spokesman Detective Patrick Michaud said the department has been monitoring both planned marches on social media.
“As far as preparing for these things, we do 300 protests a year so we get some practice pretty much every day on how to deal with protests here,” Michaud said.
“When we show up and everyone else shows up, we take a good read of the situation and develop a quick plan of where to go from there,” he said.
The Patriot Prayer group will begin its event at Westlake Park at 2 p.m. The counter-protesters plan to first meet at Denny Park at 1 p.m. before marching to Westlake Park.
About 1,000 people will attend the latter “Solidarity Against Hate” march, according to its Facebook page.
“We will be shoulder-to-shoulder with all in our community who are targeted by the far-right in a unified, orderly and strong counterprotest,” the event description reads.
Activists have organized similar events across the country to decry hatred and racism, including a march in Manhattan and candlelight vigil in Flordia.
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.