Counter-demonstrators at The Evergreen State College Thursday afternoon confronted a Pro-Trump protest group, as state troopers in riot gear stood post to help keep the peace. At least one person was arrested.
OLYMPIA — Hurling competing chants and hoisting opposing banners, protesters Thursday evening clashed at The Evergreen State College.
The latest in America’s pitched culture battles featured the conservative, pro-Trump group known as Patriot Prayer. Several dozen members and allies of the group marched on the campus’ Red Square, drawn here after the college made national headlines in clashes over race and free speech.
At the start of their march, Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson called the demonstration a show of support for Evergreen students and faculty who might feel stifled during the campus’ internal debates.
His brigade was met by over 100 counter-protesters under a steady drizzle. Evergreen students, faculty, anti-fascists and others rallied behind banners that read “community love,” with some people wearing pins such as “I Stand With Evergreen Students.”
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Dozens of Washington State Patrol troopers in riot gear shifted across the square like a tremulous black snake, becoming a portable barrier between clashing demonstrators. From an alcove nearby, dance music thumped.
By mid-evening, a 25-year-old male had been arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, according to the State Patrol. It wasn’t immediately clear what side the man was on.
The interest by Patriot Prayer in Evergreen came after an incident at the college ignited a national debate over free speech and race. That moment was captured in a video of students confronting a professor who spoke out against an event in which organizers asked white students to voluntarily leave campus for one day as part of an exercise in equality.
The video went viral. The professor, Bret Weinstein, went on Fox News. Republican state legislators introduced bills to privatize the college. The campus shut down after threats of violence.
It became an example for commenters from across the political spectrum to rail against the college for allowing students to tamp down on free speech.
But the moment was just part of a string in a year of tension and conflict on the campus.
Among other points, students have raised concerns about campus police after law enforcement took two African-American students out of their dorms in May, saying they had threatened a student.
In advertising Thursday’s protest on its Facebook page, Patriot Prayer called for “no more funding” for the college.
One faculty member at the afternoon’s counter-demonstration criticized the fact that the national spotlight had turned to The Evergreen State College.
“People are coming here exactly because of that” attention, said the faculty member, who declined to be named. “Otherwise, they’d have no interest” in the college.
At the start of the protest, Gibson himself acknowledged that the group wouldn’t have been there without the national coverage. But if he had known of the political climate earlier, Gibson said, he would have come sooner.