Around 75 people gathered on the plaza in front of Seattle City Hall today as part of a nationwide series of "Marches Against Sharia" organized by the anti-Muslim group ACT for America. Just below the plaza, hundreds of counter-protesters filled a block of Fourth Avenue, drowning the group out with chants, music, and banging pots and pans. The day was largely peaceful until the two groups dispersed and headed from City Hall back toward Pioneer Square. There, police pepper sprayed demonstrators and made
several arrests, though details remain unclear. three arrests. (See update below.)
Here's what the scene looked like for most of the morning:
The crowd of counter-protesters vastly out numbered the anti-Sharia rally. Speakers from ACT spent around two hours on City Hall Plaza as counter-protesters chanted slogans like "No hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here." (ACT organizers claimed today, as they have in the past, that they're not anti-Muslim. Yet they're rallying against something they don't seem to understand and that does not present a substantial threat to Seattle or any other American city.)
When the speakers finished, most of the Make America Great Again types left and most of the counter-protesters dispersed too. Small groups shouted at each other across Cherry Street before Seattle Police forced them onto the sidewalk and reopened the street.
Meanwhile, others made their way toward Occidental Park in Pioneer Square, where police used pepper spray and made several arrests. Portland journalist Mike Bivins got video of a confrontation between the two sides and of police using pepper spray against protesters in Pioneer Square:
(Bivins consistently does some of the best coverage of Portland protests and the reliably disproportionate response from Portland Police. Follow him.)
Seattle Police have not yet clarified exactly how many arrests they made or for what. I'll update this post when we know more. UPDATE: Seattle Police say they arrested two men and one woman for obstruction. They say they used pepper spray "to break up a large fight."