The alt right came to the steps of Seattle City Hall on Saturday and guess what? It was pretty boring. If you stayed home or went on a hike or met a friend at a cafe, you accomplished more than what happened in downtown Seattle.
Police kept the alt right group and the counter protesters separated for most of the day, which started with speeches at City Hall Plaza and then included a march in a circle downtown. In my estimation, there were around 50 alt right folks and around 200 counter protesters. The march shut down traffic intermittently but the whole thing was mostly uneventful.
The most violent moment I witnessed was towards the end of the event, after the alt right had finished its march and returned to City Hall Plaza. A small scuffle broke out between two alt righters and a counter protester, which left one of the former bloody and the counter protester in handcuffs.
I saw two other people get arrested earlier in the event when a woman identifying herself as a photographer got into a fight with two people. I didn't see the fight break out but I saw the aftermath, which included SPD physically pinning a black man to the ground and then arresting him. Another white guy was arrested at the same time.
I tried to get the story from the photographer involved but when I talked to her she just started taking photos of me and not responding to any questions.
Saturday's event was officially organized by Joey Gibson's Patriot Prayer group and the Washington chapter of the "3 Percenters," a gun rights group that is sometimes referred to as a militia. Gibson ran for U.S. Senate in Washington this year but lost horribly in the primary, winning only 2.27 percent of the vote. He told the crowd that he was addicted to rallies.
"Rallies are the gateway drug into politics, it is one of the most addicting things to do," Gibson said. "It gives people who have never been involved before a reason to get off their asses and onto the streets."
Is there any worse thing to be addicted to than spending a beautiful Saturday yelling at people? I think so. Gibson told me after he was done speaking that he was happy with his election results.
"Yeah, considering the fact I had no money to spend," Gibson said.
After about two hours of speeches the alt right group, which included the Proud Boys, left the City Hall Plaza and marched around downtown Seattle. They did a loop up around the County Courthouse, walking down 5th Avenue, then across the Yesler Bridge, then up 3rd Avenue, and then up the hill back to City Hall. A large presence of police officers, including dozens on bicycles, escorted the alt right march. The counter protesters followed the march as it wound around the city, with cops keeping a moving wall between the two crowds of yelling people.
I was surprised to see a diverse mix of people on the counter protester side of the fence, with both the masked Antifa youths and a generous amount of older folks. I spoke with numerous different members of Antifa who'd traveled from Portland to Seattle for the rally.
One masked Antifa member was intermittently picking up and slamming a riot fence on the ground, and then pointing at SPD cops and yelling that they should be ashamed of themselves. In between outbursts, I asked them what brought them to the rally.
"These people are a danger to society. People like these guys killed my grandfather dude," said the masked person, who said they were from Portland.
When I followed up inquiring who it was that killed their grandfather, their friend interjected and told me to go away because they don't talk to media.
After the marching ended, the Proud Boys and the rest of the alt right groups hung around City Hall for about an hour yelling across the street at each other. Eventually, the Proud Boys left City Hall and started walking to their cars. Some counter protesters followed them and both sides taunted each other while police maintained a dividing line between the two factions. The Proud Boys slowly broke off into smaller and smaller groups, and the counter protesters seemed to lose interest.
By the time the event had fizzled into nothing, there was still enough August sun left in the day for both sides to go find something more interesting to do.