Police made five arrests and deployed pepper spray during a far right rally at the University of Washington on Saturday.
Patriot Prayer, a conservative group founded by a Vancouver man named Joey Gibson, held the rally, having been invited by the UW College Republicans. Roughly two dozen people attended the Patriot Prayer rally, including members of the far right groups Proud Boys and Cascade Legion.
Far more people attended a counter-demonstration that started at the UW student union and later moved to Red Square, where the Patriot Prayer rally took place. The two groups were separated by a fenced-off buffer zone and a line of police officers wielding batons.
For most of the time, the demonstration remained peaceful. The two groups repeatedly chanted at one another across the buffer zone. “Racists, fascists, go away,” went one chant from the counter-demonstrators. “No ban! No wall! Sanctuary for all!” went another.
The Patriot Prayer attendees answered back with an inventive “USA! USA!” chant. Another chant went, “My speech, my choice.”
A few violent outbreaks took place, as scuffles broke out between right-wing demonstrators and counter-protesters. Police made arrests on charges of disorderly conduct, arrest and trespassing, according to UWPD Major Steven Rittereiser.
During one scuffle, counter-demonstrators pelted UW senior and Patriot Prayer supporter Kyle Broussard with glitter and silly string before someone else shoved Broussard. Police escorted Broussard away from the demonstration.
In another incident, a group of Proud Boys approached the counter-demonstration before getting into a shouting match with some of the counter-demonstrators. Somebody threw a punch at a Proud Boy and the situation escalated. Police attempted to break up the two sides with their bicycles. When the crowd became more rowdy, the officers deployed pepper spray.
Asked why police did not keep the Proud Boys from approaching the counter-demonstrators, Maj. Rittereiser said, "If they were purposefully walking into an area to create an issue, and we knew that, we would have stopped them." Police exercised tighter control over who was allowed to enter a fenced area staging the Patriot Prayer rally. They acted as de facto doormen, only giving entry to people approved by the College Republicans.
Aaron Dean, a Seattle leftist, felt the counter-protest was largely unproductive because there was no opportunity to have a dialogue.
“For the most part it felt like the counter protest was shouting into a void because the cops aren’t listening and the people over there beyond those fences,” Dean said, gesturing to the two lines of fences separating the two protests. “They aren’t listening since they can’t hear. It felt unproductive, mostly like venting.”
The rally followed weeks of buildup. Most recently, the College Republicans took UW to court over a $17,000 security fee that the university imposed on the group. A federal judge ruled in favor of the College Republicans, and the event went forward with the group having to fork over the security fee.
Students called for UW to cancel the event, noting that previous Patriot Prayer rallies have attracted openly racist groups like Identity Evropa. Jeremy Christian, the man who fatally stabbed two good samaritans on a Portland train, had previously attended a Patriot Rally in that city.
UW President Ana Mari Cauce announced on Friday that the event would occur as planned. In the interest of safety, the school canceled other events on campus that day. This included a Black history month event ,Young, Gifted, and Black, that celebrates high-achieving black high school students and the annual “Every body Everybody Fashion Show” which is inclusive of all identities and promotes body positivity. The cancellations sparked further outrage.
Gibson, the Patriot Prayer founder, regularly denounces racism, saying he can’t control who shows up at his rallies. “I don’t know of any white supremacists or white nationalists that show up. I’m sure people show up because I’m the only guy who is going to throw conservative rallies on the West Coast,” Gibson told The Stranger after the rally. When asked whether white nationalists are welcome at his events, he said they are not.
James Allsup, the former president of the Washington State University College Republicans and attendee of the white nationalist march in Charlottesville last August, was in attendance at the rally today.
“I’m here to make a video,” Allsup, a big YouTuber, said. “I’m here to show support to the Patriot Prayer individuals and their right to free speech, and for college republicans.”
Allsup identifies himself as an identitarian. What is that? Well, according to him it’s not white supremacism. It’s more white nationalism. There’s a big difference, apparently.
“The founders of America specifically said that immigration to this country was supposed to be very strict,” Allsup said in his explanation of identitarianism.
Those standards were abandoned after 1965 when American immigration switched its focus from Europe to Latin American, Asian, and African countries, Allsup said. He doesn’t support people immigrating from non-European countries.
“This is a country founded by English-speakers for English-speakers,” Allsup said. “A stable nation requires cultural similarities, right? Diversity is not a strength. You know that diversity is not a strength. You know that a diverse group of people it’s harder to work together for a collective goal.”
The Stranger politely refuted these assumptions.
He followed that up with, “Does anti-white hate concern you at all?”
The Stranger is not concerned with anti-white hate.
Chris Robertson, a frequent contributor to the white nationalist website Counter-Currents.com, also attended.
When asked whether he identifies as a white nationalist, Robertson answered that he does not, but added, “I share a lot of beliefs with white nationalists and I think they have a lot of valuable insights that make sense in the world today.”
After Red Square cleared of people, a group of masked protesters attacked a Proud Boy named Anthony Edward Bell in an alley off University Way. Bell told The Stranger that the alleged assailants, likely members of antifa, cracked a bottle over his head.