Seattle police arrested four people Sunday who were protesting a far-right, anti-government militia group that held a rally outside City Hall in downtown Seattle.
The arrests occurred near the tail end of the Three Percenters “United Against Hate” event as members of the militia group and their supporters — including Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson — began to vacate City Hall Park, a small, fenced-in area that is part of the City Hall complex.
A swarm of police officers on bicycles and on foot herded protesters away from the rally attendees, pushing them north from the corner of Cherry Street and Fourth Avenue to Columbia Street and then west to Third Avenue where the crowd dissipated, leaving practically as many journalists covering the event as people protesting it.
According to the Seattle Police Department blotter, three of the arrests were made after members of the protesting group threw gravel and debris at officers. They also reported that two parked police cars were vandalized.
The counter protest — organized by Community and Labor Against Fascism (CLAF) — was largely peaceful. Members of labor organizations joined feminist groups and socialist organizations to show their opposition to the armed militia members and their allies who allegedly came to decry Seattle’s “intolerance” for right-wing ideas.
The framing of the event was an elaborate form of trolling, said Emma Allen, spokesperson for CLAF.
“They’re trying to take a page out of our playbook,” Allen said.
Unlike an anti-Sharia law protest in 2017 at City Hall Park, police allowed through traffic on Fourth Avenue, preventing counter protesters from lining up directly in front of rallygoers. Undeterred, protesters kept mainly to the sidewalks on Cherry Street and Fourth Avenue, chanting into megaphones slogans like, “Hey, three-pers you can’t hide / We can see your fascist side.”
Inside the rally, speakers affirmed their support of figures like Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane), a radical politician who wrote “The Biblical Basis for War,” laying out a bloody path to a Christian theocratic state after the dissolution of society. Shea was recently stripped of his position as the ranking member of the Washington House Environment and Energy Committee and kicked off of two other committees after an independent investigation found he had likely committed acts of domestic terrorism in his support for the anti-government occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Shea denies the accusations.
Three Percenters derive their name from the belief that only 3 percent of colonists took up arms against the British soldiers to win independence for the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes them as an anti-government militia group and they have been known to associate with neo-Nazi and alt-right organizations.
Three Percenters provided security at the deadly “Unite the Right” brawl in Charlottesville, North Carolina, where protester Heather Heyer was killed by James Fields Jr. who drove his car into a crowd. Journalist Shane Bauer went undercover at the U.S. border with Mexico with Three Percenters who took it upon themselves to hunt undocumented immigrants and “drug smugglers.”
On Sunday, the organization 3% of Washington struck a different note. While many were armed, organizers implored the group in the Facebook event to leave their long guns at home.
“Permit was just issued,” they wrote on Jan. 3. “[Concealed carry] or pistol only. No long guns. This is a rally against hate, not a [Second Amendment] rally.”
The restraint is a ruse, said one counter protester with Emerald City Antifa, an anti-fascist group that opposes the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys and other similar organizations. As part of a community-defense strategy, anti-fascists work to reveal the identities of those who participate in such groups as well as meeting them in the streets.
The woman, who did not wish to be identified, was doing double duty protesting and running a small warm-clothing drive for homeless people in Seattle. Protesters dressed head-to-toe in black, their faces covered with black cloth, would pause from blowing on vuvuzelas and shouting at rallygoers and police to drop off scarves, mittens, socks and more.
As the woman spoke, a homeless Vietnam veteran approached and left with a bag of socks and a new knit beanie.
“This rally is especially insidious,” she said. “If you’ve been watching them for a while, you’ll see that they whip people up into violence.”
Rallygoers did not see themselves that way, even adopting some of the language of the counter protesters.
“I’m here trying to bring less hate,” said Anna Rainier, who was standing to the side of the rally behind a table with truffles, peanut butter — “for the diabetics,” she said — and bottles filled with a white solution meant to counteract pepper spray.
“Speaking out about hate is important,” Rainier said.
The rally, scheduled to start at noon, wrapped up within 90 minutes, and the crowd of roughly 100 people began to disperse. Police used their Volcanic bicycles to create a physical barrier on Fourth Avenue to ensure the two groups did not interact and began forcefully pushing protesters northbound. One older woman fell to the ground.
The crowd thinned as protesters broke off, and the action was more or less over by 2 p.m. Feanette Black Bear walked south on Third Avenue, making her way to her bus stop.
She was there in part to protest President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — rally goers were holding Trump-Pence 2020 flags to support their politicians.
Black Bear has family in the military and was concerned about the recent tensions with Iran, among other things.
“The Three Percenters on the other side don’t understand the reality of what this world is about,” Feanette said. “They live in a fantasy world.”
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
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