A day after violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Virginia, tensions were high during two opposing protests in Seattle.
The demonstrations had been planned before Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville. The right-wing, Portland-area group Patriot Prayer had called a pro-Trump rally in Westlake Park. In opposition, the Greater Seattle IWW General Defense Committee called a “Solidarity Against Hate” counter-protest in Denny Park.
That anti-fascist demonstration drew a huge crowd, many of whom were mobilized by Saturday’s deadly incidents in Virginia. Some came in T-shirts and Birkenstocks. Others wore head-to-toe black, including face masks.
Casey Strapp said he’s been wanting to get involved since Trump was elected. The events in Charlottesville were the last straw for him.
“I’m a little angry that people even need to be out here protesting this," Strapp said. "The idiocy has gotten to this point in this country where we need to spend our time fighting this instead of doing more productive things to benefit society. It’s just awful."
Meanwhile, at the right-wing rally, some demonstrators wore matching "Make America Great Again" hats. Others dressed in military-style fatigues, combat boots and helmets.
Chris R., who asked to use only his last initial, heads the Seattle-area group The Cascade Legion. He said the organizing group, Patriot Prayer, stands for Christianity, free speech and opposes white nationalism.
“If people were to come here and espouse white nationalist views, I think people — especially people opposed to white nationalism — have a duty to come here and listen to those arguments so they have the opportunity to debate them,” he said.
The anti-fascist protestors had planned to march to Westlake to face off against the right-wing demonstrators, but police stopped the march several blocks before Westlake Park to prevent a confrontation.
Police made at least one arrest and sprayed some protestors with pepper spray.
Some anti-fascist protestors made it to Westlake, and there were some arguments between the groups, but most in the anti-fascist group turned around and returned to Denny Park – many fuming at the police interference.