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Arrests, Some Clashes At Opposing Demonstrations In Downtown Seattle

Ed Ronco
A person demonstrating against "Patriot Prayer" protesters in downtown Seattle tries to wash pepper spray out of their eyes.

Updated 8:48 a.m. Monday Aug. 14 with number of arrests

Seattle police have arrested three men and confiscated weapons as dueling demonstrations converged in downtown Seattle Sunday afternoon.

A conservative pro-Trump group called “Patriot Prayer” was rallying at Westlake Park downtown.

The Seattle Times reports that some members of the Solidarity Against Hate march urged followers to return to the park where the march began to avoid clashing with police and other demonstrators.

Seattle City Council Member Mike O'Brien says he joined Sunday's march to stand in solidarity against violence and racism in Charlottesville over the weekend.

He says he walked with other peaceful protesters toward Westlake Park. But officers blocked their route several times.

O'Brien says he texted Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole in the middle of the march and she told him demonstrators would not be allowed to proceed to Westlake Park.

Police ordered protesters to disperse at Second Avenue and Pine Street. At one point, police deployed pepper spray and blast balls to disperse the crowd.

O'Brien says he and other counter-protesters returned to Denny Park. The Seattle Times reports that others continued on to Westlake Park.

Both the pro-Trump rally and the counter-demonstration were planned in advance, but many in the counter-protest said they came in response to violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Roy Martin, 61, is from Seattle. He’s black, and says his mom grew up in rural Mississippi.

“I remember the separate bathrooms, I remember the signs. I remember sitting up in the hot theaters in 1963,” he said. “For me, it’s part of my life. For a lot of these folks here, it might be new and it might not be new.”

Martin said the country’s history with racism goes back so far, and is so deep, that bigger conversations need to happen than just the ones centered on current events.

“It’s the perfect time to come together, because right now we know exactly where those who are white nationalists stand,” he said. “Until we start having those conversations and start taking action, as communities, as individuals, as neighbors, we still have a lot to learn about what our democracy is about.”

Andrea Bauer stood in the park not far from Martin with a sign that said “Fight Bigotry With Solidarity.” She’s been part of anti-racist campaigns before in our region.

“It is very frustrating but you have to be realistic. You have to acknowledge reality,” said Bauer, who is with the group Radical Women. “Until you solve the problems of racism in this country, there’s going to be a struggle like this.”

At the pro-Trump rally less than a mile away, speakers distanced themselves from the events in Virginia and condemned the violence there.

“We weren’t there, and we had nothing to do with that,” Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson said in a video from the rally captured by The Seattle Times. Gibson shouted over boos and jeers from protesters. “Patriot Prayer have always preached peace, and have always preached love.”

The Patriot Prayer was billed as in support of freedom and free speech. After the events in Virginia, Gibson went on Facebook to urge attendees to Sunday’s event in Seattle not to start violent conflict, and to not fight back if attacked.

A barricade separated the groups of protesters in downtown Seattle on Sunday. Police officers stood by dressed in black, riot gear.

The pro-Trump group has held similar events throughout the Pacific Northwest – including before in Seattle, and at The Evergreen State College – and they have been met by counter protests.

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Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.