A College Republicans prayer rally in Seattle was disrupted Saturday, with fights breaking out as counter-protesters burned American flags, the Seattle Times is reporting. At least five people have been arrested as of this writing.
Two opposing groups converged on the University of Washington’s Red Square on Saturday. One group consisted of the University’s chapter of the College Republicans. who had invited Patriot Prayer, described by the Times as a “right-leaning” group based in Vancouver, Washington. The other group, which far outnumbered the Republicans and their guests, consisted of about 200 counter-protesters (Fox News claims that the counter-protesters numbered over 1,000). They came, says the Times, to “denounce” Donald Trump and to promote anti-capitalist and civil-rights ideas.
The Patriot Prayer side featured Trump supporters and other right-wingers, wearing shirts and holding signs bearing slogans such as “Make America Great Again” or “Don’t Tread on Me.” One held a sign that said “We died for liberty not socialism.” At least one member wore a shirt bearing the slogan of the Proud Boys, a group described by Huffington Post as a “frat” for far-right young men.
Police tried to keep the two groups separate, and indeed, they were successful — for the first 75 minutes of the rally. However, according to the Times, members of the Patriot Prayer gathering left their designated area and, chanting “USA! USA!” made their way to the counter-protesters’ section. Once the two groups began mixing, things went downhill fast. Spitting, shouting, and swearing ensued, followed by fistfights.
After a scuffle between counterprotesters and Patriot Prayer ralliers, police advanced using pepper spray and making arrests. The rally, which began around 1 p.m., appears to be winding down. The latest updates: https://t.co/9IHZ5qQojt (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times) pic.twitter.com/1UrY6cxSgi
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) February 10, 2018
Police in riot gear broke up the fighting with pepper spray, making at least five arrests in the process. Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, according to Fox News. No police were injured; it is unclear, as of this writing, if any protesters or counter-protesters were injured.
Tia Chicome, who traveled from a nearby Native American reservation to attend the counter-protest, said that she’s been hassled by Patriot Prayer members before.
“Whenever I go to protest, these people (Patriot Prayer members) ask me if I have papers. It’s so disgusting because every generation in my family has served in the U.S. military.”
Meanwhile Ron Theis, who says he is a veteran, came from Oklahoma City and “the patriotic way of life.”
The police presence at the event, their response to it, and the resulting cleanup have cost the university $17,000, according to a companion Seattle Times report. The university intends to send the bill to the College Republicans — they claim that being made to pay that money violates their rights to free speech and they intend to sue.