Five people were arrested Saturday when counterprotesters clashed with members and supporters of a controversial right-wing “Patriot Prayer” group at the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
The group was invited by the school’s College Republicans to lead what was touted as a “Freedom Rally.” While the Prayer group chanted, “We died for liberty, not for socialism,” some of the hundreds of counterprotesters, who dwarfed the number of those at the rally, chanted: “Say it loud, say it clear, racists are not welcome here,” The Seattle Times reported.
The rally remained peaceful for about 75 minutes. But then police in riot gear struggled to keep the sides separated, using their bikes as barriers — and pepper spray — as the protesters began to clash.
Those arrested faced charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing, according to police. There was no immediate word on injuries. The square returned to normal soon after the rally was over.
The square was the same spot where a protester was shot by a right-wing activist the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration last year when alt-right journalist Milo Yiannopoulos spoke on campus, again at the invitation of the College Republicans.
The university had demanded that the College Republicans put up $17,000 for extra security for the event. But a federal judge on Friday blocked the charge, saying that demanding the payment would would violate free-speech rights.
University President Ana Mari Cauce said in statement Friday that the school had obtained “credible information that groups” outside the community were “planning to join the event with the intent to instigate violence.” She didn’t reveal the political affiliation of the outsiders.
The university discouraged students and others from coming to the campus for the rally. But several student organizations urged members to come to stand against Patriot Prayer.
Patriot Prayer, located in Vancouver, Washington, has a history of sparking violence. In a video of a speech posted to the group’s Facebook page, founder Joey Gibson called the West Coast the “most intolerant” region in the nation. He vowed to “challenge liberals, who have teamed up with Antifa … and expose the violence … and get it on film.” He added: “We will take the West Coast back.”