The following is a report back from the antifascist mobilization in Seattle on February 10th from a Wobbly in the Seattle IWW.
In what has become an all-too-familiar cycle, another fascist-sympathizing group has made Seattle a target of its hateful and bigoted message. Patriot Prayer–a far-right religious group based in Portland, Oregon–has been attacking women at Planned Parenthood locations in Washington. They were invited to speak at the University of Washington by the College Republicans (who also invited alt-right spokesman Milo Yiannopoulos to campus on J20 and who actively campaign with the Cascade Legion, a neo-Nazi group).
The rally, held on February 10, attracted other fascists to campus, including the Proud Boys and genuine neo-Nazis. Patriot Prayer was met by counter-protesters belonging to numerous student and community groups committed to anti-fascism, including the Seattle Wobblies and Seattle General Defense Committee. All told, the Patriot Prayer rally was easily outnumbered 4-to-1.
The rally was not without controversy. Before the event, UW President Ana Mari Cauce warned students to stay away from campus because organizations “outside our university” had presented credible threats of violence (ignoring that the College Republicans have, on numerous occasions, invited violent groups to campus and incited counter-protest).
Of course, Cauce was not referring to Patriot Prayer, but instead to counter-protesters, community members who believe that fascists have no right to invade the public space to call for violence against vulnerable communities. Cauce declined to cancel the event, even knowing that the speakers advocate ethnic cleansing, murder of LGBTQ people, and deportation of immigrant students.
UW’s diversity webpage declares that it “strive[s] to create welcoming and respectful learning environments, and promote[s] access, opportunity and justice for all.” If Cauce and UW were truly committed to fulfilling these idealistic goals–and if UW cared about its multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic student body–then they would not have allowed Patriot Prayer and its fascist allies to hold a rally in the middle of the university.
More damningly, several UW student organizations cancelled their events over safety concerns. It seems that President Cauce would rather provide a safe space for fascists to preach than protect the rights of multi-cultural students on campus. Young, Gifted, & Black, a multi-cultural college recruiting group, cancelled an event for black high school students to visit campus.
Additionally, this weekend was supposed to be the opening of “A Book With No Pages” at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, an exhibition and residency awarded to C. Davida Ingram who creates conceptual art around subjects of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and social relationships.
Counter-protesters from student and community groups marched into Red Square just before the Patriot Prayer rally began. The counter-protesters were met by UW Police and Seattle Police Department officers in riot gear. The police had erected two barricades to keep the rally and counter-protesters apart. The police were working in conjunction with Patriot Prayer to ensure that the speakers remained unharassed.
After an hour, the police allowed several fascists to cross the barricades and enter the counter-protest. They were met with silly string and glitter bombs. In three separate instances, the police allowed the fascists to cross the barricades, and when the fascists began shoving protesters, the police intervened, pepper sprayed the crowd, and arrested people in the vicinity. They used their bikes to shove protesters back and prevent the medics in attendance from giving aid to those affected.
Local newspapers have reported that counter-demonstrators instigated the violence, but anyone who was actually in attendance knows that the violence was instigated by the police–first, by allowing fascists to cross the barricades, and second by intervening only against counter-protesters.
Fights broke out because fascists began shoving their way into the crowd, which they could only do because they were granted police protection. Outnumbered as they were, they could only threaten the counter-protesters knowing that the police would step in and protect them after they started a fight.
The two sides continued to hurl insults across the barricades. The alt-right and fascists recited the same tired excuses about how they were only there to promote “free speech,” a disingenuous justification that betrays the moral bankruptcy of their ideology: “Our speech is not technically illegal” is their rallying cry and only defense. More than an hour before their rally was scheduled to finish, they departed. After a constant barrage of noise, cheers, chants, and songs, they left. The police escorted them away from campus.
They will inevitably claim a great victory: they marched into a liberal-dominated space, gave their speeches, and left after being made a persecuted minority. Their abortive rally will bolster their claims that they are America’s true moral conscience, lost in the torrents of “liberalism,” “cultural marxism,” and “white genocide.”
It is for these reasons that we must continue to confront them: as their rhetoric grows more violent and more extreme, and these groups become more desperate for power, they will lash out at those who are vulnerable (as we have seen from the spike in hate crimes since Trump’s election).
The Proud Boys were delayed during their exit. When they returned to their trucks, they discovered that their tires had been slashed. Other fascists were seen receiving medical aid from the fire department just off campus.
Because the university and the police refuse to protect students of color and vulnerable communities from racist attacks, it falls to students and the community to protect themselves. The Wobblies are proud to be a part of these acts of self-defense. As long as fascists continue to attack people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and all other working peoples, we will continue to move against them. It is our duty as Fellow Workers to put ourselves on the line for these communities.
This post is the firsthand account of a Wobbly who attended the event. The opinions shared in this post reflect the opinions of several members and not necessarily the branch as a whole.