For years, at dusk on every May Day in Seattle, the anti-capitalists have come out. A few hundred march between Westlake Park and Seattle Central College, with one or two dozen masked and clad in black, so as to hide their individual identities from police. Some windows get smashed, police douse marchers in pepper spray, and eventually people get tired and the march ends.
That’s not what happened last night.
Instead, hundreds of Trump supporters delivered speeches from the Westlake stage and marched around downtown Seattle for what was advertised on Facebook as an anti-communist march. Overwhelmingly men (but not overwhelmingly white), they carried various patriotic flags and homemade melee shields, and wore biker vests and military gear and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hats. Some were abusive; others, scrupulously polite. Likewise for the handful of liberal/leftist counterprotesters who hung around the edges of the crowd, occassionally chanting “No racists, no KKK, no fascist USA!”
— Casey Jaywork (@CaseyJaywork) May 1, 2017
— Manuel Valdes (@ByManuelValdes) May 2, 2017
Other than the arrests and some scuffles, the march was notably free of violence or vandalism.
Some of the debates between different members of the crowd were illuminating. For instance, in this exchange, a cyclist asks a Trump supporter (who is wearing the swastika-like flag of Kekistan, an imaginary country of the alt-right) what he believes in. The answer turns out to be trolling and deportation:
The cyclist was Moira Kearney, 34. She comes to the May Day evening march every year to see what goes down with her own eyes, and then contrasts that with news coverage the next day. I ask her about her exchange with the ambassador of Kekistan.
“What I see is a lot of people who have built their ideology around making other people angry, and they don’t seem to believe anything themselves,” said Kearney. “That kid, he thinks it’s a big, funny game. I know exactly what kind of Reddit places he looks at, and 4Chan, and where he got that Kekistan flag that he thinks is really funny. That kid isn’t even a Nazi, he’s probably not even a white supremacist, but he’s quite alright with appropriating that imagery because it makes people unhappy…It seems like the conservative movement in the United States has largely become a reaction. Maybe not in the halls of their policy wonks who are writing for the Brookings Institute, but…[regular] people liked Trump not because of any policy goals [but because] he makes people like me angry. That’s what they like. They don’t have any other policy or political opinion than what makes the liberals angry. And that’s dangerous.”
Asked how liberals and leftists can responsibly respond to a politics of trolling, Kearney responded with some common advice: don’t feed them. “I think that, honestly, ignoring it is best,” she said. “If nobody had shown up to that Milo event at the University of Washington, his ratings would have gone down, he would have more quickly faded into the background.”
You can see some other debates between pro- and anti-Trump attendees here and here. Less illuminating, but still notable, was the moment when what looked liked the beginning of a conflict (it wasn’t clear between whom) turned into a doobie session between what the Seattle Times described as opposing demonstrators:
At dusk, police ordered everyone to disperse from the park. For a few fleeting minutes, it felt like a regular May Day evening again.
— Casey Jaywork (@CaseyJaywork) May 2, 2017