Seattleites counter-protest outside City Hall against an ‘anti-sharia,’ pro-Trump rally. Photo by Casey Jaywork

Seattleites Stand Up Against ‘Anti-Sharia’ Rally

The latest battle in America’s culture war ended in a street brawl, with no apparent serious injuries.

Banners flew, people screamed, and silly string and punches flew in downtown Seattle on Saturday during the latest confrontation between supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump during a so-called “anti-sharia” rally. Seattle police, who struggled to keep the two factions physically seperated, arrested three people, none of whom appeared to be Trump supporters.

While the subject of the rally and counter-protest was nominally Islam, the real conflict on Saturday was between footsoldiers on the left and right sides of our country’s ongoing culture war, in which support or opposition to the president is the best litmus test available for telling “which side” someone is on. As we’ve previously reported, the rally took place within a larger, emerging pattern of belligerent protests and counter-protests between an emboldened right and energized left. On January 20, a Trump supporter shot and almost killed an antifa organizer at Red Square on the University of Washington campus. On April 15, open street fighting broke out between Trump supporters and antifa in Berkeley. On May 1, hundreds of Trump supporters flocked to Westlake Park for an anti-communist rally that was largely peaceful but featured some tense, violent moments. At a June 4 rally by Trump supporters in Portland, antifa clashed with police. Today’s rally continued that trend.

Shortly before 10 a.m. on Saturday, hundreds of counter-protesters who had rallied in Occidental Park began the short walk to Seattle City Hall, where a few dozen anti-sharia ralliers held signs and delivered speeches. Using bicycles, metal fencing, and riot gear, SPD kept the two groups seperated. Across the street from the anti-sharia rally was a “Meet a Muslim” tent staffed by Muslims and members of other faiths offering educational literature, including copies of the Quran.

Soon after that first crowd of chanting counter-protesters showed up, an anti-sharia rally organizer began speaking over them via sound system, stating that the rally wasn’t against Muslims but against religious tyranny and in favor of human rights. Not long after he started talking, though, antifa arrived, dressed in black and carrying horns as though storming Jericho.

Before long, the plaza and street before City Hall was filled with such a cacophany that you could only make out words from people standing nearby. Every other voice and sound was swallowed into a single, dull roar. With so much hollering, listening was nearly impossible. There was some discussion across sides, though most of it came in the form of angry yelling:

One self-described “Western chauvinist” and member of the fraternity/fight club Proud Boys said that race is not relevant for him. “I don’t care what you look like. … It has to do with the beliefs you’re harboring,” he said. “The West is the best.” Several non-white Trump supporters mocked white leftists for calling them white supremacists.

Following that initial standoff, the day turned into a kind of three-way game of cat-and-mouse between Trump supporters looking for a fight, antifa looking for a fight, and cops looking to stop those fights. At one point, a local militant leftist named Bypolar and a traveling Trump supporter named Tiny began squawking and circling one another in what appeared to be a prelude to a throw down, but neither turned out to be sufficiently excited by the prospect of fisticuffs to throw the first punch. At several points, antifa splurted glitter and silly string onto Trump supporters.

Seattle police repeatedly used their prestige with Trump supporters, as well as threats of arrest, to deescalate brewing conflicts:

Shortly after noon, things got punchy:

Seattle Weekly caught the tail end of it:

After forcibly breaking up the brawl, Seattle police arrested three people, all of whom appeared to be affiliated with antifa.

One man involved in the brawl was Dave Traylor. Dressed in a full Captain America suit, complete with helmet and shield, Traylor was on the side of the counter-protesters and against the anti-sharia ralliers. In the course of the brawl, Traylor was pepper sprayed. “I’m against Nazis. I’m against fascism. They don’t own patriotism,” he said.

We spoke with him immediately afterward:

After that brawl, things gradually calmed down. Most of the nonviolent anti-Trump protesters who had demonstrated at City Hall in the morning had already left. Police kept the remaining leftists seperated from the Trump supporters. Eventually, the main remaining contingent of about a dozen pro-Trump, anti-sharia ralliers walked from Pioneer Square to the waterfront to get beer and lunch at Red Robin. About a dozen bike cops followed them the whole way there.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

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