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Five arrested after counter-protesters disrupt a conservative ‘freedom rally’
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A University of Washington (UW) rally turned violent and resulted in five arrests on Saturday when supporters of President Donald Trump and free speech were ambushed by hundreds of counter-protesters who stood against Trump and capitalism.
The original “Freedom Rally,” located in UW’s Red Square, was organized by the UW College Republicans and the right-leaning Vancouver, Washington-based organization Patriot Prayer, but reports noted that they were “far outnumbered” by counter-protesters.
The College Republicans’ president, Chevy Swanson, said the goals of the rally included creating “a space for campus conservatives to share their values and promote their free-speech rights,” according to the Seattle Times.
“Not about violence”
After just over an hour of peaceful rallying by conservatives with “Make America Great Again” hats and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, rally-goers and counter-protesters left their sectioned-off areas of the Square. “Swearing, spitting, shouting and fighting followed,” according to the Times. At least one flag was burned.
The Times further reported that “officers were in riot gear,” likely in response to acts of violence previously committed in Red Square by protesters denouncing the visit of conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos in January 2017.
While police would not reveal any further details about the five misdemeanor arrests made at the rally, one 20-year-old UW sophomore, who wore glasses to protect himself from pepper spray, described the counter-protesters as “pretty belligerent.”
“But I wouldn’t say I wasn’t either,” the student, Mikaele Baker, added.
Another Trump supporter at the rally, Kathryn Townsend, said she saw “a lot of anger on both sides.”
“I learned that they thought my vote was a hate crime,” Townsend said. She promised that Patriot Prayer is “not about fascism like the opposition claims,” according to Q13 Fox.
“It’s very disappointing, because we’re not about violence at all,” another Patriot Prayer representative said. “And it’s disappointing it gets turned around on us, when it’s the other side that’s the violent ones.”
“This is America”
But that wasn’t enough for the counter-protesters, many of whom made threatening remarks to the student rally-goers.
“Let’s go out there and drown them out with a positive message,” one counter-protester said. “We refuse to accept a fascist America, we’re going to drown out your whole fascist regime.”
Another speaker at the event shouted, “We’re here to fight back against the far-right and fascism on our campus.”
UW sophomore and counter-protester Sean Moore said that he attended the rally because he doesn’t stand behind President Trump’s agenda.
“Obviously, I’m not a fan of these guys coming to our campus and making a huge statement,” Moore told Q13 Fox. “I’m not a fan of the president and these people are fans so I want to come out here and say this is not ok. And what you’re doing is not okay.”
Despite the fact that the rally turned violent, one Patriot Prayer member, who calls himself “Tiny,” told reporters:
Having a civil conversation is the only way we can bring people together, is them understanding what we believe in and the reason we support Donald Trump and why we do what we do. Freedom of speech and for us to understand what they are about and what they are against.
“The thing is we have different views but we still have the same rights,” Tiny concluded. “This is America.”
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