In Seattle on Saturday, ACT for America, designated an “anti-Muslim hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, held a rally at Seattle City Hall while similar anti-Muslim protests occurred in dozens of cities nationwide. Describing itself as the NRA of National Security, ACT for America has over 200,000 members. It was founded and is run by Brigitte Gabriel, an immigrant who has said that Islam is incompatible with Western civilization.
Several people demonstrating “against Sharia” law on Saturday did so with a gun on their hip, often accompanied by ballistic vests. This group consisted of several dozen Trump supporters, Seattle street preachers, 3%’ers, Oath Keepers, and Proud Boys, several wearing Kek shirts or holding flags representative of the alt-right, a group of fascists and neo-Nazis. After the mayor of Portland rejected their permit to march, the rally was moved to Seattle. Anthony Parrish, a known street preacher who targets mosques in the area, was the event’s main organizer. He was joined by Joey Gibson from Patriots For Prayer.
But those who gathered to rail against Islam were met by anti-fascists, labor organizers and everyday citizens of Seattle who say they are tired of all the thinly veiled hate speech. People supporting their Muslim neighbors greatly outnumbered those who came to protest Sharia law. Permits for most public spaces in Seattle were unavailable, so the groups convened on 4th Avenue between James and Cherry, in front of Seattle City Hall.
A few blocks away at Occidental Square, a much larger group held up signs saying “We Stand With Our Muslim Neighbors” as they prepared to march, while another group composed of IWW, anti-fascists and others marched from where they gathered at Westlake Park. The latter group marched with pots and pans, trumpets, whistles, air horns, and an assortment of noisemakers, in order to drown out pro-Christian, anti-Sharia rhetoric coming from the tiny loudspeakers at City Hall Plaza.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations had a “Talk to a Muslim” tent across the protest area, but not many ventured from City Hall Plaza to take advantage of the opportunity. While barricades separated the two groups by twenty feet or more, it wasn’t so much that each side couldn’t hear the insults hurled back and forth. One anti-Sharia protestor pointed at a Muslim woman in the front row, held up his bag of pork rinds and shouted, “Fuck you and fuck Sharia!” At one point, that same protestor yelled across the divide, “I hope you get raped, you loser. I hope he fucks you in the ass.” This was too much for one of the women providing security for the anti-Sharia demonstration, who demanded that the man leave. He responded, “This is America, fuck you.” She then brought over another security member, armed and male, who demanded he leaves. The man was then escorted out by a Seattle police officer and did not return.
Almost two hours before the event at City Hall was scheduled to end, the rightwing group slowly disbanded with the exception of a few Proud Boys who were itching for a fight, skirting the police line as they faced off with anti-fascist protestors. At one point, a Seattle policeman, in a very different approach from every other demonstrations, explained to the Proud Boys that he would not allow them to interact with the counter-protestors. He said this as they were attempting to make their way to Occidental Park where the other demonstration was being held. The officer directed them to Pioneer Square where, 15 minutes later, some split and went East, while the others made their way South.
After spending 15 to 20 minutes in Central Saloon, a small group of a dozen or so Proud Boys began making their way to Occidental Park where the counter protestors were gathered. A few bottles of glitter were thrown, an egg or two, and then the fighting started. Proud boys attacked anti-fascist counter demonstrators and the battle was underway. Signs were brought down on many a Proud Boy skull, but SPD soon moved in with bikes and peppery spray, once again separating the two sides. Three people with the IWW General Defense Committee were arrested, including one veteran.