Police arrested at least one person at a free speech rally organized to oppose political correctness at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. Clashes marked the gathering, as black-clad counter-protesters arrived with silly string and pepper spray.
Riot police flanked protesters from both sides of the political spectrum gathered at The Evergreen State College, as the liberal arts institution was otherwise closed and all campus activities were suspended Thursday.
On one side, the “Patriot Prayer” conservative group gathered to protest the college’s “Day of Absence,” a long-time annual event that came with a twist this year. Instead of a voluntary boycott by a particular minority – such as women or immigrants – this time students demanded a day without white people be enforced. In May, protests erupted after a white professor at the college refused to participate. Dozens of students later demanded the professor’s resignation after he wrote an email about the incident, which they deemed to be racist.
The Patriot Prayer group is calling for the college’s funding to be cut since they say it has been taken over by political correctness and hatred.
“You cannot ask students and professors to leave campus because of the color of their skin,” the group’s Facebook page said.
On the other side, counter-protesters often referred to as anti-fascists, were dressed all in black, with black masks and black hats.
The Puget Sound Anarchists’ website called for people to come protest the Patriot Prayer rally, saying the group “works closely with explicit fascists, and white supremacists.”
Both groups were met by around 65 Washington State troopers armed with rifles and dressed in riot gear, according to the Olympian.
At one point, the counter-protesters began spraying the free speech protesters with silly string.
Joey Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer group, was seen being escorted away from the event after he claimed he approached the counter-protesters and tried to shake hands with them. Gibson said he was called a “racist” and a “fascist” and someone dressed in black hit him in the face with a can and pepper-sprayed him.
“Not one person shook my hand, not one. I just wanted to have a conversation,” Gibson said. “They act like they’re against hate, there’s no way. If they’re against hate then they would have taken my hand and shaken it like a man. That’s all I’m asking for.”
Upon leaving the protest, Gibson also allegedly had his tires slashed, along with several other protesters.
Washington State Patrol confirmed that a 25-year-old man was arrested for disorderly conduct during the event. No other arrests were made.
Male arrested @EvergreenStCol for disorderly conduct was 25yo. No other arrests at this time.
— WA State Patrol (@wastatepatrol) June 16, 2017
No other details were provided about the individual who was arrested, however, one user posted an image on Twitter, showing two men fighting on the ground, along with a caption that said, “Patriot Prayer supporter wrestles man with a knife at Evergreen State College. They handed him over to state troopers.”
Other users also confirmed that someone at the event had a knife and was tackled.
At the end of the day, the protesters left without any major incidents or injuries reported. As one Twitter user said, “This is an actual conversation happening between 2 sides that hasn’t gotten ugly.”
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