By Jasmine Kozak-Gilroy and Felix Chrome
On Saturday March 4 an estimated 200 Trump supporters gathered at Heritage Park, for the “Spirit of America” rally celebrating Trumps policies, as well as conservative and nationalist themes. They were joined by approximately 125 counter-protesters, denouncing Trump and what he stands for, and about 100 police officers, primarily Washington State Patrol dressed in riot gear, with Olympia Police Department Officers on bicycles for backup.
Four people, one minor and three adults, all with the counter demonstration, were arrested at the beginning of the event. The details of the incident are unclear, but they were arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer, possibly after a scuffle between pro-Trump rally attendees and counter protesters. The police officer drove himself to the hospital and was not reported to have any serious injuries, but said someone threw an unknown substance on him.
The minor and two of the adults were not granted bail so remained in custody until their arraignment Monday. One had only misdemeanor charges, including obstructing an officer, and assault four, a misdemeanor one can be charged with without intention to assault another, or necessarily injuring them, and was released on bail. The minor and one adult were both charged with assault three, a felony designation for when “With intent to prevent or resist the execution of any lawful process or mandate of any court officer or the lawful apprehension or detention of himself, herself, or another person, assaults another.” The fourth was charged with assault two, a more serious felony.
Despite these early arrests, most of the event was relatively calm. Speakers at the Trump protest led the crowd in the national anthem, while supporters, decked out in their most patriotic gear, waved flags and chanted “U.S.A.” One of the pro Trump attendees was sporting a large oversized paper cut out of Trump head over his own face, while others carried signs reading “Latinas for Trump”, “Blue Lives Matter”, “Police are the Real Minority”, “Remember Our Veterans”, and “Jews For Trump 2020”. Many pro-Trump attendees were open carrying, and some were outfitted in military style gear.
The programed speakers went on as planned while counter protesters attempted to drown them out with chants and noisemakers. Trump supporters and counter demonstrators yelled and exchanged insults at times near the edge of the crowd, but were largely separated from interacting with one another by a line of police between the groups.
The rally programing consisted of several speakers, one of which was the mother of a solider who died in the Iraq war. In her speech she said, “We were very close to becoming a communist country. Socialism doesn’t work.” A stark parallel to the counter protesters, who were spotted holding a red and black anarcho-communist flag.
Another invited speaker was Jessie Gamble, the President of the College Republicans at the University of Washington, who garnered local controversy after the club invited Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the university and she personally started a crowdfunding campaign to cover fees for the event. The event, which involved more heated conflict between pro Trump attendees and counter demonstrators, ended with the shooting of an anti–fascist protester by a fan of Yiannopoulos.
Gamble identified herself as “the most hated student on a campus of 45,000 people”, recounting that the club had gone from three people a year ago to forty at the time of the rally, saying that, “it’s not just the typical republicans, it is people interested in politics for the first time. It’s people that liked Bernie Sanders but got gypped by the Democratic party so now they are joining us. It is the moderate liberals that feel the Seattle culture is too progressive for them, who are starting to join our club.”
The “Spirit of America” rally ended, with a rendition of “God Bless America” competing with shouts of “No Trump. No KKK. No Fascist USA.” noisemakers, and other yelling coming from the counter demonstration. When the crowds began to dwindle the remaining anti-Trump protesters marched through downtown lead by a banner with “A brewing storm of hatred upon our enemies” written in Yiddish, and a large “Black Lives Matter” banner. Near the Olympia Police Department headquarters the group dispersed without arrests or further incident.
An anonymous post on website “Puget Sound Anarchists” reflects on the day from the point of view of anti-Trump counter demonstrators, writing, “What happened at Heritage Park on Saturday felt like a terrain on which we could not win: a broad-daylight demo filled with riot cops and an armed alt-right, threatening us with their open-carry weapons. These confrontations are going to become increasingly unsuccessful and dangerous for us as Trump brings together various factions of the far-right especially the militia and patriot movements. As attacks on people of color and other targeted groups increase, we must increase our capacity to meet each other and expand beyond our current social circles in order to respond to this growing threat.” It seems on all sides of this protest and conflict, people are attempting to organize themselves, building competing coalitions.
The rally was sponsored by the Main Street Patriots, a national group founded by prominent Tea Party conservatives Ralph King and Debbie Dooley who have been facilitating rallies like the one in Olympia across the country. These events, called “Spirit of America” rallies, went on between February 27 and March 4 in 33 states. On their website they say that the rallies are being organized, “so the grassroots everyday citizens can show support for President Trump and his ‘Contract with the American Voter’ to ‘Make America Great Again’ in a positive, upbeat manner. We want to show Americans and the world why we support President Trump and that the vast majority of Americans who voted for him want to get on with our nation’s business influence public opinion in a positive way.”