On Sunday January 5th, the WA Three Percenters along with Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson held a “United Against Hate” rally at Seattle City Hall. Anti-fascists from around the Puget Sound region also gathered that day, in an attempt to stop them. The Three Percenters are a far-right militia group who frequently run security for alt-right speaking events and were one of the co-sponsors for the deadly white supremacist rally Unite The Right in 2017. The rally itself lacked a specific focus besides patriotism, anti-antifa rhetoric and Trump2020 electioneering. It did serve as a point of unity and connection for different members of the far-right and the remainder of the alt-right across the Puget Sound. Originally slated to speak was local failed politician Ari Hoffman, who ran on a virulently anti-homeless and tough on crime platform. He never made it past the city council primary but along with his cohort, Safe Seattle, have firmly cemented themselves as a local hate group in the eyes of many. Hoffman did not speak, and in fact denies saying that he would, but until a few days before the event the Three Percenters were promoting him as a speaker. Among those who did show up to speak was Joey Gibson, who voiced support for Washington State Representative Matt Shea, a leader in the Three Percenters who has also been publicly lambasted by the media and Republicans alike for disseminating a manifesto calling for a white nationalist uprising.
While the Three Percenter rally was scheduled to begin at 11am, about 50 of us showed up to City Hall Plaza several hours earlier to physically take up the space that their rally was to be held in. Right after we arrived the police began setting up metal crash barricades around the area. Eventually it became clear that no one else was getting in, and the comrades who were on the other side of the barricades would have to watch what unfolded. The rain was coming down in buckets and the wind picking up, as well as the police force surrounding us was swelling. We understood that we wouldn’t be focibly removed until the “permit holders” showed up and asked us to be removed-until then it was just wait. Eventually the Threepers did show, and they had to wait on the corner in the pouring rain while the police decided when to move in.
Eventually the police produced the permit, issued us a final warning, and we arranged ourselves in a manner so as to face-off with over 100 cops. As they pushed us out of the plaza, we gave way but not too easily, and eventually we were surrounded on three sides by bike cops, funneling us toward another group of comrades across the street. The police had successfully cleared the plaza so that the Three Percenters could begin setting up for their rally, albeit well after their start-time.
The CLAF (Community & Labor Against Fascism) counter-demonstration one block North from where the black bloc was had now grown considerably, and the Three Percenter rally had two groups of opposition. Their attendees seemed much more interested in looking and yelling at us than listening to their speakers. Time dragged on as it tends to in these situations, more alt-right types trickled into the Three Percenter rally, and eventually the black bloc made its way to join the CLAF counter-demonstration without much ado.
While both sides of the street continued to attract their respective audiences, the police presence became overwhelming. With many years of being in the streets, this was by far one of the largest police mobilizations we had seen in the area. Especially for what amounted to a fairly small far-right demo and counter-demo, but police lined both sides of the street as well as filled the intersection, soft riot police with 3 foot batons and cops on bikes created line after line between the two crowds.
Eventually, the bloc decided to leave the CLAF rally as the Three Perecenter rally was ending. It was most likely impossible that we could get around such police lines, but there was no way people weren’t going to try. Bike cops quickly moved to follow and intercept, cutting off the bloc from heading up hill and around to where the Threeper cars and buses were waiting. The bloc simply moved back down the same street but this time across from the CLAF rally, much closer to the III%er rally. The cops didn’t like this.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the polce sent in a line of bike cops from behind the CLAF rally to kettle the more militant crowd on the opposite sidewalk. Multiple arrests were made, as people were thrown to the ground seemingly at random. Some people managed to manuever out of the kettle before it closed but many comrades were stuck inside. After a brief standoff with crowds on both sides of the police line angry and chanting, people caught in the kettle were allowed to leave. Further down the street a lone cop car got attacked by a black clad crew. This brought us some joy as we remember the days when the police were also the targets of our rage and not just the fascists. This was a small moment, and not much damage was done-but it’s an important step in remembering that our fight has many fronts, and that when a chance to attack is there, we should take it. Predictably the cops moved in fast and began their infamous “MOVE BACK!” chant, using their bikes as blunt objects to push back protestors. The CLAF rally had also been pushed off from their sidewalk and into the streets with the bloc. The cops pushed everyone back well away from where the Three Percenter rally attendees were leaving City Hall.
At this point it became clear that one alt-right media journalist Elijah Schaffer had been filming from inside of the counter demo, and he was confronted along with his cameraman. It would later on become clear that Andy Ngo (or some poor sucker he convinced to film for him) was also filming from inside the bloc, and was himself dressed head to toe in black with his face covered. The rise of the “citizen journalist” and increased tolerance for phones and cameras within the black bloc has created a situation where it is now possible for more than one alt-right news-source to sneak into our demonstrations and film us without much repercussion. While neither of these grifters were successful in capturing any “damning” footage, let us take this as a warning. We must understand that cameras can be extreme threat to our personal and collective security as militant anarchists and anti-fascists and act accordingly. While there are some comrades who have exhibited how to film within the bloc without producing incriminating information and are not a threat to our safety, we must hold others under harsh scrutiny.
The day concluded with a protracted standoff of hundreds of cops against an ever dwindling crowd of CLAF attendees and ardent militants. No more arrests occurred after the earlier kettle. While anti-fascists and anarchists ultimately failed to stop the Three Percenter rally from happening, the rally was delayed and organizers were forced to rely on the police to clear the plaza for them to proceed. While we would have liked to shut the rally down in its entirety, or give the Threeper crowd enough of a fight that they would not return, the overwhelming police presence, shit weather and all around fatigue forced us to accept different metrics of success. The police are not a sidenote to this story, nor to the ever growing far right in the region. Their interference has kept both our organizing and collective strength in check to where the far right has continued to thrive. The police back the fascists, and that was more than evident as they physically removed us with a barricade of bikes so that Haley Adams could wave a Trump2020 flag in front of city hall. We will have to keep thinking of innovative and spontaneous ways to out–manuever them, or be willing to switch our targets as needed if we are going to continue to grow our collective strength in the streets.