SEATTLE — Right-wing demonstrators gathered Saturday at Seattle City Hall for a “Liberty or Death” rally that drew counter-protesters from the left, while dozens of police kept the two sides separated. Three men have been arrested for misdemeanor assault.
The right-wing groups Washington 3 Percenters and Patriot Prayer were holding the rally outside Seattle City Hall to protest an effort to launch a gun-control initiative that would raise the age in Washington state for people buying semi-automatic rifles and against political violence on the left — though there were dozens of assault-style rifles and handguns within the group.
The left-wing groups Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party were rallying at the same site.
“Their message won’t go unanswered in Seattle,” Annaliza Torres, a counter-protest organizer with the Freedom Socialist Party, said Friday before the rally.
WATCH: Counter-protesters share their thoughts
Watch the protest:
(Warning: There may be explicit language in the livestream)
Counter-protesters say they are fighting against intolerance and also remembering those lost to far-right violence like anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville last August while she was protesting a white nationalist rally.
“We’re for self-defense,” said Monica Hill, counter protester. “If somebody is being violent you better hope I have the skill to be violent back to defend myself. But this movement and what it stands for is not violent. We don’t stand for laying back and letting ourselves be attacked and exterminated.”
Hundreds of protesters on each side of the street were separated by Saturday afternoon by metal barriers along Fourth Avenue and police officers as the left-wing protesters yelled and used cow bells and sirens to try to drown out speeches from the right-wing side.
WATCH: More coverage of the rally
“When they say it’s our time to rise, what does that mean?, said Washington 3 Percenter’s organizer Matt Marshall. “Oh, it’s just the silent majority outside of the coasts have been quiet for a while, and it’s our time to have a voice and stop being silent.”
The challenge was keeping each side from crossing to the opposing side, especially when the Proud Boys started marching around City Hall.
Some counter protestors considered the officers police presence too much.
“I think the police are way, way overstated and they turn into a fascist escort service,” Doreen McGrath said. “They have to escort the right wing to the bathroom and everything, it’s ridiculous.”
The counter demonstrators outnumbered and drowned out the ‘Proud Boys’ rally from across the street.
“We’re building a movement that’s going to stand up to these guys every-time they climb out of their rocks and they can climb back under their rocks,” McGrath said.
Additional police also arrived, including police in riot gear with batons who took up positions in the street. Bicycle officers lined up their bikes as a type of moving barrier to keep protesters from entering the street, which remained open to traffic.
“Let’s dominate again and destroy these communists once and for all,” protester Jered Bonneau said. “No more gun control, no more political correctness, no more safe spaces, no more acceptance of ludicrous ideas. If they want to flight, lets fight.”
The gun-control initiative would boost the age for the purchase of semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 and would expand the background checks for those purchases. The measure would also require people to complete a firearm safety training course and create standards for safely storing firearms.
But a judge on Friday threw out 300,000 signatures needed to put the initiative on the November ballot, saying the petition’s format did not follow election law. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the group behind the initiative, has filed a notice of appeal with the Washington Supreme Court.
The protest came two weeks after police in riot gear in Portland, Oregon, tried to keep right-wing and left-wing groups apart. The effort mostly succeeded but police were accused of being heavy-handed, prompting the city’s new police chief to order a review of officers’ use of force.