An organizer of a free-speech rally against radical social justice activism at Evergreen State College this week was pepper-sprayed and left bloodied by Antifa activists. After the event, attendees of the free-speech march found several of their cars vandalized.
Joey Gibson, founder of the Vancouver, Washington-based Patriot Prayer group, organized the event in protest of the college’s treatment of biology professor Bret Weinstein. Last month, Weinstein launched the small liberal arts college into the national spotlight after it emerged that he was berated, threatened and driven off campus by students and faculty because he took issue with an event that asked white people to stay off campus for a day.
Gibson’s free speech-themed, pro-Donald Trump rallies in the Pacific Northwest have attracted significant controversy. In May, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler asked the federal government to revoke the permit for Gibson’s rally on June 4 after a fatal knife attack in Portland left two men dead. The request was denied and Wheeler’s request was denounced by the ACLU of Oregon.
In the week before Gibson’s planned Evergreen State protest, local self-identified anti-fascist groups mobilized over social media, accusing Patriot Prayer of supporting white supremacy and fascism.
Gibson dismissed the accusations and called them baseless. “We have several people of color, including myself,” he said. “Antifa is just a bunch of white people.”
Gibson and around 50 others—mostly conservatives and libertarians from the Washington and Oregon area—congregated at a small plaza near the Evergreen State campus in Olympia, Washington. After a few short speeches, the group walked to the center of campus, where they were promptly confronted by at least a hundred masked protesters dressed in black. The “Antifa black bloc,” as they are commonly known, hurled projectiles at Gibson’s group and sprayed them with silly string.
Dozens of heavily armored police officers moved in to keep the two groups separated, but Gibson was later hit in the face with a spray can—drawing blood. He was also pepper sprayed when he attempted to speak to some of the protesters.
Separately, a group of men quickly tackled a masked protester, accusing him of brandishing a knife. After restraining him, he was turned over to police officers.
Coltan Campion, who traveled from Seattle to protest Evergreen State, called the black bloc activists “dangerous ideologues” and “racists.”
“Social justice is racist,” he said. “Racism is when you believe that people of different ethnicities are inherently different from one another and therefore should be treated differently.”
The heavy police presence prevented further serious altercations although there was one arrest. At one point, some Antifa protesters used whatever they could gather as projectiles. A small group picked pine cones and twigs off a tree and hurled them at a black man standing on the Patriot Prayer side. Earlier in the protest, I was hit by a banana.
Although most attendees at the event were politically polarized, a dozen people observed from the sideline.
Alex Pearson, at junior at Evergreen State, said he supports racial justice but doesn’t agree with all of the tactics coming from the far-left. “If you’re not to the level of where they are, you have the risk of being put with the complete opposite people,” he said.
On the college’s planned “Day of Absence,” where white people were asked to leave the campus for a day, Pearson, who is white, said he accidentally attended class. “I was not aware that I wasn’t supposed to be on campus,” he said. “There was an aura of ‘you weren’t supposed to be here.’” He added that outside of a few “odd looks,” he was not harassed or accosted, however.
I attempted to interview Antifa protesters, but most declined to speak. One masked female, who declined to give her name, explained the group’s skepticism towards media. “People frame Antifa very poorly and call them terrorists,” she said. “Theoretically, I haven’t heard of Antifa beating up any minorities ever.”
After the rally, Gibson and his group discovered that several of their cars’ tires had been slashed once they returned to the parking lot. “That’s all they got in their lives,” Gibson said. “Just running around and slashing tires like little children. Someday they’ll grow up and learn how to have a conversation.”
Before the rally began, I witnessed a small group of masked people standing at a distance and monitoring Gibson’s group as they arrived. They declined to comment beyond stating that they were there to “document” the event.
A young male dressed in black was later seen taking photographs of license plates belonging to the cars of people with Gibson’s group as they were driving away.