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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 14, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 50
On Human Rights Day, Seattle activists call for city to respect free speech of those confronting white supremacist violence
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On Human Rights Day, Seattle activists call for city to respect free speech of those confronting white supremacist violence

SEATTLE (December 11, 2018) - Organizers of demonstrations against the far right brought their case to Seattle City Hall on December 10, International Human Rights Day. They called on Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle Police Department to stop denying the free speech and assembly rights of social justice advocates who are protesting the recruitment rallies of racist and misogynist groups.

Speakers at the news conference, organized by the December 1st Ad Hoc Coalition Against Misogyny, White Supremacy, and Anti-Semitism, called for a full investigation by the mayor's office of a 'pattern of biased treatment towards human rights defenders.'

Annaliza Torres, of the Freedom Socialist Party, described events surrounding a December 1 rally on the steps of City Hall, sponsored by a right-wing militia called the Washington Three Percenters. Torres said 'police thwarted effective counter-protest from opponents, who were kept a block away, barricaded, and surrounded by dozens of officers. Meanwhile,' Torres asserted, 'members of Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys, 'Western chauvinist' street brawlers, were allowed to roam freely and made several attempts to breach our security lines and instigate altercations with peaceful counter-protesters.'

Torres said, 'The Proud Boys have a pattern of attacking human rights defenders, dating to a June 2017 anti-Muslim rally at Seattle City Hall.' In that instance, she said, 'Seattle police pepper-sprayed counter-protesters and arrested three people who were defending themselves from punches thrown by Proud Boys.'

'Bias crimes in Seattle and surrounding areas will continue to rise if public opposition is discouraged by city officials,' continued Torres, citing the recent attack by white supremacists on an African-American DJ at a Lynnwood bar, and the anti-Semitic vandalism of a Jewish family's West Seattle home.

Neil Fox, speaking for the Seattle chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, expressed deep concern 'about how Seattle-area law enforcement agencies are responding to threats to our community - specifically, the threats posed by fascist groups.' He noted a Clark County Sheriff who was fired last summer due to her affiliation with the Proud Boys and asked, 'Is the hostility of the Seattle Police toward anti-fascist protesters in any way based in the infiltration of our police force by fascists? We want to know whether the Seattle Police Department or any other local police agencies have conducted internal investigations about whether any officers are members of such extremist groups.'

Union activists were also represented at the press conference, including Kirk Duncan of Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, who said his group 'is proud to be part of a coalition that is supporting the targets of ultra-right violence, and doing something to actively stop it.' Duncan described his experience in Kent, where 'Patriot Prayer [members] were allowed to hold a hostile rally in front of Planned Parenthood while we were pushed across the street and pepper-sprayed.' A statement from the Washington Federation of State Employees, Local 304, which endorsed the December 1 protest, referenced a resolution adopted by the statewide AFSCME and the Washington State Labor Council that calls for labor to 'unite and stand up for communities under attack.'

Radical Women spokesperson Helen Gilbert said 'many of the far-right groups rallying at City Hall are also harassing Planned Parenthood clinics in Kent, Seattle, and Olympia.' She also recalled 'their aggressive presence at the 2018 Seattle Women's March and the Pride Parade.' Gilbert said they act as 'a magnet for woman-hating bullies, like the so-called 'involuntary celibates' who have expressed their beliefs through mass killings in Santa Barbara, Toronto, and Tallahassee.' Gilbert said she was appalled to see the police barricade of counter-protesters on December 1. 'We have not been the initiators of violence. It was supporters of the far right who shot a protester at the UW campus on Inauguration Day last year.'

Party for Socialism and Liberation speaker Liam Hopkins said the only way to oppose far-right violence is through 'collective self-defense' and to let ultra-rightists know they are 'not welcome here.'

Henry Noble, whose Jewish relatives suffered under the Nazis, called the Proud Boys and other such groups 'modern-day storm troopers and brownshirts.' Noble recently attended a rally in West Seattle that was called by neighbors of the family targeted with anti-Semitic spray-painting where, he said, 'participants connected the murders of worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh to the deadly rampage in Charlottesville.' Noble said that when he showed up to confront ultra-rightists on December 1, police directed him a block away. 'The bigots could not even read our signs. That is not free speech.' Noble stressed that 'city officials should support human rights, not Nazis! People who are against racism and anti-Semitism - and I hope more will come out - need to be able to tell the perpetrators of fear and bigotry to go back under their rocks.'

The organizations that sponsored the December 1st counter-protest were the ANSWER Coalition, the Freedom Socialist Party, the International Socialist Organization, the Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Radical Women, and the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America. Endorsers included Dyke Community Activists, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Puget Sound Socialist Party, Seattle Gay News, Seattle Silence Breakers, Social Equity Educators, and the Washington Federation of State Employees Local 304.



Courtesy of Radical Women

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