VANCOUVER, Wash. - After a series of violent confrontations with Antifa protesters, the Patriot Prayer group is now heading north with two events on college campuses.
The group plans to be at Clark College on Monday, even though the school announced Thursday that it would be closed in anticipation of their arrival to avoid any danger to students.
The next stop for Patriot Prayer is WSU Vancouver on Tuesday.
In a statement, the school said the campus and its public forum area would be open Tuesday, but students could elect not to come to campus, and should not be penalized.
The school also noted that no weapons of any sort are allowed on campus.
"I would never want to limit somebody’s freedom of speech. We’ve had protesters come here that we didn’t necessarily agree with and it was never a problem with them; the problem is the safety," said Manuel Avalos, a junior public affairs major at WSU Vancouver.
Other students expressed similar concerns, not just about Patriot Prayer but about the opposition that seems to follow them -- often Antifa protesters -- and the violent clashes that have repeatedly taken place in Portland's streets.
"I’m OK with both sides being here. It’s the violence that makes me a little scared in that that should be the reason somebody’s not able to come," said Kassidy Young, a senior at WSU Vancouver.
Young said, rather than confront any demonstrators, students should follow the advice of the school's chancellor and avoid or ignore any protests on campus.
"We don’t want to do a counter-protest because that just endangers us as students, but we want the safety of our students to be something that’s ultimate," Young said.
"There’s people that are saying that we shouldn’t be fearful about these people coming onto our campus because they’re just here to talk, but the problem is there’s a precedent set," said Avalos.
Full statement from Mel Netzhammer, Chancellor of WSU Vancouver:
Dear Campus Community:
This is an update regarding the rally organized by an outside group regarding Washington Initiative 1639 that expands regulation of firearms. Reports indicate the event will occur Tuesday, Oct. 23 between noon and 2 p.m. on campus.
I am getting a lot of questions about whether people can bring weapons on campus. The answer is no. Washington Administrative Code 504-31-020 prohibits possession or use of firearms, explosives, dangerous chemicals or other dangerous weapons or instrumentalities on the university campus.
WSU’s limited public forum area is outdoors. Demonstrators are restricted from our buildings and are prohibited by law and university rules from behavior that disrupts campus operations.
Remember campus safety is my top priority. Campus police will be present Tuesday throughout the rally. If anyone were to break the law, the police will hold them accountable.
Many of you know Clark College is expecting the same group to hold a rally on their campus Monday, Oct. 22. I learned today Clark College has elected to close Monday. WSU Vancouver will remain open Tuesday, however, we are doing our best to ensure students, faculty and staff have options if they choose not to come to campus.
Many faculty members received a letter and/or leaflet written by students asking them to cancel classes on Tuesday. Faculty members who make that choice have a responsibility to communicate with their students in advance by email or through Blackboard, along with letting office support staff know the status of their course. Consider alternative course delivery as an option.
Students who elect not to come to campus on Tuesday are responsible for contacting their faculty members in advance. And I ask faculty members not to penalize students.
My best advice on Tuesday is not to engage with protestors. Ignore them.
I continue to take the gravity of this event and the potential of conflict between opposing groups causing harm to our community very seriously. I will communicate with you again if I learn anything new.
We are a community—students, faculty and staff—and we will get through Tuesday together.