Worried about violence at protest, UW restricts Red Square access
SEATTLE -- The University of Washington Police Department has "obtained credible information that groups from outside the UW community" intend to join a planned protest on campus Saturday "with the intent to instigate violence," UW President Ana Mari Cauce said in a memo to students, faculty and staff on Friday morning.
She said several groups have canceled or postponed events Saturday and that access to Red Square will be limited on Saturday.
"...I encourage you to avoid Red Square, and the surrounding area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday to ensure your own personal safety," she wrote.
"I don’t want to put myself at risk first of all," said UW Student Jackson Mayo. "It's hard because both sides are so far apart and they need to start listening to each other because both of them are so vitriolic I guess is one word to describe it and it’s a little disturbing.”
The conservative Patriot Prayer group plans a rally from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Red Square. It is being sponsored by college Republicans.
The group had a rally in Seattle in August at Westlake Plaza. There was a clash with counterprotesters. Police arrested three people after using blast balls and pepper spray.
“When you look at all these events, we are not the ones that are the problem, the protesters are,” said Chevy Swanson, President of the UW College Republicans.
The UW wants $17,000 in security fees for the event this weekend. The college Republicans have objected and have sued over the fee.
On Friday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman issued a temporary restraining order against the UW and allowed the rally to go forward.
The legal battle over the fee will be decided later.
The UW issued this statement about the judge's order: "The UW will comply with the terms of the temporary restraining order, but this legal process is ongoing and we will continue to advocate for charging reasonable security fees to campus groups based on objective criteria. These criteria include an analysis of violence and threats to public safety by the invited speaker, attendees at previous events or the sponsoring group – both in and out of the state of Washington – as well as the date, time and location of the proposed event. This policy has implications not just for this event or this group, but for any major event hosted by any registered student organization that could raise security concerns. "
The school anticipates more than $50,000 will be spent toward security on Saturday.
“We maintain that this cost should not be covered by other students’ tuition dollars,” said UW spokesperson Victor Balta in a statement following the court ruling.
Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer doesn’t want violence, but claims views that differ from the “leftist leadership” of Seattle and the University need to be heard.
“That’s what happens when you take a stand and challenge this stuff," said Gibson. “We refuse to stand down, then things happen.”
"It’s just so scary that it can happen so close," said UW Student Lindsey Bee. "Be safe and be respectful of other people, you’re allowed to have a right and an opinion but it’s probably not best to be violent about it tomorrow.”
The public interest law firm that represented the college Republicans has noted that a group it calls Antifa anarchists is planning to disrupt the event. It provided a link to an anarchist site where there is a call for counterdemonstrations.
The UW International Socialist Organization hosting the counter protest told KOMO News in a statement:"Whatever the College Republicans and Patriot Prayer may say, this rally is a space where outspoken white supremacists and everyone near them politically will come and try to recruit into their own organizations. This is unacceptable that they are creating a space for this to happen. Our goal is to make it clear to them that their bigoted ideas are marginal, and they are not welcome on our campus. And we want to do this by being there with as many people from the community as possible to stand and to speak out against these ideas. If we are many and they are few, that sends a clear message to them. But if no-one shows up, that means these worst elements of the far right have nothing to hold them back from gaining influence"
Violence occurred in January 2017 at the UW as conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos spoke there. He was on campus after being invited by college Republicans.
Violent protests took place on campus, and one man was shot.