King Co. executive to white supremacists: ‘We stand united against hateful rhetoric'

The King County executive shared strong words as conservative, pro-Trump group known as “Patriot Prayer” descended on downtown Seattle in the wake of violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Demonstrators billed its "freedom rally" supported freedom and free speech. Executive Dow Constantine issued this statement as the demonstration was underway Sunday afternoon:

“To the white supremacists and fascists who gathered today at Westlake Center under the false pretense of patriotism the day after the violence that a similar group sparked in Charlottesville, I have a message to share on behalf of the people of King County.”

“We fought a Civil War against slavery, and you lost. We fought a World War against fascism, and you lost. Today, we stand united against the hateful rhetoric you have brought to our community. And you will lose again.”

>> See photos from the demonstration here

Other Washington state leaders, including Sen. Patty Murray, condemned the actions and made a call for people to "stand up and fight back." 

Who is Patriot Prayer?

Portland-based Patriot Prayer's Facebook event on its rally didn't give clear reasons on why people were demonstrating. But the event page listed a variety of items the group claimed it was worried about – including sexual allegations against the Seattle mayor and what the group called "communist ideologies."

Leader Joey Gibson started the rally with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer asking for peace on the West Coast.

Speakers in the rally called the Charlottesville incident an act of terrorism, said that white supremacists were not welcome at their event, and asked anyone who attended for racist reasons to leave.

Gibson, who hosted a Patriot Prayer event earlier in the summer at The Evergreen State College, spoke to KIRO Radio on Monday and further spoke on his group's message. He said that he was not at Westlake Park to preach hate.

"I have no idea what the hell they're thinking about [this weekend] with the torches, David Duke and [Richard] Spencer, but I do not stand with that. The whole thing. I don't understand what the hell happened yesterday. But they did it on purpose to tear apart this country," Gibson told KIRO Radio.

Activists counterprotest 'freedom rally' 

The “freedom rally" message was met by boos in the crowd as counterprotesters with the “solidarity met by hate” demonstration converged.

"We don't want fascism in America," said counter-protester Mave Bowman, who lives in Los Angeles. "We don't tolerate violence like what happened [this weekend] so this is our way of saying no to like the Trump regime."

Counterprotesters marched from Denny Park through downtown Seattle to Westlake Park, but many of those protesters were prevented from reaching the "freedom rally" location.

But some counter-protesters made it.

A barricade separated the groups of protesters in downtown Seattle. Police officers stood by dressed in black, riot gear. Police said they used pepper spray and blast balls to disperse crowds after fireworks were thrown at officers.

Three people were arrested: a 40-year-old man for obstruction, a 37-year-old man for assault and a 25-year old man for assault.

Council member Mike O'Brien expressed frustration over the crowd being kept away from Westlake Park.

"Why weren't the demonstrators not allowed to get to Westlake Park?" O'Brien said. "I don't know what the call was. I'm not in a position to second-guess that at the moment."

Demonstrations respond nationwide in wake of Charlottesville 

Seattle was just one of the cities in the United States on Sunday that had protesters decrying hate and racism. In Charlottesville over the weekend, neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists gathered to "take America back" and oppose plans to remove a Confederate statue in the Virginia college town, and hundreds of other people came to protest the rally.

The groups clashed in street brawls, with hundreds of people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and beating each other with sticks and shields.

Eventually, a car rammed into a peaceful crowd of anti-white-nationalist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. A Virginia State Police helicopter deployed in a large-scale response to the violence then crashed into the woods outside of town. Both troopers on board died.

President Donald Trump condemned what he called an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," a statement that Democrats and some of the president's fellow Republicans saw as equivocating about who was to blame. The White House later added that the condemnation "includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."

Some of the white nationalists at Saturday's rally cited Trump's victory, after a campaign of racially charged rhetoric, as validation for their beliefs. Some of the people protesting Sunday also point to the president and his campaign, saying they gave license to racist hatred that built into what happened in Charlottesville.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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