Northwest News

Protesters clash with white supremacists in downtown Olympia

The recent shooting of two African-American men in west Olympia continues to galvanize the community in different ways, including violent and peaceful forms of protest.

And the weekend provided examples of both, according to the Olympia Police Department, witnesses and those who attended a peaceful gathering on Sunday at Sylvester Park.

It all began Saturday night after about 150 protesters, including some wearing masks, marched through downtown to counter-protest a planned gathering of white supremacists, an Olympia Police Department spokeswoman said Sunday.

The protest and march resulted in some vehicle windows and tires being slashed. A man also was stabbed in the arm about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, although that incident was thought to be unrelated to the protest, spokeswoman Laura Wohl said.

The police are still looking for the stabbing suspect, while the victim, who suffered a serious injury to his arm, was first taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital and then Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, she said.

The injury was serious enough that a police officer who responded to the incident applied a tourniquet, she said.

The Olympian is including the stabbing incident in this story because there has been confusion about what happened and did not happen during the protest.

Meanwhile, dozens of protesters, thought to be in their 20s, gathered at Percival Landing about 9 p.m. to counter-protest a planned gathering of white supremacists.

The white supremacists weren’t there, so the protest continued down Fourth Avenue, she said.

Eventually the protesters encountered the white supremacists in the area of Fourth Avenue and Adams Street, Wohl said.

That’s when things turned ugly, said Rob Smith of Olympia, a witness to the protest who called The Olympian on Sunday.

He described the clash between protesters and white supremacists as an “outright brawl,” in which the white supremacists eventually fled while some protesters gave chase, including picking up metal chairs from a restaurant providing outdoor seating, and then flinging them at several trucks occupied by the white supremacists, causing extensive damage.

Smith called it “complete mayhem.”

Another caller to The Olympian on Sunday, who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, said the white supremacist group is called “volksfront,” and was there to show support for the Olympia Police Department.

Katie Delgado of Olympia, who contacted The Olympian by email and also witnessed the protest, said some of the protesters, which she described as anarchists, carried baseball bats.

Smith added that some white supremacists also had baseball bats.

During the protest, police blocked streets and directed traffic, but did not engage the protesters, she said.

Smith, too, said police officers did not engage the protesters and he called that a disappointment.

In one instance, a man allegedly emerged drunkenly from a bar and confronted the protesters, punching a wheelchair-bound protester and bloodying his nose, Smith said.

“Why be there if you’re not going to do anything?” he said about the apparent lack of police engagement.

The white supremacists eventually left the area, while the protesters continued to march around downtown until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

No arrests were made during the protest, Wohl said.

A different kind of gathering took place Sunday.

On Sunday about 30 people, most of whom appeared to be in their 20s, gathered peacefully about noon at Sylvester Park to talk seriously about how they, as Caucasians, can better assist the Black Lives Matter movement, black leadership and people of color, said Socket Klatzker, 38, an activist and organizer, as well as a mental health counselor.

After a group discussion, they broke into smaller groups to further their discussions.

Vered Serotta, 18, a student at The Evergreen State College, attended Sunday because she wanted to learn more about being a “white ally” and how to support people of color.

“This is a difficult time,” she said.

Olympia Officer Ryan Donald shot and wounded Andre Thompson, 24, and Bryson Chaplin, 21, on May 21. The two men are suspected of attempting to steal beer from the Safeway on Olympia’s west side. They were shot nearby in a confrontation on Cooper Point Road.