A Tale of Two Cities: Charlottesville v. Seattle

What happened in Charlottesville? Here is the “drive-by” media narrative: a progressive mayor and his progressive deputy worked to remove a statue of slaveholder and traitor Robert E. Lee from a city park. A vile bunch of neo-nazis and white supremacists came from all over the country to protest and to do violence with peaceful, law-abiding counterdemonstrators. State and local authorities did their best to keep order, and two policeman lost their lives. Despite the best efforts of the police, one white supremacist, with malice aforethought, rammed his car into a harmless, nonviolent group of counterdemonstrators, killing a young woman and injuring others.

This narrative is not completely false: there were neo-nazis and white supremacists involved in the protest in Charlottesville, and many of the protesters came armed. What the mainstream media would prefer to keep off of your radar is that many of the counterdemonstrators came armed, too; that that the armed and violent counterdemonstrators greatly outnumbered the neo-nazis and white supremacists and, it appears, were principally involved in instigating the violence. Many of these armed counterdemonstrators affiliate themselves to the Orwellian-named Antifa—black clad, masked, armed, organized and trained thugs who will go anywhere at anytime to prevent people they don’t like, white supremacists, conservatives, or just plain old Oregon Republicans, from exercising their constitutional rights.

The authorities tried to separate the groups, until they decided that that was too even handed, cleared the park of the protestors, and made them run the gauntlet of the armed counter-protesters. The driver of the car that killed Heather Heyer has no previous criminal record, and some reports claim that he drove into the crowd in a panicked effort to escape counter-protesters who were attacking his car with baseball bats. On that, at least, those who actually want to know what happened will have to wait for the driver’s day in open court.

But if you want to know what really happened in Charlottesville on Saturday, you need to look at what happened in Seattle on Sunday.

In Seattle, a mainstream pro-Trump group called Patriot Prayer held a small rally downtown. Their organizer, Joey Gibson, addressed his crowd in these words, as reported by David Kroman and Lily Fowler:

“We have to find a way to come together, stop the fighting, stop the yelling,” Gibson said, denouncing the violence in Charlottesville. “There’s good and bad people on the right. There’s good and bad people on the left. We need to get the good people together.” Mr. Gibson the offered his mike to whoever wanted to speak: some echoed his message, other opposed it.

In Seattle, as in Charlottesville, the Left was no mood for Sunday school. The counterdemonstrators repeatedly clashed with police, trying to force their way through the police line in order to attack the pro-Trump demonstrators.

But unlike in Charlottesville, Seattle’s police stood their ground, and took their whacks (and silly string) from Antifa. Even though King County Executive, Dow Constantine, felt a shameful and partisan need to slander Patriot Prayer, the police in this instance did their job—recognizing, perhaps, that the group was mounting about as innocuous a political demonstration as it is possible to sponsor these days.  Or, perhaps,  though Seattle is a deep-blue city with a long and rich history of Leftist violence, the city authorities there still actually believe in the Constitution? Or maybe the police just wanted to do their jobs with professionalism? Whatever the explanation may be, we can be thankful that the police department in Seattle seems above the exploitative scoring of political points in which the authorities in Charlottesville and King County’s own Dow Constantine seemed all too ready to engage.

In Charlottesville, the nasty Left and the nasty Right showed up in force, and got what they came for, perhaps because the city and the state of Virginia did less than their best to keep the predictable from turning out as predicted. In Seattle, democracy—and not just violent and unhinged extremists—was in the streets. There just might be hope for America, thanks to Patriot Prayer, the Constitution, and Seattle’s liberal city government, which (praise the Lord) bet big on liberty and won.


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About Michael S. Kochin

Michael S. Kochin is Professor Extraordinarius in the School of Political Science, Government, and International Relations at Tel Aviv University. He received his A.B. in mathematics from Harvard and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. He has held visiting appointments at Yale, Princeton, Toronto, Claremont McKenna College, and the Catholic University of America. He has written widely on the comparative analysis of institutions, political thought, politics and literature, and political rhetoric. With the historian Michael Taylor he has written An Independent Empire: Diplomacy & War in the Making of the United States (University of Michigan Press, 2020).