Left Coast Right Watch

REPORTER AND WITNESSES DESCRIBE VIOLENT OLYMPIA RALLY, SHOOTING

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by ALISSA AZAR

EDITOR'S NOTE : Alissa Azar is a Portland-based journalist. You can find some of her work on her Twitter and Instagram, and support her journalism on her Patreon. You can tip Alissa for her work on Venmo at @R3volutionDaddy and Cashapp at $pdxalissa. Send her any tips or events to cover at r3volutiondaddy@protonmail.com

On September 4th, a group of antifascists met up in a park to counter continuing far-right demonstrations in downtown Olympia. Fascist groups like the Proud Boys had been regularly gathering every Saturday at the Washington State Capitol building under the guise of rallying against mask and vaccine mandates. As is typical with far-right groups, these events were really just cover to recruit new members and assault anyone they deemed “Antifa”.

Local antifascists in Olympia grew sick of the constant hate and violence and put out a call to action, but were outnumbered and decided not to confront the right-wing extremists head-on. The Proud Boys, however, wandered around looking for “Antifa,” and the group of antifascist activists and myself were attacked on sight. These fascists continued to hunt antifascists throughout downtown, Proud Boys hit fleeing people on their backs with blunt objects and throwing punches and pepper-spraying bystanders and antifascists alike. One person, since arrested, retaliated, shooting Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, a Proud Boy leader with a long history of violence, in the leg. Shortly after Toese was shot, the Proud Boys and other fascists continued to roam the streets until they ran into me, by chance, and proceeded to sexually assault me.

HOW THE DAY STARTED

Upon arrival at the park, the group waited around, giving some time for people to show up, then eventually closed in to discuss the best course of action to take for the day. After being informed that there were at least 60 Proud Boys alone armed to the teeth with bats, clubs, paintball guns, mace, and more, the group decided they didn’t have the numbers to face the armed fascists and the best course of action for the day would be to head down to city hall. Later in the day, local right wing political candidate Candace Mercer had plans to have an event and video shoot held down at city hall. Antifascists decided on heading over there for a noise demo to disrupt their video shoot. The group had been keen on confronting the fascists, and understandably so, but most people put their pride aside and decided that it was the right move to make—the fascists that day were out for blood.

As we marched from the park down to city hall through downtown, I was shocked to see how many bystanders and business owners in this city seemed to have black bloc’s back and gave them support. It was encouraging. The police were nowhere to be seen at this point, or all day really, aside from a decent amount of Olympia Police Department squad cars being stationed all over downtown, keeping their eyes out and watching leftists. When the group was having a discussion at the park, at least 3 OPD vehicles drove by, one officer not leaving before taking the group’s picture on their iPhone. As we continued to march, the amount of random people passing by us and giving the group warnings increased. We went from a few random “be carefuls'' to an increasing amount of “they’re looking for you,” and “they’re coming for you!'' We continued making our way down to city hall. Once we had arrived, the group seemed to have evaded the Proud Boys who were up at the capitol, but some cars kept stopping by and giving us warnings, saying that they were on their way and almost over to us. Not moments after someone driving by gave the bloc the latest warning, a bloc participant shouted “there they are!”

I could hardly see a thing and was so confused. I turned away from the bloc and started looking around. The street to my right had nothing but oncoming traffic on a narrow road and bystanders enjoying their weekend, and to my left I really couldn’t see much, but when I saw it, I knew that the group was fucked. As the fascists were about two a half blocks away turning the corner, I remember hearing subtle (but obnoxious) chants of “fuck antifa!” I looked behind me and the bloc was scattering trying to figure out what to do. Despite trying to avoid it, the conflict had come to us.

I wanted to document as much as I could, but no one there could idle around. The moment the Proud Boys spotted the group of bloc, they started charging. The only thing anyone could do at the time was try to get out of the area. Some bloc that were more geared up and better equipped stayed slightly behind and closer to the Proud Boys while the unarmed antifascists took off. As they created a buffer, other antifascists sprayed a wall of bear mace to deter the fascists from getting any closer. This worked, but ten or so Proud Boys with gear such as gas masks and goggles were able to withstand the mace and still got through.

All I wanted to do that day was document what was happening and do my job, but I knew my only way to make it out of there was to stay with the bloc. As the Proud boys got closer, the first thing they saw was myself and another person filming them. They began shouting “Kill Miguel! Kill Alissa!'' I took some footage while basically running backwards, then booked it to catch up with the closest bloc I could find. By this time people had already escaped in a few different directions. We ran across a back alley and then back onto the main street where a bunch of civilians were, turning the corner back onto 4th street.

While running further down 4th street, we heard a scream and stopped to look back only to see Proud Boys assaulting a young bystander who was standing on the corner of the street. They thought she “looked like antifa” because she was in all black. They sprayed her with bear mace and hit her on the back of the head with whatever blunt objects they had. She later wound up in the hospital with a serious concussion. Someone in bloc was able to pull her out of the brutal assault, taking countless blows from a large metal pipe by a Proud Boy in the process. Before the bear mace was deployed, I was standing next to a family that was dining outdoors. I was trying to figure out what was going on behind me. The family, frightened and confused, rushed inside as the group of Proud Boys approached. The youngest kid with them was really frustrated and upset, complaining to his parents that they got the bear mace all over his french fries.

After bloc stepped in to help her out, the Proud Boys got even more aggressive and began throwing hits at anyone that they could get their hands on, including medics who were providing aid, and spraying the street with multiple canisters of bear mace. Most of the bloc had already escaped this specific area by this time. Downtown Olympia on 4th street was filled with people dining outdoors as the Proud Boys pranced through, fully equipped in all their LARP gear and spraying everyone on the street with bear mace.

EYEWITNESSES DESCRIBE SHOOTING

After that initial attack, I got entirely separated from the group. The following summary comes from interviews with five activists who were on the ground that day who spoke on condition of anonymity:

Following the attack on the young girl, bloc continued to run through downtown. Some antifascists were able to hide in businesses along the way, but others, some of whom were injured, were refused entrance by certain businesses. Eventually, the two groups who had been split up made their way back to each other, and a group of around 15 bloc continued sprinting in order to get away from the group of around 50 armed Proud Boys. Not long after regrouping and running, the antifascists reached the transit center.

“I turned around and Tiny sprinted around the bushes, stopped in front of me and said ‘What’s up bitches? You’re fucking dead now!'” one activist I spoke to recalled. Seconds later, the Proud Boys began sucker-punching and hitting them from behind with blunt objects as antifascists continued to try and make their escape.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever been truly afraid during an antifascist action. I sprayed a quick cloud before literally running for my life. Could tell something was about to happen…ten seconds later the shots were fired,” the activist said.

Another activist described the lead-up to the gunfire. They said that “the antifascists that were attacked from behind gathered themselves and got away. This was when one of the antifascists turned around and allegedly pulled out a gun and fired shots at the Proud Boys to keep them from continuing their attack(s)…in the footage that was released, you can see the alleged shooter being thrown into some bushes and hit in the back with a blunt object.”

On September 23rd, almost three weeks later, Olympia Police Department arrested an antifascist whom they believed to be the alleged shooter. They were arrested on the charge of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. Their bail is set at $100,000 and their upcoming omnibus hearing is set for October 20th.

In December 2020, two Saturdays in a row, protestors on the right shot live rounds at antifascists, injuring two people. Both incidents were caught on camera, and both times the shooters were found and identified. On December 5th, Christopher Guenzler shot an antifascist activist. He was charged with assault in the second degree and his bail was set at $50,000. He was released, and then had all his charges dropped in March, 2020. One week later on December 12th, Forest Michael Machala also shot an antifascist and was arrested that same day. One week later, Machala was let out. His bail was also set at $50,000, though he paid a $5,000 bond prior to his release. His assault in the 2nd degree charge was completely dropped during his arraignment.

WHY THE FASCISTS KNOW ME BY NAME

As you’re about to read, when the Proud Boys attacked me, they immediately called me out by name. I have been getting targeted by various actors on the far-right for a bit, and this assault was unfortunately not the first. The far-right has been obsessed with discrediting and making targets out of “antifa press.” They despise me because I strive to expose the truth and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions, but mostly so because I’m Arab and a woman—two things that any self-proclaimed “western chauvinist” would surely respect and not be threatened by. From my experience, one of the biggest things that brings these men together is their shared misogynistic ideologies and sick fantasies, and they are certainly not quiet about their xenophobia. Andy Ngo posted various ridiculous tweets about me that shortly after made it onto the international Proud Boys Telegram channels, and the same thing with things that Joey Camp posted about me, many of which included sensitive and vulnerable private information and content. All of which has come back to be used as ammo when targeting me, including visits to my home.

PROUD BOYS AND ASSOCIATES ASSAULT ME

After getting separated from the group, I knew that this part of the day was over and that by now, everyone was just trying to get home safely. I was done for the day and ready to head out. I knew that bloc and fash were at least a few blocks away, though I had no idea where. I started walking down 4th street to meet up with some folks before leaving. There were still cops all over downtown, most intersections in that area had at least one squad car parked at most a few blocks away, and as I had passed one, another officer in their vehicle proceeded to take my picture on what looked like their personal device. I reached an intersection and quickly glanced over my left shoulder to make sure that it was safe to cross. No cars, great. I quickly glanced over my right shoulder, I didn’t see any cars, but instead I just saw a large group of people turn the corner. By the time I could even make out what exactly was happening, or confirm to myself that it was real, someone at the head of the group leading the proud boys shouted “There’s Alissa! Get her!”

I remember for a half second I was actually naive enough to pass everything off and think I would be able to walk away just fine—that I’d only have to endure some racial slurs, misogyny, and other verbal harassment from them like they usually do until I was out of their sight. A bunch of incoherent shouting with random audible slurs directed at me was not out of the ordinary, but it only took me a millisecond to realize how astonishingly wrong I was about their intentions. I started running for my life. I had no time to think or act or really do anything but run. I now had a group of around 50 Proud Boys chasing after me.

Three of the men in the group sprinted ahead and caught up to me. Two of them putting their hands all over me. I was grabbed and touched all over my body in both violent and sexual ways and shoved to the ground. I remember getting tunnel vision and feeling like time was frozen during that whole violent encounter, yet somehow it all happened so incredibly fast. I was pushed up against a wall, had my hair pulled and was bear maced by the third man who ran ahead with them. It was one of the scariest and most traumatic events of my life. It was bright as day on a sunny afternoon, there were bystanders all over, but yet I was completely alone in that moment. There was a moment during all of that where it felt like time froze and I remember just looking at all of them, taking it all in and being scared for my life as I realized what these men were capable of, and saw what they really wish they could have done to me. I’m still having flashbacks and still wondering what would have happened had I not been able to escape and take refuge in that bar. While this was happening, other Proud Boys in their group were laughing menacingly and shouting things like “Grab her ass! Whip her ass!” and “Pull her hair! Get her!” Staff at the bar I ended up hiding in had to stand outside and keep anyone from coming in.

The Proud Boys, who were supposedly in Olympia this weekend to provide “security” for this antivaxx rally, have been giving a mix of excuses as to why they’re out for years now. Regardless of what they, or any other of the non-Proud Boy-affiliated violent fascists say, they aren’t out to provide “security” or to stand up for people’s constitutional rights. They are there to spread violent and hateful rhetoric, hunt down and hurt/potentially kill antifascists, and attempt to recruit people who either already are doing or want to do their kind of violence. As we have seen countless times, when antifascists aren’t there for them to hurt, they go after innocent bystanders and community members who aren’t prepared for a fight, generally targeting BIPOC, folks who are visibly queer, and the houseless community. On the same day I was assaulted, the Proud Boys pointed a gun at a Black man who was filming them who just lives in the area.

After the heat started coming down hard on them from LEO post J6, they have been doing less events that are publicly marketed as being organized by the Proud Boys, and more latching on to whatever right wing event they can. We’ve seen it happen plenty in the recent months at rallies against Planned Parenthood, antivax/mask mandate rallies, and all the demonstrations/involvement they have had with school districts. Organizers of rallies justify the presence of Proud Boys as being “security,” when in this case, no counter protestors even showed up at the Capitol. The Proud Boys came to them. They were quite literally hunting for antifa and only in Olympia for violence.

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