On Friday (January 20th, 2017), I went with a couple of friends to see the Milo Yiannopoulos speech at University of Washington. We got there at around 2:30-3:00 PM for a 7:00 PM speech, just to make sure we got some good seats. Protesters were mostly pretty calm, just waving signs, but we figured there'd be a lot more yelling when the doors opened. If only we could be so lucky.
At around 6:00-6:30 PM, Antifa members swarmed Red Square (a big plaza with some buildings around it, one of which had people lined up to see Milo in front of it). They setup on both sides of the lines, then pushed and shoved their way over to the right side of the right most line (aka, directly next to me) in what I can only assume was some kind of power play, breaking/throwing away glasses and hats and phones, whatever they could get their hands on. It took something like 7 or 8 Seattle and UW Riot Police to keep them from outright assaulting the line members.
We shouted and chanted back and forth until 7:00 PM, when the doors opened. The VIP line got in the door, but the students and non-students were blocked by Antifa, who had rushed the door and tried to push us down a series of concrete steps so that we couldn't get in. The Police locked the doors down and didn't let anybody else in. One of the people in my group was having trouble breathing, so we got them out and left.
About 5-10 minutes later, as we were leaving the parking garage at UW, we started getting news reports of a shooting at Red Square. It turned out that an Antifa member tried to assault one of the students who was carrying, and he shot the Antifa member in self-defense. The Antifa member lived, as of January 23, 2017, and the shooter turned himself in a few days later.
However, Antifa decided they had a better way to capitalize on the shooting, and tried to stop both the cops and the ambulance from leaving with the wounded man. The police got the guy out and locked down Red Square. Antifa decided they didn't like this new situation and started throwing paint balloons at the students and cops, followed by bricks. Eventually, the situation was taken care of and there were no casualties as far as I know.
Being in the middle of what was essentially half-terrorism and half-riot really made me think. How could people be so ideologically driven that they would try to kill people because they disagreed with them politically? They didn't know us, they didn't even know who really supported Milo and who didn't, yet they paint us all with the same broad brush of fascist. Not only that, but the accusation of fascist was worthy of a death sentence, and yet they use the brush so frivolously anyways.
This is not how activism is supposed to work. Activism is about getting people to see things your way, not kill them if they disagree. You're supposed to talk to people, make your case coherently, and let the audience decide if what you say has merit. These so-called "anti-fascists" not only didn't convince anybody of their points, they created opponents where there weren't any before, and actually succumbed to the ideology that they claim to fight against.
Churchill was right; the fascists of the future are called "anti-fascists." If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this: Don't be fascists. Do the right things the right way, convince people civilly, and absolutely do not assault people you disagree with. Be the better freedom fighters, and earn liberty with pen and ink, not gun and bomb.
-Ryan Armstrong, President of the Young Americans for Liberty at Everett Community College.