News & Politics

Trump Fan Who Shot Anti-Fascist Protester Set Free While Journalists Face 10 Years in Prison for Doing Their Jobs

The far right is already moving to violently suppress demonstrators—with police complicity.

Photo Credit: Nova Patch / Shutterstock

A Trump supporter who shot an unarmed anti-fascist protester was released by Seattle, Washington police without charge. Meanwhile, at least six journalists arrested by the Washington, D.C. force face up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 fines on felony "riot" charges for covering protests at the presidential inauguration.

Massive protests were held throughout the country on January 20, the day on which Donald Trump was officially sworn in as president. In Seattle, the date coincided with a public speech by far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor of the racist website Breitbart.

Anti-Trump demonstrations began early that day in Seattle. In the evening, Yiannopoulos hosted a sold-out event at at the University of Washington. Activists from socialist organizations and other left-wing groups protested outside the hall where he was speaking, chanting "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!"

Several minutes into Yiannopoulos' speech, a Trump supporter shot a protester in the stomach. The victim was later identified as a 34-year-old member of the socialist union Industrial Workers of the World. He asked not to be named.

The shooting briefly disrupted Yiannopoulos' speech. When he heard the news, Yiannopoulos falsely claimed that the victim had been a supporter of his. In reality, local media revealed it was a Yiannopoulos fan who had shot the left-wing activist.

The Seattle Times reported that the shooter had sent Yiannopoulos messages on Facebook before the event, asking for him to autograph a pro-Trump "Make America Great Again" hat. The newspaper also noted that the attacker had expressed support for Trump, Yiannopoulos and the National Rifle Association on his Facebook page.

After shooting the protester, the attacker, whom the Seattle Times did not name, turned himself in to police. He claimed he acted in self-defense and was questioned. Seattle police released him and did not charge him with any crime.

The activist who was shot in the stomach was hospitalized and remains in stable condition. His attorney told local media he was concerned about his name being made public "as the risk of harassment and threats is very real, and my client needs time to rest and recover from his injuries."

While the Trump-supporting shooter is free to walk the streets, more than 230 people mass-arrested by Washington, D.C. police at protests against the inauguration of the far-right president potentially face a decade in prison. Each has been charged felony rioting.

Police kettled large numbers of people at the January 20 demonstrations—not just protesters but also legal observers, medics and media workers. At least six journalists face felony charges as well, including reporters Evan Engel of Vocativ, Alex Rubinstein of RT America, and AlterNet freelancer Aaron Cantu.

The Committee to Protect Journalists slammed authorities for cracking down on reporters, calling the charges "clearly inappropriate" and warning that they "could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests."

Rubinstein said he had showed his media credentials to police. But he was hit in the face with a flash grenade, which temporarily blinded him and made his ears ring, before being encircled by cops. "I was told that everybody present would be arrested. It doesn't matter that I'm press," he recalled.

Police also confiscated the phones, cameras, and other personal belongings of the hundreds of people they arrested. There are some indications that police meddled with the phones after confiscating them.

The National Lawyers Guild said Washington, D.C. police "indiscriminately targeted people for arrest en masse based on location alone," in "illegal acts" that "are clearly designed to chill the speech of protesters engaging in First Amendment activity." The legal group called the mass arrests illegal and emphasized that police subjected protesters, journalists, and others "to chemical weapons including tear gas and pepper spray."

In a statement on the shooting of its Seattle-based member, the Industrial Workers of the World pointed out the hypocrisy of law enforcement. "There is a double-standard for violence in America: right-wing activists may shoot protesters with impunity," it wrote. "We appear to be in a period when the right wing can murder unarmed protesters and claim self-defense."

The IWW noted that the victim "had been seen de-escalating conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters before he was shot."

The group also reported that, according to multiple witnesses, the right-wing shooter appeared to have been drunk, and "had aggressively and repeatedly sought confrontations with protesters."

"We are disturbed by the total silence from Seattle's political establishment," the organization said. It also criticized the University of Washington administration for not taking any action.

"Our comrade has expressed his empathy for the shooter and his desire to engage in a restorative justice process rather than cooperating with a criminal prosecution. This indicates his deep opposition to the violence of the police and the state," the IWW wrote. "The police’s complicity with the shooter indicates their willingness to protect those who create violence."

The IWW described the so-called alt-right, the far-right political movement led by white nationalists like Milo Yiannopoulos and his website Breitbart, as a whitewashed, contemporary form of Nazism.

Yiannopoulos is notorious for his ultra-right views. The internet provocateur, a fervent Trump aficionado, boasts of waging a "culture war" against the left, and says he is "dedicated to the destruction of liberal media." He vilifies feminism, and was permanently banned from Twitter after inciting racist and misogynist harassment against women on the website. Yiannopoulos also openly demonizes Islam and elevates white Western civilization as the model for humankind.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet's Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

 

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