On February 10, 2018, opposing groups of students and civilians clashed violently during a campus event held at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle.
The University of Washington chapter of the College Republicans had invited a Portland, Oregon-based group known as Patriot Prayer onto campus to a so-called Freedom Rally. According to a Facebook page advertising the event, the purpose of the rally was “to encourage conservatives to stand up for freedom in a far-left University.” Patriot Prayer has been known for holding right-wing rallies in liberal areas in the Northwest, which have sometimes led to violent clashes with counter-protesters. In the days leading up to the rally, UW authorities announced that they had “obtained credible information that groups from outside the UW community are planning to join the event with the intent to instigate violence.” A counter protest was scheduled for the same time by the UW International Socialist Organization.
On the day of the rally, protesters and counter-protesters clashed violently, leading to at least five arrests. As of this report, it was not clear who instigated the violence.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during campus demonstrations. Students and other groups have the right to freedom of expression and assembly on campus, but those rights must be exercised in a manner consistent with university values, including non-violence and social responsibility. Violent attempts to retaliate against or prevent campus expression not only pose a direct threat to the immediate victims, but also undermine academic freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and harm democratic society generally.