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Patriot Prayer I-1639 rally at WSU Vancouver stays civil

By , Columbian environment and transportation reporter
8 Photos
A Tuesday rally protesting Initiative 1639 by the Vancouver group Patriot Prayer drew reporters and a small group of onlookers at the Washington State University Vancouver campus Tuesday.
A Tuesday rally protesting Initiative 1639 by the Vancouver group Patriot Prayer drew reporters and a small group of onlookers at the Washington State University Vancouver campus Tuesday. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Despite concerns to the contrary, Tuesday’s Patriot Prayer demonstration stayed civil.

The rally at Washington State University Vancouver drew a few dozen people over its two hours, including Patriot Prayer members and supporters, curious onlookers and students. Early during the event, which started around noon, there were about as many police and media as guests gathered around the Firstenburg Family Fountain, near the center of campus.

The Patriot Prayer group called the demonstration to show its members’ opposition to a firearms measure, Initiative 1639, on the November ballot.

Patriot Prayer events, often held in typically liberal-leaning cities, have frequently turned violent as counterprotesters fight with group members. White nationalists and other far-right extremists often join the group’s larger rallies.

WSU administrators allowed professors to cancel classes and students to stay at home due to safety concerns. It appeared many chose to stay at home.

Previously, student diversity groups at WSU Vancouver encouraged students to avoid campus. On Tuesday, some hung signs and chalked messages around the fountain decrying bigotry.

12 Photos
Patriot Prayer's Joey Gibson speaks to a gathered crowd during a protest on the Washington State University Vancouver campus on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 23, 2018.
Patriot Prayer rally at WSUV Photo Gallery

Clark College canceled Monday’s classes in response to a Patriot Prayer demonstration at the campus, but the group intends to return Wednesday.

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson spoke at Tuesday’s demonstration, as did group fixture Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, while other members handed out flyers regarding Initiative 1639.

The event was civil, with debate and occasional raised voices, which are not rare sights on college campuses with activist communities.

Students Andi Decorte and Connor Thun were on campus to do some schoolwork in a cafe by the plaza — between their classes that weren’t canceled — and to see what would happen.

Considering WSU Vancouver doesn’t have dormitories, but large cohorts of working students or students with families, Tuesday’s kind of political activity was, in their experience, uncommon.

“It’s a commuter campus, so you have a lot of people that aren’t involved so much,” said Decorte, a junior.

Thun, a senior, said in his four years of going to the school he never saw a police presence on campus like Tuesday’s.

“Sometimes we have people peddle ballots and stuff and want to talk to you about certain bills that are being passed, but it’s pretty light,” he said.

Thun said there was hype around campus that things might get rowdy or violent, but none of it materialized.

“It’s been pretty tame,” he said. “I listened to it for like 15 minutes and everyone was pretty respectful of each other’s points, I thought.”

Decorte agreed.

“I appreciate the preparedness of the police and the campus, and the understanding for our safety,” she said. “I’m also very happy that it wasn’t really all that necessary.”

Columbian environment and transportation reporter

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