Rural America fights gun violence and Trump-backing thugs
Protesters in Sequim. | Tim Wheeler/PW

SEQUIM, Wash. — Left and progressive forces in rural communities are fighting back against racist provocations in this election year, picketing in “Black Lives Matter” vigils on street corners, and at post offices in defense of the right to vote by mail.

Small towns are a target because the right-wing extremists see rural America as the home of President Trump’s “base” and ripe for tactics of vigilante fear and intimidation.

On June 3, armed vigilantes led by gun shop owner Seth Larson, terrorized Black Lives Matter protesters in Sequim and a multi-racial family from Spokane on a camping trip in Forks, 75 miles west of here. It ignited a movement demanding enforcement of a Sequim law banning the carrying of firearms for the purpose of intimidation.

A petition, “Zero Tolerance for Vigilante Rambos in Our Community” has been signed by 1,600 people. Signers are seeking a meeting with Sequim’s City Manager and the Chief of Police to protest their failure to protect First Amendment rights.

It is an election year and Trump is scheming to suppress the vote by terminating mail-in voting during COVID-19.

A coalition that includes Voices for Health and Healing, Clallam County MoveOn, and Indivisible Sequim, organized a vigil in front of the Port Angeles Post Office August 22. The protesters demanded passage of the HEROES Act with $25 billion to fund the U.S. Postal Service. Scores of demonstrators showed up with signs such as, “Don’t Let Trump STEAL Your Mail-in Ballot.“ The socially distant action, all participants wearing masks, was greeted with a din of honking car horns and thumbs up salutes by passing motorists.

East of here in Port Townsend, 200 demonstrators vigiled the Post Office protesting Trump’s war on mail-in balloting.

The June 3 Black Lives Matter vigil in Sequim was a turning point. Organized by Courtney Thomas, leader of Sequim People Against Racism, Etc. (SPARE), 500 protesters turned out. A majority were high school and college students, many young adults with their children reinforced with many senior citizens. It was multiracial—African American, Hispanic, Native American, and white.

Larson, owner of “Fred’s Guns,” the local gun merchant, had received the fraudulent tweet that busloads of “Antifa “were headed for rural towns like Sequim intent on breaking windows, setting fires. Even though Twitter had announced this tweet was a forgery by the white supremacist outfit, Identity Europa, Larson sent out a social media blast inciting his followers to bring their guns and head into Sequim to repel the Antifa invaders.

Carrying firearms, with two police dogs, they hustled into Sequim only to find totally peaceful protesters at Sequim’s main intersection. Mothers fearing for their children’s safety fled. Larson strutted up to Thomas and questioned her about “Antifa.” She informed Larson that he had no right to interrogate her. A few minutes later Larson was advised by Sequim police to apologize to the demonstrators. He returned and told Thomas he was sorry. All this is confirmed in a statement released by Sequim Police Chief Sherry Crain printed in the local media.

Protesters in Sequim. | Tim Wheeler/PW

While Larson apologized, his fellow vigilantes were accosting demonstrators demanding they show their IDs.

The same bully tactics were used by eight carloads of vigilantes who surrounded the multiracial Spokane family at a shopping mall in Forks. The gunmen demanded rudely if the family were “Antifa.” The family told the gunmen they were campers on a trip to Forks to visit scenes of the popular “Twilight” series.

The gunmen followed them to their campsite outside Forks, firing their weapons in the air. The family heard a chain saw. Fearing for their lives, the family attempted to flee in their old school bus. But the gunmen had cut down trees blocking their escape. The campers called 911 and Forks police answered. The trees were removed and the family was escorted out of Clallam County by Sheriff’s deputies.

The terrorizing of this family was so shameful that Clallam County residents set up a GoFundMe raising about $2,000 that was sent to the family. A vigil in Forks, half of the participants members of Native American tribes, demanded that the gun vigilantes be prosecuted. The Clallam County Sheriff is still investigating the incident but has met with a wall of silence by the gun bullies.

Seth Larson’s apology was pure hypocrisy. His latest social media post, widely circulated, denounces Facebook for removing his incendiary rants. He warns that if Democrat Joe Biden wins Nov. 3, local gun owners who purchased their weapons from him, will join in a “war” to keep Trump in the White House.

Then a few days ago, Jacob Blake, an unarmed African American, was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police. Father of three children, Blake will be paralyzed from the waist down the rest of his life. The call went out and last weekend, both Saturday and Sunday an estimated 100 Black Lives Matter demonstrators stood vigil in Sequim. One sign read: “Jacob Blake…HIS LIFE MATTERS.”


Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.