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Man is shot as protest groups face off in anticipated confrontation in Olympia

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Early on the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 10, opposing protest groups gathered at Olympia, WA in a confrontation anticipated by both groups and the city, where one man was shot. Conversations disclosed on Twitter show expected violence from at least one of the groups- Trump/“Stop the Steal” protestors. In opposition, anti-fascist-style protestors also organized with a poster quoting “Goodnight Fascism.”

The violence on Saturday began when anti-fascist-style demonstrators, dressed in all-black attire, marched towards Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrators. Then, as a member of the latter group approached the former,  an anti-fascist-style protestor confronted him, and deployed pepper spray shortly after a brief hostile verbal exchange. Another Trump/“Stop the Steal” protestor was then dragged by the anti-fascist-style protestors into their crowd and beaten after verbally confronting them.

Demonstrators on both sides planned Saturday’s face off in response to demonstrations the previous weekend, where both groups engaged in multiple fights and a Trump/“Stop the Steal”  demonstrator shot an anti-fascist-style protestor.

The Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrator who shot the anti-fascist-style protestor this weekend has been identified as a 25-year-old man from Bellingham, according to the Olympian. Bail has been set at $50,000 for the man, Forest Michael Machala, who was arrested and is facing a charge of 1st degree assault. According to The Seattle Times, a Thurston County judge ordered an investigation into the assault on Monday. Witnesses of the shooting say two shots were fired shortly after anti-fascist-style protestors rushed some Trump/“Stop the Steal” protestors. 

Heavily armed law enforcement moved in after protestors rushed away from the scene and ducked onto the ground. Both Olympia Police Department (OPD) and Washington State Patrol (WSP) responded to the disturbance. 

Alexa Villatoro S.W.A.T. forces move into the scene of the shooting shortly after shots are heard and people rush away.

Right before the shooting, Trump/“Stop the Steal” protestors began retreating to their cars, and others rushed off in their cars, as the anti-fascist-style demonstrators advanced and threw rocks at their vehicles.

The Olympian reports that according to the city, “much of the fighting took place before there were enough officers there to intervene safely.”

On several occasions, the two groups engaged in both verbal and physical confrontation. With the anti-fascist-style demonstrators damaging several cars that were suspected of belonging to the Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrators, alongside using projectiles, and pepper spray. The Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrators confronted the anti-fascist-style group with pepper spray, projectiles, and intimidation of arms. 

Alexa Villatoro An armed Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrator verbally confronts an opposing demonstrator, calling the anti-fascist-style group “Communists”, while the group attempts to disperse and conclude for the afternoon.

Both sides, heavily armed with guns, engaged in violent conflict throughout the day. OPD and WSP also deployed less-lethal weapons like rubber bullets, flash grenades, and made several arrests in response. Police also issued several orders of dispersal. 

Though both groups were involved in the aggressive confrontations, police deployed most less-lethal weapons against the anti-fascist-style group. On several occasions, Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrators were seen close to police formations. In the end, two Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrators were arrested, including the man who fired the weapon, and another for intimidation with a weapon and failure to disperse. 

Alexa Villatoro Trump/“Stop the Steal” demonstrators face the opposing group on the Winged Victory Monument, a World War I memorial on Capitol grounds.

Police also targeted an unarmed man, not in all-black attire and far away from the police line, with a flash grenade, which hit his backside before exploding on the ground. 

Another video shows police shooting fleeing anti-fascist-style protestors – who were not committing acts of violence or being hostile at the moment – with rubber bullets from far away. 

OPD also told legal observers that if they didn’t move back they would be subject to arrest. A video shows the reaction of one of the legal observers after they were told to retreat.

After the weekend’s events, anti-fascist/BLM protestors announced via social media platforms like Instagram that the victim, who they describe as a “Black youth,” will make a full recovery after being shot in the abdomen; however, they say, had the bullet “been just 2 inches over, he would not be alive.” 

Alexa is an avid journalist seeking an A.A. with an emphasis on Global Studies at Seattle Central College. She's interested in pursuing investigative journalism to report on social struggles like immigration, civil rights, and access to education in South and North America. She is currently working to cover budget cut reforms at Central and civil rights movements in Seattle. Alexa is also a Youth Council Member at OneAmerica, advocating for greater access to quality education for immigrants and refugees in WA. She is a first-generation American who has travelled to 13 countries to explore world cultures and politics.

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