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Crime, Law and Justice
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Protesters on the left and right clash in Olympia, one person is shot

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Austin Jenkins
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Northwest News Network
Police tape blocks a street near Washington's Capitol Campus where a person was shot Saturday as far right and far left protesters clashed.

For the second Saturday in a row, a gun was fired as groups of protesters from opposing ends of the political spectrum clashed in Olympia.

The shooting happened Saturday afternoon at the Capitol visitor’s parking lot, which is located on the edge of a residential neighborhood.

Late Saturday afternoon, the street and much of the visitor’s lot was taped off with yellow police tape. A detective was seen putting out evidence markers.

According to the Washington State Patrol (WSP), two people were detained in connection with the shooting. Late Saturday evening, the WSP announced that a 25-year-old Shoreline man had been arrested for first degree assault and booked into jail. The victim's condition was not known. 

The shooting followed a chaotic and sporadic series of clashes earlier in the day between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators on and near the Capitol campus. People in both groups were heavily armed, according to WSP.

At one point, police declared a riot and arrested one person for displaying a firearm, said Lt. Paul Lower with the Olympia Police Department. Lower said three other people were also arrested during the day for alleged assaults, including against two sheriff’s deputies.

The State Patrol also ordered protesters to disperse from the Capitol Campus. At the height of the protests, WSP estimated there were 130 black-clad protesters on the left and 60 to 70 on the right.

“From the get-go, from the time they arrived in their cars, we were able to see they were preparing for confrontation and provocation -- both sides,” said Chris Loftis with WSP.

According to one witness, the shooting happened as a group of pro-Trump “patriot” demonstrators was returning to their cars in the visitor’s lot followed by anti-fascist demonstrators.

“That’s when I heard the shot, I was looking everywhere there was a lot of stuff going on,” said Robert Zerfing, who has a YouTube channel called The Commonsense Conservative.

Zerfing said it was his understanding that someone from the pro-Trump group shot one of the anti-fascist demonstrators.

After the shooting, Zerfing said some in the anti-fascist group attempted to damage cars as people were leaving the parking lot. One witness showed the public radio Northwest News Network video that appeared to support that account.

Employees who work on the Capitol Campus had been warned to stay away from the Capitol on Saturday as several unpermitted events were planned, including a reopen schools event and a “Goodnight Fascism” event.

The shooting was the second such incident in a week. Last Saturday, Olympia Police arrested a pro-Trump rally participant who allegedly fired a gun during a violent clash between protesters near the Capitol. The victim, through a third party, told police they didn't want to participate in an investigation.

This story has been updated.