Larson came to the rally with several other people who were, attendees say, heavily armed. He seemed, perhaps, to realize his mistake; in an encounter with march organizer Courtney Thomas, he insisted that he supported the aims of the demonstrators and stood with them, “as long as you’re peaceful,” he told her, per a video of the encounter.But the panic and the paranoia didn’t end there. Before the sun rose on June 4, a multiracial family from Spokane looking to camp in the area would be harassed, accused of being antifa invaders, followed, and ultimately trapped on a remote road in Forks everyone refers to as “the A Road” when those pursuing them cut down several trees to make the road impassable. The family was only able to escape when a group of four high school students armed with chainsaws removed the trees, according to a statement from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office about the incident.The sheriff’s office is investigating, and the mayor of Forks has issued several carefully-worded statements; the family from Spokane hasn’t spoken to any news outlets or been publicly identified. (See update below.)But these are small communities: Everyone in Forks, Sequim, and to some extent neighboring Port Angeles, a larger and more progressive city, seems to know at least several of the people who followed the white bus. (Nor is it that hard to find out: Over the course of reporting this story, many people sent me Facebook screenshots of postings supposedly made by two local men in which they admitted they’d been part of the group that chased the Spokane family. One declined to comment when reached by VICE News—“I’m not giving you permission of any kind to try and write something,” he wrote—and the other did not respond. To be clear, there’s absolutely no indication that Seth Larson was among those who followed the bus.)
Larson seems to have become convinced that a march in Sequim in support of the Black Lives Matter movement was a possible pretext for outside antifa agitators to shoot people, loot businesses, and, as he told the march’s organizer, “kill our white babies.”
But Thomas was already concerned about what she saw as subtle and not-so-subtle racism in Sequim before the killing of George Floyd ignited weeks of protests across the country. She and others in the area said it's largely directed at members of the Latinx and Native communities, who are far more visible than the few Black families in the area. (Washington state has 29 federally recognized Native tribes. Sequim was recently the site of an ugly, prolonged battle when the Jamestown tribe attempted to open a drug treatment center in town, a debate that several people told me devolved quickly into ugly stereotyping about Native people as addicts.)
“I love my town,” she said. “I love where I’m from. I never want to leave.”
“Where did you get that from?” she asked.“All over the internet,” Larson said. “It said that people were being bussed in at noon and most of them were antifa and they were going to burn and break windows, online.”“And you felt that your reponse to that was to use your business's network to call for people to get down here and fuck people up?” Thomas asked, indignantly.“My response to that was that we were not going to allow that to happen in our town,” Larson replied. Addressing the camera, not Thomas, he added, according to the video, “We will fuck anybody up, who comes to our town to break windows and burns our city. We are not for that, you guys. We are for what they’re doing right there. This woman is doing peaceful protest. They’re not breaking our windows. They’re not burning our city down. We stand toe to toe and side by side with these people. But we do not stand side by side with people who want to break, slaughter, and kill cops. We’re not for that. And when we saw what antifa posted two nights ago about coming to the rural areas and burning down our houses and killing our white babies, we are not for that. That’s why you got that response from us.” (He added, in response to a question from Thomas, that he "would have done just the same" had the warning been about killing Black babies.)
“I would like to just say, the intel we had is that antifa was here, not peaceful protesters,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies say the family was interviewed by police and then left; soon thereafter, their bus broke down and deputies helped them get it running again so they could travel.Several people told VICE News that in the afternoon leading up to when the family called for help, the mood in local community groups had been celebratory. Photos of the bus were posted, along with the hashtag “Forks Strong” and plenty of laughing emojis. One of the people who posted such a photo was identified as the son of the mayor of Forks, posting a photo of the bus behind a thicket of trees across a roadway, with only “#forksstrong” as a caption. (The mayor, Tim Fletcher, didn’t respond to an email from VICE News. In a statement at a recent City Council meeting, Fletcher read a statement apologizing to the family on behalf of the town.)According to another area paper, Herald Net, a Forks City Council member revealed he’d been in the parking lot of Forks Outfitters when the family was being harassed. Michael Gilstrap told the council he defended the family: “I told everyone to leave them alone, even if they were from Antifa,” Gilstrap said.In the days after the Spokane family was trapped and then freed, Forks and Sequim erupted into anger, recrimination, and dueling accusations. Courtney Thomas, who organized the Sequim protest, attended another protest against racism in Port Angeles that was also meant to serve as a response to the events that took place in Forks.
The family tried to set up camp, but when they heard gunshots and power saws in the distance, they packed up to leave, only to discover the logging road had been blocked by the felled trees.
Two young men across the bridge had a chain saw, she said.
“They told us they heard a bunch of people were in the woods camping, trying to destroy their city, and they were there to stop them,” Lowe said.
“We informed them we were not there to do that, and they said, ‘Oh, we’ll just cut you out,’ ” Lowe said.
Lowe also told the PDN that once they left Forks, they were harassed again, in what appears to be an unrelated incident. In the town of Shelton, in nearby Mason County, a man tried to block them from leaving a store, then trailed their bus to a nearby county.Lowe said she hopes to hear from the people who harassed them in Forks. The PDN's full story is here.Follow Anna Merlan on Twitter.
Lowe said they cut apart the obstruction after the family called 9-1-1 and deputies arrived.