A handful of self-described supporters of President Donald Trump converged on Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood Wednesday to call for the removal of a statue of Russian Communist revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin that has stood in the neighborhood for 22 years.
Protesters Wednesday wore Make America Great Again hats and held signs that said “Lenin = Hitler,” “100 Million Dead” and “Alt-Left Hate,” and they chanted slogans such as “Shame on Seattle,” “Tear hate down,” and “Genocide is not a joke” at passing cars and people grabbing lunch in the arty, tech-heavy neighborhood. Fremont is home to offices of such tech companies as Google, Adobe, Tableau, Outreach and Pixvana.
The protest comes in response to violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend during a rally around a statue there of Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee, and the subsequent removal of Confederate statues in other cities.
Well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist Benedict Evans called attention on Twitter on Tuesday to the supposed irony of the Lenin statue standing in left-leaning Seattle, drawing fresh attention to the long-controversial sculpture.
One protester climbed atop the statue as others live-streamed their sometimes heated debates with anyone willing to engage with them on the walk past the 16-foot tall bronze sculpture in the center of the neighborhood.
Jack Posobieck, a well-known internet activist and political advocate for Citizens for Trump, stood below the statue wearing a red MAGA T-shirt. He said he flew into Seattle from Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning specifically to protest Lenin, and he chronicled the action on Twitter in a self-styled news report.
Posobieck said it was his first time in Seattle and he called it a beautiful city. He said he had not heard of the Lenin statue before this week and came to Seattle after plans to march on Google — over the firing of software engineer James Damore — were scrapped. The small group organized on social media.
“We were looking to do something this week and we saw this statue that was here and we said, “Hey, if we’re going to be tearing down statues, here’s one that should be on the list.'”
Posobieck said ultimately the goal is to get the privately owned statue torn down.
“Obviously today, logistically, it’s not going to happen,” Posobieck said, as two Seattle Police Department officers showed up to observe the protest from across the street. “But we’d like to start a movement, really following in the footsteps of the movement that is talking about tearing down statues that are associated with hatred and bigotry in the United States. That’s clearly what this statue is also associated with and so we believe that this one should also be torn down.”
Posobieck said he had no plans to be in Fremont beyond Wednesday, but said others from the group would.
Andy Barr, another protester who said he was from Seattle and works in tech, is an organizer for a meetup group called Seattle Patriots for Trump whose goal, according to its website, is to “turn Washington state red again.”
Barr, who works in data science, told GeekWire that he was “one of the very few people who are out, in tech, open supporters of the president,” who worked to get Trump elected and still support him. He said there is a “culture of fear” among Trump supporters in tech based on the potential for backlash over that support.
Barr said he was mainly attending Wednesday’s protest to point out the double standard around the actions of Lenin and his statue “standing in Seattle,” and the Confederate statues being torn down elsewhere. He likes the idea of “market forces” determining what happens to the statue, which is reportedly for sale for as much as $250,000.
“I’m not a troll,” Barr said. “I don’t follow white nationalists by any means. I have nothing to do with them. … I like dialogue. I like having discussions.”