FORKS —The Forks Chamber of Commerce issued a statement Friday decrying the harassment of a Spokane family accused of being members of Antifa while near Sequim a gun store owner said he had armed guards because of a threat he received after making comments that Antifa was coming to the North Olympic Peninsula.
Seth Larson, owner of FREDS Guns 2.0 in Carlsborg, had urged people to carry guns to a protest organized in Sequim to protect Sequim businesses from Antifa, a political protest movement comprising autonomous groups in militant opposition to fascism. He said he had heard Antifa was busing in protesters
He later apologized for what he called a “knee-jerk reaction,” saying the protest was peaceful.
Later that day in Forks, a multi-racial family of four from Spokane was followed by at least four vehicles — some with people with guns, they told deputies — as they left Forks Outfitters in a full-sized school bus. The family was trapped when they tried to leave their campsite after trees were felled to block the road, Clallam County Sheriff’s deputies said.
They were able to leave after four high school students cut the trees with chainsaws, said Sgt. Ed Anderson in a press release issued late Thursday.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident and is seeking information regarding those involved, Anderson said.
He said Friday that he did not know if there was a link between FREDS Guns post and the incident in Forks “but we will be finding out.”
Lissy Andros, executive director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce, said the harassment was “an isolated incident and does not represent the people of Forks.
“We are shocked and saddened by the encounter the family experienced on Wednesday,” Andros said in a statement issued Friday.
“We have full confidence in our law enforcement community to investigate this matter,” Andros continued.
“All are welcome in Forks, and it brings tears to think that the family from Spokane were treated badly by certain citizens of Forks. As Chamber E.D., I hope to have the opportunity to apologize personally to the family and invite them back to have the experience they should have had.”
Names of the campers or the high school students are not available now.
Seventy miles east of Forks, Larson said on his Facebook Page that he had received threats to burn his shop and against his family and that armed people had guarded his shop and home Wednesday night.
“I can’t thank people enough for keeping my family safe,” he said.
“I love all the patriots that showed up.”
He posted written threats he said he had received, including one apparently in Arabic.
In Forks, deputies were dispatched at about 6:39 p.m. Wednesday to the Sitkum Sol Duc Road, which is known locally as the A Road, in Forks following a request for assistance from four stranded campers, Anderson said.
The campers were stranded after someone had felled alder trees across the roadway, preventing their exit from the area, he said.
The family — a husband and wife, their 16-year-old daughter and the husband’s mother — were driving a full-size school bus and had prepared to camp off a logging road spur on the A Road about 5 miles east of U.S. Highway 101, Anderson said.
The family had shopped for camping supplies at Forks Outfitters and were confronted “by seven or eight carloads of people in the grocery store parking lot,” Anderson said they reported to deputies.
“The people in the parking lot repeatedly asked them if they were Antifa protesters. The family told the people they weren’t associated with any such group and were just camping,” the press release said.
“The family had to drive their bus around vehicles in the parking lot in order to get back onto Highway 101.”
The family told deputies that at least four vehicles followed them as they drove northbound out of Forks. They said that two of the vehicles had people in them carrying what appeared to be semi-automatic rifles.
They drove their bus up the A Road and onto a logging spur road, where they pitched a tent to camp for the night, they told deputies, but then heard gunshots in the distance and power saws down the road from where they were camping. They packed their camp to leave.
They found that someone had cut down trees across the spur road.
Four Forks High School students contacted deputies as they drove up the A Road toward the campers, Anderson said.
“The students used their chainsaw to clear the roadway for the family,” he said in the release.
Deputies escorted the family to the Forks sheriff’s detachment for interviews. Soon after they left, their bus broke down and deputies helped them get their bus running again so they could travel, Anderson said.
Law enforcement officers from the Sheriff’s Office, La Push Police and Quinault Fish and Wildlife responded to help the stranded campers.
To provide information, call the sheriff’s office at 360-417-2259.