PORT TOWNSEND — A planned parade of cars and trucks flying flags and blaring horns was stopped in its tracks Sunday afternoon as it streamed into downtown Port Townsend.
A couple dozen bystanders occupied a crosswalk at Water and Tyler streets upon seeing some vehicles driving aggressively and failing to yield to pedestrians, said Cellar Door owner Oceanna Van Lelyveld on Tuesday.
Van Lelyveld said she was nearly struck herself upon joining the crowd in the crosswalk.
“Myself and many other people witnessed the aggressiveness and intimidation of these people,” Van Lelyveld wrote Sunday night in a Facebook post. “The worst part was when I saw them rev thru the crosswalk as people were trying to cross.”
Hundreds of vehicles that had gathered earlier in the day at HJ Carroll Park in Port Hadlock were there to show “support of our besieged law enforcement officers,” according to an Aug. 9 Facebook post by Port Townsend resident James Scarantino.
“This event was started by the wives of deputies and police officers,” Scarantino explained in an Aug. 26 post on the Republicans of Jefferson County, WA Facebook group page.
“We are going to flood Port Townsend streets.”
In his Aug. 26 post, Scarantino, who did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, urged those who planned to attend the rally not to publicize it because “we don’t want to draw a counter protest.”
At some point prior to Sunday’s rally, an organizer reached out to the Port Townsend Police Department to find out if a permit would be necessary, said Community Services Officer Wendy Davis, noting that a permit was deemed unnecessary based on the description of the event.
“There was to be a small number of vehicles, they would be traveling on an agreed upon designated route, they would be obeying traffic rules and had also not requested local law enforcement to assist,” she said.
“This group appeared to be complying with ‘normal and usual traffic regulations,’ much like an antique car rally might.”
The police department provided no other information about Sunday’s rally, but Van Lelyveld said she is thankful for officers’ efforts to redirect traffic and keep everyone safe.
“I commend the officers who stood down and did not escalate the situation,” she wrote in her Facebook post. “They said that it was illegal to block the roadway but that it was also illegal to drive through the crosswalk with people in it. We all hoped for a peaceful outcome.”
After a brief standoff in the street, pedestrians and vehicles began to disperse, with some gathering on the sidewalk to talk about issues of race and policing, including several men wearing Proud Boys hats and shirts.
As word of the standoff spread online, Van Lelyveld, who had also livestreamed the events on Facebook, began to notice her business being targeted with an influx of disparaging comments and reviews.
Then she received a private message from fellow Port Townsend resident Zach Cooper, who had participated in the rally.
He asked if she would be willing to meet and talk about issues of race and policing in person, in a group.
“We are in trying times in this world and it’s crazy enough with everything that’s happening in the world,” he wrote to Van Lelyveld. “I personally don’t want to see the hate and everything else out on our streets in Port Townsend.”
Van Lelyveld said she and Cooper have agreed to meet and have a deeper conversation.
“I hope that leads to some resolution and some peace about what went wrong here and how we can all do better in the future,” she said.
Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached at [email protected].