Freedom Rally
Violence ensued during a rally outside of the University of Washington. Getty Images

Violence erupted Saturday in Seattle after hundreds of counter-protesters showed up to a College Republicans-led "Freedom Rally" on the campus of the University of Washington. There were at least five arrests, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group based in Vancouver, Washington, was invited to speak by the school’s Republican committee sparking protests, which led to the clash at Red Square. Police had erected barricades to keep the peace but would later use pepper spray to subdue the opposing sides.

A protester was seen lighting the American flag on fire, while some chanted "no justice, no peace," reported KIRO 7, a CBS affiliate in Seattle.

"You tell me I can't come out here and speak in an open public park, I'm going to come here," Joey Gibson, founder of the Patriot Prayer movement, told KIRO 7. "No matter what. No matter what."

Several university groups promised to protest after they learned of the "Freedom Rally." School officials said they obtained "credible information that groups from outside the UW community are planning to join the event with the intent to instigate violence."

"It's ridiculous, "Gibson added. "It's all just a lie. There's no reason for them to be out protesting. I respect their right to be out here. But I'm here to talk about freedom, God and love. And so I don't know why they would be against that."

The Seattle Police Department was aware that the protest could escalate into a tense situation and issued two posts on Twitter on Saturday. "We have assigned extra police officers at & near the #uwprotest today at the request of @uw. We’ll be supporting @uw_police in providing a safe place for all. If you need anything from our officers, please let us know," the department said via Twitter.

The University of Washington asked the College Republicans for a $17,000 fee for security costs prior to the Patriot Prayer event. The school estimated that the bill would be $50,000. However, a federal judge ruling on Friday blocked the university from charging the group, CBS News reported.

In January 2017, the University of Washington saw a similar clash between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators during a speech from far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who received an invitation from the College Republicans.