A Spokane family’s camping trip in Western Washington became a nightmarish experience when armed locals accused them of being left-wing extremists, followed their bus along a forest road and cut down trees to prevent them from leaving the woods, according to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies and other local law enforcement officers responded to a call for help from the stranded campers at about 6:40 p.m. Wednesday near the small town of Forks, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. The sheriff’s office did not identify the campers but described them as a multiracial family from Spokane consisting of a husband and wife, their 16-year-old daughter and the husband’s mother.
The family had been driving a full-size school bus to camp on the Olympic Peninsula and stopped at a local store, Forks Outfitters, to pick up supplies, the sheriff’s office said.
“There, the family was confronted by seven or eight carloads of people in the grocery store parking lot,” the sheriff’s office said. “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.”
Antifa, short for antifascist, is not a single organization or group but rather an umbrella term for a movement of leftists and anarchists, some of whom commit violence or damage property at demonstrations against police brutality and white supremacy. Amid nationwide protests this week prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, myths have circulated online about antifa agitators arriving in small towns aboard buses and planes to incite violence, looting and vandalism.
The sheriff’s office said the family had to drive their bus around other vehicles in the parking lot before heading north on U.S. Highway 101, where they were followed by at least four vehicles. People in two of those vehicles had what appeared to be semiautomatic rifles, the family told deputies.
“The family drove their bus up the A Road and onto a logging spur road where they pitched a tent in order to camp for the night,” the sheriff’s office said. “They became concerned for their safety after hearing gunshots in the distance and power saws down the road from where they were camping.”
Scared, the family decided to pack up and leave, but soon realized that someone – apparently the mob from the store parking lot – had cut down trees along the A Road, preventing their exit. The sheriff’s office said four Forks High School students had tried to help the family by clearing the road with chain saws.
Police and deputies escorted the family to a station in Forks, interviewed them and later helped them get their bus running again after it broke down, the sheriff’s office said.
The sheriff’s office said it’s “actively conducting a criminal investigation into the incident and is seeking any and all information regarding those persons involved.”