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A political rally held at the Walla Walla County Courthouse on February 24th faced opposition by “Bikers for Trump” and an individual referred to as “the man in the yellow coat” on social media. Officials charged that individual with disorderly conduct after he engaged in disruptive behavior and was ultimately removed from the rally. A jury agreed on August 4th that 61-year-old Mark Bradley Fullen had sought to be disruptive with his actions at the event.
A district court judge, on Wednesday, sentenced Fullen to 3 days in jail. That was suspended providing Fullen performs 30-hours of community service and pays a fine of $443. Fullen received a deferred sentence, which allows for the dismissal of the charge providing he doesn’t violate any laws for the next 12-months.
Sarah Koenigsberg and her colleagues founded Walla Walla Indivisible with the mission of researching, networking, and organizing action that follows the Indivisible Guide. That guide was written by congressional staffers to help Americans better engage with their members of Congress to effect change. Koenigsberg and other activists organized the rally on February 24th.
Koenigsberg applied for and was provided with an approved permit to hold the rally at the Walla Walla County Courthouse. She had spoken in detail with officials about her plans for the rally. In her testimony during the trial, she said that she tried to do all that she was asked to do by officials to ensure everything was being done in compliance with local ordinances. Officials reviewed her plans and approved the permit with the condition that event organizers would ensure at least one clear path is maintained in and out of the courthouse. The event was announced via social media to start at 12-noon.
Organizers set up a podium on the courthouse steps but left the opposite side of the steps open to comply with conditions from officials. Koenigsberg was slated to be the opening speaker and had placed a copy of her speech inside the podium. She testified that she placed a brick on top of the speech, so it would not blow away. She then says she assisted with setting up camera equipment and a sound system. Folks started showing up at the event, including a group of motorcyclists who parked along the street. These bikers identified themselves as “Bikers for Trump.”
It was shortly after 12-noon and Koenigsberg was ready to speak. She went to the podium but discovered her speech was not where she had left it. Witnesses later said they had observed a man in a safety yellow reflective coat remove a paper from inside the podium. That individual was later identified as Mark Fullen. Fullen admitted during trial that he had removed Koenigsberg’s speech. Fullen’s attorney told the court his client thought it was an event program.
Koenigsberg grabbed a backup copy of her speech from her bag and started to speak. Fullen made his way behind her and frequently made gestures that Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Morales suggested was to encourage the motorcyclists to rev their engines. Fullen had been seen, before the event, talking with the motorcyclists. His son, Brian, was seen standing with the bikers and later posted photos and videos of the event on social media. Fullen told the court he was not gesturing to the motorcyclists but was rather motioning for his son to join him. His son never joined him on the steps of the courthouse.
Koenigsberg said, over the sound of motorcycle engines, that she and others in the district have tried to communicate with McMorris-Rogers to encourage her to setup a public event so they could air their concerns. She had got no response. Fullen then interrupted Koenigsberg’s speech to assert that McMorris-Rogers was a good person and approachable. Koenigsberg tried to brush it off, she says, but Fullen loomed over her from behind.
“It made me feel very uncomfortable,” Koenigsberg told the court during testimony describing Fullen standing behind her. “I did not know who he was and he invaded my personal space, so it made me feel very uncomfortable.” Koenigsberg’s colleagues started joining her on the steps to be a physical barrier between her and Fullen. That caused Fullen to jump in and out of the crowd, punching signs being held up and grabbing Koenigsberg’s backup copy of her speech off the podium.
The crowd responded by booing Fullen’s action and chanting, “keep speaking Sarah” and “let her speak.” Unfortunately, Fullen had taken both copies of Koenigsberg’s speech preventing her from being able to finish. The prosecution argued this was disruptive behavior because Fullen sought to silence Koenigsberg’s free speech rights and prevented a lawful gathering from occurring as planned. Fullen continued to bounce in and out of the crowd until he was eventually removed by officers. He was later charged with disorderly conduct.
Mark Fullen is a longtime resident of Walla Walla. While testifying in his trial, Fullen said that he moved to Walla Walla in 1966. He’s a graduate of Walla Walla High School and says he studied “electrical training” in college. He is the father of five adult children between the ages of 30-38 years old, he told the court. Fullen says he currently works as a licensed electrician and was working on some condos before going to the rally on February 24th, explaining why he was dressed in the bright yellow reflective coat. Fullen is married to Joanie Fullen, a local realtor.
According to testimony made in court, Fullen said he arrived to participate in the event. He said he thought it was an event where everyone would have a chance to speak and be heard. Fullen acknowledged that a podium was set up on the steps and that he saw a piece of paper inside the podium that he thought was a copy of the program. So he took it, without asking. He can be seen in the video of the rally, looking at the paper at various times, before gesturing to the crowd. Each time he gestured, the motorcyclists appeared to rev their motors a bit louder.
Fullen declined he knew the motorcyclists or that he was a part of their efforts. Eyewitnesses and videos of the event show Fullen standing with, and speaking to, the motorcyclists before the start of the event. Fullen’s son, Brian, made no effort to separate himself from the motorcyclists who had come to disrupt the event and even posted photos & videos to social media. Rise Media staff witnessed Brian engaged in dialog and laughter with motorcyclists throughout the event.
The Fullen’s are known on social media for their alt-right views and opinions. They also made no attempt to hide their support of Donald Trump during the previous election. Brian and his wife Jennifer were previous admins of a local Facebook group, “Walla Walla Eyewitness News.” The group is known for its alt-right views and for censoring the views of progressives. One of the “Bikers for Trump” who attempted to silence the free speech of Koenigsberg and her colleagues, ironically is one of the admins of this Facebook group. Despite the group’s purpose of being a place for local news, group admins removed and blocked access to anyone who shared links to local reporting surrounding Fullen’s jury verdict in August.
In an effort to explain why he jumped in and out of a crowd of protestors, punched and ripped signs from people’s hands and stole two copies of the organizer’s speech, Fullen said he suffered from PTSD from an accident that nearly cost him his life. He says he was working at a gas station where he pumped gas and operated a car wash. Fullen said the car wash was known to fail and needed to be reset.
One day the car wash stopped working. Fullen says he went to reset it and became caught in the machinery where he was “nearly crushed.” He explained a witness had to “ram his vehicle” into the machinery to dislodge him, saving his life. According to Fullen, the incident left him disabled and partially paralyzed on one side.
Since the incident, Fullen says that he suffers from “focus issues” and can “feel panicky at times.” He says that memories of the incident cause him to want to “run away” or sometimes “just shut down.” Morales pointed out that Fullen did not run away, but continued numerous times to insert himself in the crowd of people he accused of attacking him with their signs.
This is not the first time that Fullen has been in the news for his behavior. The Union Bulletin reported on October 1, 2012, that Fullen became enraged when Joanne Schmitz passed him on a bicycle at an intersection on Bryant Avenue in Walla Walla. “Witnesses said Fullen yelled at Schmitz, and then confronted Schmitz again while driving parallel with [her] on Bryant Avenue, according to the police report,” the UB reported. No charges were filed in that incident.
In her closing remarks, Morales told the jury that Koenigsberg just wanted to speak. Morales suggested to the jury that Fullen silenced Koenigsberg’s ability to speak numerous times – by interrupting her speech and by stealing it from the podium twice. “Let Sarah speak,” Morales repeated. The jury took less than half an hour to return a guilty verdict on August 4th.
“The First Amendment does not give someone the right to suppress another’s free speech rights,” Patrice Townsend said following the verdict. Townsend testified against Fullen on the first day of the trial. In his escapades, Fullen ripped Townsend’s sign from her hands and launched it into a nearby tree. He accused Townsend of assaulting him, despite video of the event proving otherwise. “I was pleased that justice was done in the courtroom today,” Townsend added.
Fullen faced sentencing on September 13th. The court ordered him to serve three days in jail but suspended the sentence providing that Fullen completes 30-hours of community service and pays court fees of $443. The court deferred his sentence. Court officials say that if Fullen completes community service, pays the fines and breaks no laws for 12-months, he will be able to request these charges be dropped at the end of a year. He faced up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
Brandon is has worked in journalism and media for over a decade in various capacities. The highlights of his career include documenting the evolution of queer culture in the American south, and covering politics and government on the Texas border. Brandon lives in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.