For the second straight year May Day in Seattle was marred by confrontations between protestors and police. What started with free pizza and more journalists than “anarchists” gathered around 6 pm. at Seattle Central Community College devolved into tense shouting matches and shoving downtown between groups of black-clad protestors and bike-wielding cops.
Initially the event seemed to have the makings of a rowdy but relatively tame outing, but things escalated once the march – which was unpermitted and organized by local anarchist groups – headed downtown, reaching a head near 4th and Pine. There, after a lull in the middle of the street where protestors decided to hold firm, police forcefully took several people into custody and seized at least one pogo-stick. It was downhill from there.
The crowd was feisty and antagonistic, and though many of the officers on duty seemed to handle themselves well, the confrontations mounted as the event progressed – which only seemed to embolden marchers. Without a doubt, the way SPD handled itself will be dissected over the coming days, as will the actions of the marchers, a handful of whom seemed hellbent on enticing police into the use of force.
Not long later, shortly before 8 pm, things got seriously dicey as police pushed the crowd toward 5th and Olive, using pepper spray and bike blocking tactics in an effort to keep people moving. By this point, protestors were flinging glass bottles and expletive-laden insults at police, with frequent chants of “Fuck the police!” and “ACAB! All Cops Are Bastards!” ringing in the air in the moments that weren’t filled with that startling pops of the flash bang grenades being launched by a clearly irritated police force. There was no shortage of flash bang grenades; at points downtown sounded like a war zone. It was legitimately frightening.
According to the Seattle Police Department, 17 people have been arrested for assaults or property damage. SPD also reports eight officers were injured – more than a few likely by a thrown glass bottle, which were coming fast and furious at several times. Lines of police protected hotspots like NikeTown and Nordstrom from damage. There were reports of a group smashing windows at Broadway and Pine, and a man next to me in the crowd reported that a cop car had been damaged. At least one Mercedes driver was confronted by angry marchers early on. For sure, several garbage cans and newspaper boxes felt the wrath of the angry crowd.
In terms of who was in the crowd, there seemed to be as many camera-ready journalists and curious kids as verifiable anarchists. But I suppose – at this point – that’s the nature of May Day in Seattle.
If the people wanted action and confrontation, they got it.
Click the link on the photo above to see more pictures.