SEATTLE -- Police used “flash bangs” and pepper spray against some protesters who pelted them with rocks and bottles late Wednesday, as violence erupted during May Day in Seattle.
Several dozen protesters, many using bandanas to cover their faces, began clashing with police in downtown Seattle hours after a peaceful immigrant-rights march ended.
SLIDE SHOW: Seattle May Day protests turn violent
Protesters threw rocks and bottles at police officers and news crews. As they moved through downtown Seattle to another neighborhood, they flung construction street barriers, trash cans and newspaper bins on the streets in an attempt to stop police officers. Windows of businesses were broken and vehicles with people in them were banged around.
Police used their bikes to shield businesses and eventually began to use pepper spray and “flash bang’ grenades -- releasing a flash of light, smoke and a loud noise—to disperse the crowd. But that pushed the group to another nearby neighborhood, and they left a wake of overturned trash cans and debris on the street.
In the aftermath, 17 people were arrested, said Seattle Police Department spokesman Captain Chris Fowler said, and eight police officers were injured.
Initially, the protesters concentrated on a business sector of downtown Seattle.
This is the second year in a row violence has broken out during May Day in Seattle. Last year, anarchists broke windows of store fronts, including Niketown, and vehicles and used smoke bombs. Protesters also targeted a federal building, breaking windows and doors.
Olivia One Feather of Covington joined the crowd Wednesday night because she wanted to see how police handled the protest. She said she wasn’t impressed, adding that she was pepper sprayed in the face while trying to video record officers.
“They don’t have any manners. They don’t say please or give you time to get out of the way,” she said.
Of the protesters, she added, “They’re doing what we need to do to stand up to ourselves. These are our streets and we have the right to take them.”
Many of the protesters are self-described anarchists. A local anarchist website said protesters would attempt to disrupt the day.
The violence marred a May Day that immigrant-rights activists hoped would put a focus back on immigration reform. Thousands of people marched about 2 ½ miles from the Central District toward Seattle’s downtown Jackson Federal Building after a May Day rally supporting immigrant rights and labor.
Many carried signs, with messages such as “We are America,” and “There are no illegal humans.” One sign suggested forgetting about marijuana and instead asking the United States to “Legalize my mom,” a reference to Washington’s recent legalization of marijuana.
Other demonstrations and rallies in Olympia, Mount Vernon, Spokane, Vancouver, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and Yakima went along peacefully.
KING 5 News reporters were in the middle of it all and shared the developments on Twitter.