May Day demonstrations turn ugly in downtown Seattle

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 1, 2012 at 6:06 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 31 at 5:23 PM

SEATTLE - May Day demonstrators who marched through Seattle turned violent Tuesday, as a group of black-clad protesters used sticks to smash downtown store windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic.

Police Chief John diaz said Tuesday evening that he didn't expect more violence but he did expect more arrests.

"It's unfortunate that you get a very few people that want to cause damage and violence," he said. "And we're going to be spending a lot of time and effort to bring those people to justice."

The day began peacefully as a group of about 50 people gathered at Seattle Central Community College just before noon. After a brief rally, the group headed into the college, marching down the halls and encouraging students to join them. The intent was to march to Seattle's downtown Westlake Park to join other groups. The first of May is a traditional day for laborers and social groups to gather to gain support and express their ideals.

The group had initially told Seattle Police they would take a direct route to the park. Instead, they took a circuitous route through the streets on Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle, finally arriving at Westlake Park. Once they arrived they joined other groups that had already started an early afternoon rally. At first, it appeared calm, with a few people speaking to the crowd. But it didn't take long before a group of people decided to go back on the streets.
 
Leaving the park, the group soon grew from about 50 to a couple hundred people. While many in the crowd were peaceful, simply chanting and carrying signs, it soon became clear that a fringe group was ready to cause problems.

The group was easy to spot. Most were dressed in all black and had bandannas or scarves covering their faces. As the crowd wound its way through the streets of downtown Seattle, it eventually became violent. At the old Federal Courthouse at 1010 5th Ave., vandals smashed three plate glass doors on the back of the building.

Police reported recovering homemade incendiary devices made out of toilet paper rolls and fruit juice boxes.

A longtime KING 5 photographer was assaulted by a marcher dressed in black. Richard Departee said the marcher hit him with a wooden pole, bloodying the side of his head.
 
The group continued down Sixth Ave., eventually smashing plate glass windows at the NikeTown store. In front of the store, parked cars were targeted. Windshields on the cars were shattered, tires slashed. As the vandals moved farther down the street, Seattle Police arrived in full force. Dozens in full riot gear came up behind the group.

At least eight people were arrested for everything from vandalism to pedestrian interference to assault.

At an afternoon press conference, Mayor Mike McGinn said a group known as the “Black Bloc” did extensive damage to the Federal Courthouse, then moved on to block traffic.

“A number of the core group of 'Black Bloc' members returned to Westlake, where we saw some of them live on video changing back into street clothes and blending into the crowd,” said McGinn.

"What we know from WTO, you have a group of people committed to cause damage, move quickly and disperse rapidly, it's difficult for the police to act rapidly," said McGinn. "We have officers in uniform, in the crowd, trying to ID and intercept."

Seattle Police said people or businesses who had their property vandalized should call the SPD non-emergency line at 206 625-5011.

Earlier this week, anarchist signs and websites were found advocating Seattle's protesters to "strike back" or "shut down the city."

Seattle May Day organizers said they had their own security forces. Both Occupy Seattle and El Comite planned to have a group of "peacekeepers" in the crowds, working with police.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn had been scheduled to be at the El Comite demonstration at 6:30 p.m., where he planned to tell them about his support of immigration reform. McGinn canceled his appearance because of the earlier violence.

 

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