Protests over police tactics and systemic racism that began almost two months ago with the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, continued Saturday in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest as the Trump administration called in the force of the federal government.
In response to nightly protests in Portland, Oregon, Trump sent in a team of officers from various federal agencies who have clashed with protesters, made arrests and pulled demonstrators in for questioning in unmarked cars.
The president, who has also sent tactical border officers to stand by for duty in Seattle, has defended the action, calling the protests in Portland “worse than Afghanistan.”
On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using tear gas, blast balls and similar weapons. The law, which the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month, was scheduled to go into effect on Sunday.
On Saturday, Seattle police Chief Carmen Best said officers working the Seattle protests would carry pepper spray and blast balls, but not tear gas.
Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan pleaded with protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
She said she’s worried about people who are bent on disrupting protests, damaging property and provoking violence, and concerned about federal agents on the doorstep.
“I cannot overstate it enough, what is happening is frightening to me,” Durkan said at a Friday morning news conference. “It is frightening that you would use federal agents for political purposes.”
She said Trump is purposefully targeting Democratic cities.
Durkan also said she met with the King County executive, the county prosecutor, the Seattle city attorney and the state Attorney General’s Office, and that they will take “every legal step necessary” if federal forces intervene here as they have in Portland.
Clashes continued between police and protesters in at least two locations on Capitol Hill around 6 p.m. with police deploying flash-bang grenades near Seattle Central College.
Sixteen people have been arrested on suspicion of assault on officers, obstruction and failure to disperse, Seattle police said.
One police officer was hospitalized with a “leg injury caused by an explosive” and two others were treated and returned to work, the Seattle Police Department said on Twitter.
Protesters and police officers faced off near the corner of East Pine Street and Broadway. Over a loudspeaker, police ordered protesters to disperse, saying, “This is an unlawful assembly.”
Some demonstrators then moved back east along East Pine Street toward a line of police officers who threw what appeared to be flash-bang grenades at the crowd and used pepper spray on protesters. Police also pushed demonstrators north on 11th Avenue near Cal Anderson Park.
On Twitter, Seattle police said some in the crowd threw rocks and explosives toward police. In a livestream, journalist Omari Salisbury said he and a producer had been sprayed with pepper spray and hit with flash-bang grenades even though they “followed every police instruction” and were carrying cameras.
Fragments of police incendiary devices littered East Pine Street. Some in the crowd held umbrellas to block pepper spray.
(Heidi Groover and Sydney Brownstone contributed to this report)
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