By Brett Gillin
The ‘May Day’ March in Seattle, Washington, is an annual tradition, where a city with a reputation for activists and peaceful protests gets together to march for a variety of causes. At the beginning of the day, the march was its usual, peaceful self, with people marching to support workers’ rights, immigration reform, and the ever growing ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. This year, however, the protests quickly turned violent, leading to numerous arrests and injured police officers.
After a few hours of peaceful marching, the May Day march devolved into violence. According to Seattlepi.com, the first signs of trouble began with a rather humorous incident: police were called to assist a shirtless man who was stuck inside a basketball hoop near Seattle Central College. Unfortunately, the humor would quickly end as nearby protests became what police are calling riots.
Around 7:00 pm, previously peaceful demonstrators began throwing rocks and wrenches at police officers at Seattle Central College. Police responded by attempting to disperse the crowds with non-lethal tactics such as pepper spray and flash grenades. At first, this did little to control the rising violence, as the groups quickly began smashing store windows, vandalizing businesses, and overturning dumpsters into the streets.
“This is no longer demonstration management,” Seattle Police Captain Chris Fowler told reporters just after 8:00 p.m. “This has turned into a riot.”
The violence continued to mount as protestors began pulling down fences, setting fires, and throwing more rocks at police officers. During the melee, three police officers suffered serious injuries, including a dislocated shoulder, a broken wrist, and severe burns according to CNN.
At least 16 protestors were arrested for a variety of crimes, including suspicion of assault, obstruction, and failure to disperse. The Seattle Police Department released a photo via Twitter, detailing the objects they seized during one arrest: a hammer, several heavy wooden poles, a battery, rocks, a knife, and a wrench.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray released a statement, shortly after visiting the three injured officers in the hospital. That statement read, in part, that Seattle was “prepared extensively to protect the rights of peaceful protestors to express their anger at racism and injustice.” But what was happening in Seattle was far from peaceful. “What erupted tonight is a very different story,” Murray said. “Tonight we saw assaults on police officers and senseless property damage, which cannot be tolerated.”
The Stranger extensively covered the protests-turned-riots, tweeting pictures of vandalism, violence, and injuries sustained by protestors. These injuries, according to many eye witnesses, could just as easily have been caused by the protestors hurling rocks and bottles or the police trying to disperse the violent crowds of people. One Tweet shows a man carrying a rifle during a march, with another protestor telling him that he needed to leave as he was putting everyone at risk.
Thankfully, police were able to get the protests under control without further serious injuries to officer or citizens, and the three injured officer are expected to make full recoveries.