Police fired pepper spray and flash bangs to disperse the crowds after reportedly being assaulted with rocks and other objects thrown by black-clad protesters, who also smashed windows, overturned trash bins and damaged cars along Broadway.

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A day of peaceful May Day rallies for immigrant rights in Seattle turned chaotic Friday night as a separate anti-capitalist march descended into clashes between police and protesters on Capitol Hill.

Police fired pepper spray and flash bangs to disperse the crowds after reportedly being assaulted with rocks and other objects thrown by black-clad protesters, who also smashed windows, overturned trash bins and damaged cars along Broadway.

Three officers were injured and admitted to Harborview Medical Center. Several protesters reported injuries from pepper spray and projectiles fired by police. Sixteen people were arrested.

“This is no longer demonstration management; this has turned into a riot,” Seattle police Capt. Chris Fowler, the May Day incident commander, said in a tweet after 8 p.m. as the situation turned violent.

May Day demonstrations in 2015 on Capitol Hill shifted from a protest to a riot with broken windows, flash bangs, pepper spray, flag burning and arrests. (Seattle Times staff)

The May Day events followed what has become a familiar script, with organized, peaceful daytime marches — blessed by authorities, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray — giving way to violent confrontations between smaller groups of protesters and police as night falls. Ten people were arrested during last year’s protests.

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In a statement Friday night, Murray said Seattle defends the rights of demonstrators to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, but that “what erupted tonight is a very different story.” Citing assaults on police and property damage, Murray said, “those who are violent will be arrested.”

In the day’s largest event, an estimated 1,000 demonstrators wound their way from Seattle’s Central Area to the federal courthouse downtown with police clearing a route for them.

The annual May Day March for Workers and Immigrant Rights advocated rights for immigrant workers, but banners and signs reflected a cornucopia of causes: labor, educators, seniors, children in day care, African Americans, Native Americans — even transit riders.

People protest at May Day for many different reasons. Listen to marchers describe their own personal motives, and experience the sights and sounds of the event. (Lauren Frohne and Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)

“Columbus was illegal,” read the handmade sign carried by Anita Ramirez, in her second year in the march. “The Native Americans were here before us,” she said. “So we don’t have any right to tell immigrants, ‘Get out. This is our land,’ because it’s not.”

Along the two-mile march from Judkins Park to the courthouse, Seattle police officers, mostly on bicycles, flanked the demonstration and blocked traffic on side streets, but had little interaction with marchers.

Oscar Rosales, a spokesman for El Comite, one of the organizing groups, said planners of the march had met ahead of time with the Seattle Police Department, Seattle Department of Transportation and the mayor’s office to set a positive tone for the annual march.

Rosales said the group is seeking greater work opportunities for undocumented workers nationwide. “Families are being separated. People are losing their jobs,” he said.

Leading the procession, the high-energy Mexican dance troupe Danza Azteca set a colorful and upbeat tone. But the chants of the demonstrators indicated this wasn’t just a feel-good event.

“Who stands with Baltimore? We stand with Baltimore,” chanted a group opposing police brutality, particularly against African Americans.

A group called the Stop Mass Incarceration movement marched with a banner that read, “Stop murder by police,” and featured the photos of dozens of people who have died in police shootings.

As the immigration march wound down, the anti-capitalist event fired up Friday evening with a smaller group of protesters gathering at Seattle Central College. One lone man carried a rifle in apparent support of open-carry gun rights, leading others to surround him and yell for him to “go away.”

The group, some carrying anti-police banners, marched up Broadway, shadowed by a massive cohort of bicycle-riding Seattle police in riot gear. Police aggressively blocked protesters when they tried to march toward downtown and Interstate 5.

It didn’t take long for a melee to erupt.

On Broadway, there was smoke and explosions from flash bangs, protesters running back toward the campus and police using their bikes as shields, yelling, “Move! Move back!”

Many in the crowd used smartphones to take videos. The media were at times targeted.

A protester smashed the passenger window of a parked TV van. He yelled, “(Expletive) the media!” and those around him cheered.

An officer shot pepper spray at the back of a hooded head, and protesters threw bottles and rocks into the crowd of police.

Protesters reported injuries. A woman who said her name was Claire Sullivan said a rubber bullet hit her shin. She was later detained and cuffed by police.

In a calm moment outside Seattle Central College, Julien Hodge, 21, showed off a 6-inch bruise to photographers. He said it was from a flash bang that had exploded near him.

As of 10:30 p.m., police had corralled several dozen remaining demonstrators at the college, allowing them to mill around a plaza. Some spray-painted buildings while others started fires in trash cans. By 11 p.m., the few remaining demonstrators had dispersed.

Conspicuous in the chaos of the night was the lone figure of Joey Gilmore, 24.

He was walking in the middle of Broadway, picking up gobs of newspapers that had been dumped by a protester. Gilmore said he was from St. Louis and had been in town a few days for work.

“This is such a beautiful city,” he said, clutching the papers, not minding the stares. “It hurts when people don’t get along.”