Seattle’s downtown suffered a blow this weekend when legitimate protests sparked by the death of a Black man, George Floyd, in the custody of  Minneapolis police were overtaken by rioters and looters who created havoc. On Sunday, Bellevue got hit by a similar group that rampaged through Bellevue Square, carting off merchandise like it was Black Friday.

Initial reports suggest the mob was composed of the quasi-anarchists who have been showing up at political events with infuriating regularity, organized gangs of thieves and assorted knuckleheads looking for cheap thrills and free clothing. The intrusion of these troublemakers presents a problem, both for legitimate protesters and police.

For protesters, the challenge is getting their message heard when they get lumped in with the rioters. For police, the challenge is finding a way to stop lawless people without creating a larger confrontation with an entire group of demonstrators.

Seattle police opted for restraint at the cost of major damage to downtown businesses. In the future, both cops and protesters will have to be smarter and more organized if they want to insure that the violent, thieving mob does not take over again.

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