A peaceful day of protest once again erupted into violence as anti-capitalist demonstrators clashed with Seattle police.
Hurling rocks, bricks and even Molotov cocktails, anti-capitalist protesters clashed with police in downtown Seattle Sunday, as May Day mayhem erupted again following a peaceful march.
By 10:30 p.m., at least five officers had been injured and at least nine people had been arrested, Seattle police reported. One injured officer suffered a gash to his head when he was struck by a rock.
Police said Monday that all five officers were at home recovering from their injuries.
The city unleashed a massive deployment of police officers in riot gear — on foot, on bicycles, on horseback and in vehicles — to control the crowd of dozens of masked-protesters who began massing in Westlake Park for the unpermitted march shortly after 5 p.m.
Unlike previous years, however, police quickly herded the mob of several hundred black-clad protesters out of Seattle’s business district, using a choreographed rolling blockade of bicycle officers and vans to shuttle cops in riot gear ahead of the crowd to cut off escape routes.
Before the night was over, the protesters had been marched out of downtown and into the city’s Sodo industrial area, where fewer targets for destruction were available. Along the way, officers at times doused unruly demonstrators with pepper-spray and fired “blast-balls” to control and disperse the crowd.
By about 8:45 p.m., police had surrounded a thinned-out group of demonstrators in the parking lot of Costco on Fourth Avenue South, south of the West Seattle Bridge. There, officers arrested several people, then slowly allowed small groups of the remaining protesters to disperse, while flanking some of them back north toward downtown.
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In all, those arrested included eight males and one female, ranging in ages 20 to 32. Five arrests were made for obstruction; three for assault and one for property destruction, police reported.
Among the officers who were hurt, one was struck by a Molotov cocktail, but was not burned. Another officer was bitten, police reported. Two of the five injuried officers were taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment, officials said.
“We had to take action,” Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said in a news briefing late Sunday at Harborview Medical Center.
O’Toole and Mayor Ed Murray visited injured officers at the hospital Sunday.
Murray said police “responded appropriately” during Sunday’s clashes with protesters.
Seattle FBI Special Agent In Charge Frank Montoya Jr. said the FBI on Sunday morning questioned a man in Eastern Washington and seized items that could be used for incendiary devices. It wasn’t immediately clear how the FBI action related to the May Day events, but Montoya said social media played a part in his agents’ contacting the person, who was not arrested.
An earlier annual May Day March for Workers and Immigrant Rightsthat moved from the Central District to a downtown rally outside the U.S. Courthouse ended peacefully and without incident.
As that rally winded down, demonstrators largely clad in black clothing and masks started gathering at Westlake Center for the planned but unpermitted anti-capitalist march while squadrons of officers in riot gear converged around the shopping area.
Unfurling a large banner that read, “We are ungovernable,” and other signs, demonstrators started marching about 6:30 p.m. They initially appeared confused about which direction to head, before police herded the core of protesters, forcing them northward.
The violence quickly erupted.
As demonstrators marched, some in the crowd shot off Roman candles and other fireworks, while a window was shattered at a Starbucks at Westlake Center. Someone tagged a Seattle Department of Transportation vehicle with black spray paint.
Within moments, protesters and police clashed near Fifth Avenue and Pine Street. Some demonstrators hurled rocks and other objects, while police liberally doused parts of the crowd with pepper-spray.
The demonstrators marched north on Fourth Avenue into Belltown, as the massive deployment of heavily armed officers flanked and contained them. At times, lines of officers held across streets to herd and funnel the crowd and closed ranks around groups to splinter the crowd into smaller groups.
About 7 p.m., the bulk of the marchers double-backed, heading south along Second Avenue into downtown, where a flurry of clashes erupted near Second Avenue and Pike Street.
There, some demonstrators hurled rocks and bricks at police, others shot flares. After one officer was reportedly hurt, police issued a dispersal order for the area. Anyone who violated that order was subject to arrest.
Demonstrators kept moving south, through Pioneer Square and skirting the Chinatown International District heading for the stadiums and Sodo.
Police reported some demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails, although it wasn’t immediately clear whether any of the incendiary devices ignited.
Some officers shot “blast-balls” into unruly pockets of demonstrators as the marchers continued southward.
Last year, Seattle police arrested 16 people during rowdy May Day demonstrations. But police took criticism for heavy-handed tactics during the demonstrations, including a December report that found they sometimes shot “blast-balls” into areas with peaceful demonstrators.