Demonstrators returned to Seattle streets Tuesday night, with larger crowds spurred by the momentum of election night but still focused on demands that they’ve called for all summer: racial justice and an end to police brutality.
The evening began with two separate groups of demonstrators who moved throughout Capitol Hill and downtown.
Seattle police issued dispersal orders and said they made at least eight arrests as of about 10:20 p.m., while Washington State Patrol briefly closed and then reopened ramps to Interstate 5 as demonstrators marched near the freeway.
Speakers throughout one upbeat march in South Lake Union said neither presidential candidate — Donald Trump or Joe Biden — would do enough to protect the lives of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color, but they emphasized the hard-fought right to vote.
They repeated the demands they’ve chanted all summer to defund the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and invest in Black-led community organizations.
One marcher, who identified herself only by her first name, Angelica, due to safety concerns, wore a bright red jacket with “[Expletive] Donald Trump” on the back as she marched. “As a Black person I was not comfortable voting for either (candidate),” she said, citing Biden’s history on issues like the 1994 crime bill. Whoever wins, “it’s going be the same for me. I’m still going to get followed in the store. … I’m still going to get put in a redlined community,” she said. A friend made Angelica the jacket long before Election Day, she said. “I had it already.”
Shortly before 8 p.m., another group of roughly 100 demonstrators dressed in black met at Cal Anderson Park. A few debated the merits of voting (“Biden is the better enemy,” one said) before setting off down Denny Hill into South Lake Union. A large group of police officers on bikes, on foot and in cars followed.
Seattle police said the group, which grew to more than 200 as the evening continued, was placing barricades in the roadway, including nails.
The group in South Lake Union did not appear to engage in any property damage. About 9 p.m., the group that began on Capitol Hill merged with the group in South Lake Union as police trailed behind.
Drivers known as the “car brigade” traveled with protesters in South Lake Union, separating them from traffic. When police arrived, they ordered the drivers out of an intersection and threatened arrest. Police later tweeted that one driver “associated with the protest” was arrested. Police said they drove over a barricade and through an SPD bike line at Fairview Avenue North and Harrison Street. No one was injured. A person connected with the car brigade said a total of five drivers were arrested during the evening and that no driver pushed through a bike line. The Seattle Times was not able to immediately verify either account.
Later, police arrested another person they said had damaged a parking meter with a hammer.
Officers pushed a group of protesters back up to Capitol Hill, making several arrests along the way. As patrons watched election results inside a Capitol Hill bar, Rose Temple, protesters shouted, “Out of the bars, into the streets.”
“We are not scared of whoever gets elected. It’s not going to stop us,” said one protester who declined to give their name, citing safety concerns.
Police made announcements over loudspeakers, at one point telling the crowd that police safety had been put at risk: “We will support the continued demonstration,” the officer making the announcement said. “However, any acts of violence, property destruction or acts against officers will result in us taking action, making arrests or potentially using chemical agents or less-lethal munitions. This could result in significant injury.”
During a pre-march meeting in Cal Anderson Park around 7:30 p.m., Max, who declined to give her last name, said she had voted in this election — her first because she was only 16 when Donald Trump was elected in 2016 — and she was angry about his term in office.
But she said she probably wouldn’t vote again.
“Voting creates a sense of political legitimacy when there are so many people incarcerated in this country who can’t vote at all,” she said. Voting, she argued, also creates a false sense of civic participation.
“If Biden wins, it will put a lot of people into complacency,” Max said. “They’ll think the fight is over — people think they have power voting, but I think we’ve had more power out in the streets.”
Tate, who also declined to give her last name, said she was a regular voter and would keep at it.
“Neither candidate is ideal, but at least one is better than the other,” she said. “And we have to know that a lot of the power comes from local politics. I voted on the governor’s race, the sex-ed referendum and police transparency.”
But she agreed with Max that voting was no replacement for activism: “No matter who wins, we’ll still be out here protesting police brutality, for Black Lives Matter, and to support our fellow citizens.”
A few feet away, a biology researcher named Bill said he also votes, but he’s not enthusiastic about it. “Biden would be a better adversary,” he said. “At least he’s not explicitly a fascist.”
Bill said he was more interested in the current down-ballot races, like Sherae Lascelles’ candidacy for Washington state representative. “If Biden is a better adversary, [Lascelles is] an actual ally,” he explained. “[They’re] a humanist.”
Still, he plans to continue attending marches, including those that involve property destruction. “Everything done here is very deliberate,” he said. “When someone smashes a Starbucks window, they’re not just an adrenaline junkie or something. They’re making a statement, breaking an illusion. ”
Seattle Times reporter Mike Carter contributed to this report. This story has been corrected to reflect that Sherae Lascelles uses the pronoun they.