Demonstrators shut down a portion of Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle Monday night as the protest over the Ferguson grand- jury ruling erupted into violence.
Police used pepper spray and blast devices to try to keep protesters away from the freeway near Seventh Avenue and Madison Street around 10 p.m. However, a handful managed to make it onto the freeway, blocking the interstate until officers herded them off.
Police said they were pelted by rocks, bottles, canned food and what they described as large fireworks by demonstrators protesting the decision by a Missouri grand jury to not indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man.
Seattle police reported five arrests as of early Tuesday morning: a 51-year-old man for reckless endangerment, a 22-year-old woman for failure to disperse, and two men – 34 and 28 – for obstruction. Officers also arrested a man who was armed with a handgun on a weapons violation.
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By 11:45 p.m., about 200 protesters had gathered at 12th Avenue and East Pike Street, where they were engaged in a standoff with police. At times they knelt and shouted, “No justice, no peace.”
The violence came toward the end of a mostly peaceful hourslong protest that began with a rally at Westlake Park.
Shouting “No justice, no peace,” an estimated 200 to 300 protesters marched after a 5 p.m. rally at Westlake Park to Seattle Central College on Capitol Hill. Dozens of Seattle police bicycle officers watched the crowd, which Monday night remained loud, but peaceful.
Joining demonstrators in cities across the country, the Seattle marchers carried signs protesting the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer. Some fell to the pavement to stage “die-ins” at various points along the march. Some launched fireworks into the air.
“Seattle is just like Ferguson,” protest organizer Mohawk Kuzma said before the grand jury’s decision was announced Monday evening.
Protesters sat down silently in the middle of Broadway near Pike Street for 4½ minutes, signifying the 4½ hours Brown’s body lay in the street after he was fatally shot. They rose and chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
As marchers gathered on Capitol Hill, streets around the Police Department’s East Precinct were blocked off. Demonstrators stood outside the barricades shouting, “Black lives matter.”
A man walked through the crowd and yelled, “You’re idiots!” A woman shouted back “I’m not sorry for being black and marching!”
Among those spotted in the march and on the freeway was Seattle hip-hop artist Macklemore.
At a news briefing an hour after the Ferguson decision was announced, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole urged those who protested to do so peacefully.
Murray said Seattle is failing its young African-American men by allowing educational and economic disparities to persist. But “Seattle is not Ferguson,” he insisted.
“Ferguson is a predominantly African-American town that has three African-American police officers,” Murray said. “Our city is committed to the goals of racial social justice in all areas … It is a core value of the city and one that we should be proud of. But of course Seattle is far from perfect.
“My message to young people in Seattle tonight, and particularly to African-American young people is, while we do not have the answers, we in this city are listening to you. We in this city love you,” Murray said.
O’Toole, who became police chief a few months ago, said, “This is a very special place. I’ve been overwhelmed by the genuine humanity I’ve witnessed in every neighborhood of this city. During these challenging times I hope that we can be a beacon of hope and calm that others will look to.”
Pamela Banks of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle said the city must tackle economic disparities in addition to police reform.
As part of the city’s preparations, Seattle police working the department’s second shift were told not to go home Monday evening until they received approval from a supervisor, according to sources familiar with the directive.
The directive was issued Monday by Assistant Chief Nick Metz, who oversees the patrol bureau, and applied to officers who work from late morning to mid-evening, the sources said. The added officers maintained a close watch on the protesters, essentially following them as they marched along city streets.
After the marchers left Seattle Central, they eventually made their way to the Garfield Community Center in the Central Area, site of one of two “Rapid response” events being held in the city. The events were organized to help the community gather and process the Ferguson decision.
“As a mother, I’m terrified,” said one woman at the center who didn’t want to give her name. “I’m hurt.”
Several people said that even though they expected the decision, hearing that the Ferguson police officer won’t be prosecuted has made them lose hope.
“I’m shocked, but I’m not shocked,” another woman said. “I feel like I’m just shaking inside. I want to know if the white people in this room feel the same.”
Contributing to this story were Seattle Times staff reporters Paige Cornwell, Daniel Beekman, Steve Miletich, Christine Clarridge, Jim Brunner and Jennifer Sullivan.