From a police and public safety standpoint, the May Day marches and protests followed a de-escalation of violence and vandalism that has marked the event over the past few years. By the time the march wound down, police had arrested one protester.
Hundreds of people chanted, danced and waved signs during a peaceful, two-hour-long march through downtown Seattle for immigrant and worker rights on a May Day that was more notable for what didn’t happen than what did.
From a police and public safety standpoint, Tuesday’s May Day marches and protests followed a de-escalation of violence and vandalism that has marked the event over the past few years. By the time the march had wound down, police had arrested only a single protester — a masked man who threw a rock at the Amazon Spheres near the company’s headquarters downtown.
No property damage was reported by police.
The 19th annual March for Immigrant and Workers Rights, which seemed to draw fewer people than it has in years past, filled about three blocks at its longest point. Noisy news helicopters trailed the marchers as they walked down Jackson Street and through the International District, then wound through downtown Seattle, stopping at Second Avenue and Spring Street at 5 p.m. and halting downtown traffic for blocks during rush hour.
The marchers were joined by about a dozen people clad entirely in black, with bandanas covering their faces, waving anti-fascist and anarchist flags and yelling obscenities at Seattle police bicycle officers.
There were also taunts tossed between the black-clad “antifa,” or anti-fascist protesters, and the camouflage crowd mostly affiliated with the pro-Trump Patriot Prayer movement and the far-right Proud Boys. But a violent confrontation between the groups never materialized, thanks largely to the heavy police presence along the march route and in downtown Seattle.
Several dozen members of the Patriot Prayer group walked around downtown, closely followed by police. Country music and patriotic songs blared from a speaker the group carted along, with many members holding flags.
“King County has one-third of the votes in the state of Washington and it is absolutely disgusting,” said one man speaking into a microphone. “We have to rally the rest of the state … [and] get it to believe in the fact that we can bring freedom back into the Pacific Northwest.”
The immigrant and worker march was organized by the May 1 Action Committee for El Comite, and started with a low-key rally at Judkins Park near Washington Middle School around 2:30 p.m.
Sameth Mell, with the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color, said he marched Tuesday because he was concerned about recent federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, and dismayed that the state Department of Licensing has been handing over personal information to federal immigration-enforcement officers. That information can be used to arrest and deport people, and he and several others called for the director, Pat Kohler, to be removed.
Mell said he was also concerned about a decision by the U.S. Census to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. “They do not want communities of color to be counted,” he said.
“We have seen the damage of ICE impacting our community, but we haven’t heard anything about how having ICE in Washington state really helps the community feel safe,” added Diakonda Gurning, an organizer with the May 1st Action Coalition.
Yaret Lopez, who traveled from Everett for the march, decried immigration officials who deport undocumented migrants.
“They’re separating families,” she said.
About a dozen people from the Asian Counseling and Referral Service marched and rallied. Diane Narasaki, the executive director of the center, said Asia sends more immigrants to the U.S. than any other place in the world. “Our community has a lot at stake,” she said. “We want to make sure our rights are protected, and that we have a saner and more humane immigration policy,” she said.
Signature-gatherers worked the crowd at Judkins and during the march, trying to drum up signatures for universal health care (Initiative 1600) and a fee on carbon (Initiative 1631).
Ed Brighton and Will Alleckson, members of Veterans for Peace, waved two white flags for their organization. Brighton, who served in the Navy for 20 years, says he thinks too much money is spent on the military, and that he supported Seattle’s status as a sanctuary city for immigrants.
The group marched by construction sites on Jackson Street, where construction workers paused and a few shouted their support in Spanish and raised fists in solidarity.The marchers included Eric Zorrozua of Bremerton, dressed in a navy blue suit and a name tag identifying him as Russian President Vladimir Putin. He carried a puppet caricature of President Donald Trump. The bit of street theater said it all, said Zorrozua, who said he’d never participated in the march before.
“I’m artistic — maybe this is the way I communicate,” he said.
A half-dozen sex workers dressed in black, and carrying red umbrellas staged what they described as a funeral for the death of safer sex work.
Savannah Sly, with Sex Workers Outreach Project of Seattle, said two recent congressional actions have made sex work more dangerous because workers can no longer advertise their services, and screen their clients in advance.
A group of artists and activists against the new youth jail staged a block party in the University District, a peaceful event surrounded by police bicycle officers.
After last year’s march, the black-clad antifa protesters and the Patriot Prayer members shared a “peace joint” at Westlake Park, calming what had been an angry confrontation. This year, there was no such touchy-feely moment between the patriot protesters — who said they were there to support the First Amendment — and the anarchists, who until recent years had mostly turned the annual event into an hourslong cat-and-mouse game with police.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter: @katherinelong. Seattle Times staff reporters Steve Miletich, Mike Carter, Lewis Kamb, Paige Cornwell, Sara Jean Green and Susan Kelleher contributed to this story.