Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from demonstrations and other events on Friday, June 5, as the day unfolded.
It’s been a full week since protests began in the Seattle area over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed last week by a white Minneapolis police officer when he pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
On Thursday, Seattle demonstrators broke into multiple groups to protest racial injustice and a lack of police accountability. One group stayed planted at an intersection on Capitol Hill, less than a block away from the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. Another group marched peacefully through the Central District, briefly stopping at Garfield High School, before circling back to rejoin the Capitol Hill crowd.
For the most part, the Thursday groups remained upbeat and peaceful throughout the day, as people took time to hand out snacks, dance and share past experiences with each other — evidence that the tone of the protests has shifted significantly over the week.
Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best announced Friday a temporary ban on the use of tear gas, also called CS gas, during protests by officers. Other department policies, including the use of chokeholds and pepper spray, will be reviewed by the city’s police accountability groups.
Throughout Friday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the protests in the Seattle area. Updates from Thursday can be found here.
If you’ve taken part in these protests, we’d like to hear from you: What was your experience? What did being out there mean to you? Fill out this form and let us know.
Seattle demonstrators on Capitol Hill wrap up full week of protesting George Floyd's death
After a full week of protesting George Floyd's death, Seattle demonstrators made their way back to a Capitol Hill intersection at 11th Avenue and Pine Street. For hours they played music and organized chants together, while facing off against police and National Guard members standing half a block away behind a barricade.
On Friday, law enforcement officials stationed themselves noticeably farther from the protesters than during previous days. Every once in a while, police made announcements to the crowd, asking them not to shine lasers at officers or reminding them to stay peaceful, multiple livestreams showed.
People responded by yelling back.
"We're going to be here every day," some shouted.
Protests and marches throughout the city again remained largely peaceful Friday.
Several marches are scheduled in Seattle this weekend, including one led by members of the University of Washington Health Sciences community, who are planning to march from Harborview Medical Center to City Hall at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Another march, which community leader Nikita Oliver helped organize, will start Sunday at 2 p.m. at Othello Playground and end at a Safeway near Rainier Beach.
Portland protests turn violent as police deploy tear gas into crowds
While Seattle protests have for the most part stayed peaceful and energetic Friday night, downtown Portland demonstrations turned violent around 11 p.m.
"We are advising the crowd this is a civil disturbance and an unlawful assembly," Portland police tweeted just after 11 p.m. "Everyone must leave the area now or be subject to use of force to include crowd control munitions. The area of SW Lincoln to W Burnside, Naito to Burnside is now closed. Leave now."
A few minutes later, the police department tweeted that more projectiles were being thrown at officers and again advised remaining protesters to leave.
"There are flares and fireworks being thrown ... More violence is occurring. This is a civil disturbance and unlawful assembly. The park is now closed. Officers are getting hit with slingshot rounds. Leave now," police tweeted again around 11:30 p.m.
While some people dispersed, crowds began to gather on Fourth Avenue, police said.
"Everyone needs to leave the downtown area," they said in a tweet.
“ACAB” after tear gas deployed at fence. pic.twitter.com/UizCr1b95g
— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) June 6, 2020
Capitol Hill crowd returns to 11th and Pine
Around 10:30 p.m., many protesters had reconvened at 11th Avenue and Pine Street in Capitol Hill — a spot that has become a routine meeting place during this week's demonstrations.
The crowd had remained peaceful, with some splitting off at times into other groups in Cal Anderson Park and farther down Pine Street, and continuing to share free snacks and water with each other.
Law enforcement officials maintained a solid presence behind the barricade near 11th Avenue.
The march ends where, organizers tell me, it’ll end every night: at the corner of Pine and 11th. Open photo for a lil rooftop surprise pic.twitter.com/vV8DLzazs5
— Scott Greenstone (@evergreenstone) June 6, 2020
A band is set up tonight again and this guy is singing “black lives matter” *very soulful* pic.twitter.com/ocON158P3N
— amandamsnyder (@amandamsnyder) June 6, 2020
Capitol Hill protesters return to Seattle Police Department East Precinct
Back on Capitol Hill near the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct.
Some people set up a sign-making station in Cal Anderson Park, offering donations to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County.
Police were standing noticeably farther back behind the barricade on Pine Street. They also had set up a flood light behind the barricade.
Back at cal Anderson, where I found a sign making station pic.twitter.com/vRxsvSF8lB
— amandamsnyder (@amandamsnyder) June 6, 2020
No cops at protests in Chinatown, Central District
At both an event in the Central District and a march through the Chinatown-International District Friday evening, there was a conspicuous lack of police presence. Streets were apparently cleared at both locations by staff from King County Metro in service vehicles, while parked cars honked with protesters.
Police spokesperson Patrick Michaud wouldn’t comment on whether it was a shift in strategy, but said that the department handles marches “all the time,” and confirmed that as long as they don’t turn violent, protesters are free to march without police supervision.
“We’ll monitor how they’re doing, but … if they’re marching peacefully it’s fine,” Michaud said.
Nait Misgina, one of the protest organizers, said the police simply didn’t expect an event at these locations, because protests in the last few days have focused at other locations, like Cal Anderson Park.
“What we’re proving here is we do not need police to walk in these streets,” Misgina said. “The police are the aggressors.”
The group marching through Chinatown ended up joining the gathering at 23rd Avenue and Jackson Street. They're planning to head over to Cal Anderson Park soon, Misgina said.
Here in Seattle’s Central District, where for the first time at a protest in the last week, I don’t see any police. pic.twitter.com/Rs72ETcOEW
— Scott Greenstone (@evergreenstone) June 6, 2020
Group marching down Broadway honors Breonna Taylor's birthday
Meanwhile, another group of protesters marched down Broadway through Capitol Hill, honoring Breonna Taylor on what would have been her 27th birthday.
The demonstrators, including Sage Eisenhour and Sarah Spencer, called for police accountability on the eighth day of protests.
“I want to be part of the change,” Spencer said.
— Erika J. Schultz (@ErikaJSchultz) June 6, 2020
Central District protesters set up speakers in parking lot to share music and stories
At the corner of Jackson Street and 23rd Avenue for several hours Friday night, several hundred people listened to music and speeches.
A man who only identified himself as a resident of the Central District said he was hopeful that these protests were ushering in change.
For the first time in his life, he said, people of other races were talking to him on the street in a friendly manner.
“White, Asian, they could be from Mars,” he said. “People I’ve never talked to before."
Deandre Taylor, another Central District resident, said he was hopeful that there would be a move to do a better job of funding Central District schools.
Three friends — Manny Charlemagne, Oyin Shenbanjo and Warren Szewczyk — talked about the importance of the moment.
Shenbanjo, who is Black, talked about the fear he carried that if he were stopped by police, even for something as like a broken tail light, his life could be in danger.
Charlemagne talked about the inherent unfairness of funding schools through property taxes, which left the poorest schools with the least money.
“People are starting to wake up a little bit," Charlemagne said. "In my previous experience this was always a black thing (when a black person died at the hands of white officers). After George Floyd’s death, we realize we have a problem. That’s some small bit of progeess.”
Szewczyk, who is white, talked about how whites need to come to grips with their own prejudices and do the work of educating themselves.
“What are white people going to do?” Szewczyk said. “That’s what this is all about ... One big thing (the marchers) are asking white people who live in Montlake, West Seattle: 'What are you going to do?' You have a lot more power than these protesters. This has to start with a personal change.”
Ok, Rell Be Free is GOOD 🎶 pic.twitter.com/bBCLVsMaXd
— amandamsnyder (@amandamsnyder) June 6, 2020
Public health officials worry tear gas, pepper spray could contribute to coronavirus spread as Seattle protests continue
As Seattle police officers blasted a crowd of demonstrators with pepper spray and tear gas on Capitol Hill on Monday night, the effects were unmistakable.
“[Protesters] were screaming, their eyes were closed … they were spitting,” said Kara Sweidel, a trained street medic who treated people in Cal Anderson Park when the mayhem began. “Someone was brought over to us completely doused. … He couldn’t open his eyes.”
Sweidel got to work, flushing out eyes and trying to calm people who were experiencing the common effects of tear gas and pepper spray. As Sweidel worked, officers advanced toward the park. More gas and flash-bang grenades. “Tear gas keeps coming, you have to keep moving,” Sweidel said.
Concerns about the use of tear gas and pepper spray as the region battles the coronavirus pandemic boiled over this week as civilian watchdog groups criticized the absence of clear police policy on using tear gas for crowd control. Public Health – Seattle & King County, meanwhile, raised concerns about such tactics for health reasons, saying tear gas “and other respiratory irritants” could increase the spread of COVID-19.
Inslee pledges state review of Manuel Ellis’ death after arrest by Tacoma police
Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday pledged an independent state review of the death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man killed in March while he was being arrested and restrained by Tacoma police.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards on Thursday night directed the city manager to fire the four officers and called for them to be prosecuted to “the fullest extent of the law.”
The officers — Christopher Burbank, 34; Matthew Collins, 37; Masyih Ford, 28; and Timothy Rankine, 31 — were placed on administrative leave after Ellis’ death on March 3, but had since returned to duty. They were again placed on administrative leave Wednesday morning.
“We know that Manuel Ellis was one of far, far too many Black men who died while in police custody in America, including here in Washington state,” Inslee said Friday evening in a prepared statement. “Washingtonians deserve every assurance that investigations and charging decisions related to police shootings and deaths of people in police custody are handled with urgency, independence and commitment to justice.”
Inslee added that he recently began working with activists, law enforcement officials and families of victims of police killings to create a permanent process in Washington that would require an independent review of similar cases. He said he's hoping to present new legislation to lawmakers by no later than January.
SPD: Officers were targeted with laser pointers, rocks; 2 hurt
Seattle police say that late Thursday night, protesters aimed laser pointers and threw rocks at officers, injuring two, with one going to the emergency room.
Tom Mahaffey, assistant chief of patrol operations, met with reporters Friday afternoon, but didn’t speak about the nature of the injuries and didn’t know whether the officer was still in the hospital.
Mahaffey said some in the crowd of protesters aimed laser pointers at a circling King County helicopter, “creating substantial risk for the pilot.”
“Multiple announcements were made by the Seattle police incident commander to respectfully restrain the pointing lasers – however the pointing of the lasers continued,” Mahaffey said.
No tear gas was used and later Friday, Seattle’s mayor and chief of police announced the city would not use tear gas for at least 30 days. Mahaffey said it could still be used in some circumstances.
“If officers face any acts of violence against themselves or another person, or there’s significant property damage, we have the appropriate tools and tactics in place to address them,” Mahaffey said.
Protesters congregate in the Central District
A crowd of people has formed in the Central District neighborhood.
I’m doing some protest coverage tonight with @evergreenstone. I’m at the corner of 23rd and Jackson where a mellow crowd fills the parking lot, listening to music, speeches. pic.twitter.com/7HrjV3UkXf
— Katherine B. Long (@katherinelong) June 6, 2020
Now at the George Floyd Rally & Teach in at 23rd & Jackson pic.twitter.com/EqlNWzRgRN
— amandamsnyder (@amandamsnyder) June 5, 2020
Protesters are calling for police accountability and reform.
Seattle demonstrators, including Sage Eisenhour and Sarah Spencer, call for police accountability in an eighth day of protests Friday in Capitol Hill. “I want to be part of the change,” says Spencer. #seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/qEthB4piXH
— Erika J. Schultz (@ErikaJSchultz) June 6, 2020
Seattle's civil rights director: Reduce police spending, shift dollars to other community needs
In an email to staff members Friday, the director of Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights spoke out against the police response to recent protests while calling on City Hall to reallocate money from law enforcement to other community needs.
Mariko Lockhart, who was nominated by Mayor Jenny Durkan in 2019 and who serves under the mayor, also urged City Hall to halt the use of military-style actions against demonstrators and stop sweeping away homeless encampments.
She addressed her thoughts in what she described as an open letter “to the Beloved Community you all have been so helpful in making happen.” The Seattle Times was forwarded a copy of the email. Lockhart didn't immediately offer additional comments Friday. Independent journalist Erica Barnett first reported the letter, on Twitter.
“Like you, I have felt deep anguish, anger, and disappointment over recent events,” Lockhart wrote, mentioning police killing across the country and in Seattle.
“I truly thought that in the middle of a global pandemic and crashing economy – both of which are disproportionately devastating Black folks – things could get no worse. I was wrong,” she continued.
“As I marched in protest to grieve and be in community with others, even while breaching public health precautions, I, along with other demonstrators, were met with tear gas and flash grenades thrown into the crowd by our City colleagues at SPD.”
She added, “What I experienced in person and have seen in video footage, has been terrifying. I have heard from other city leadership and employees that they fear for their personal safety, not because of other protestors but because of the police.”
Lockhart agreed with City Hall’s recent decision to hit pause before trying to wrap up Seattle’s police-reform consent decree, she wrote, and believes money budgeted for law enforcement must be redirected to other purposes.
“We have spent decades continually expanding the role of police,” she wrote. “We have relied on law enforcement to solve problems rather than fully investing in community-based models of safety, support, and prevention. We now know that this is a flawed strategy and we need to begin reallocating resources that center communities most impacted by structural racism.”
In her letter, Lockhart urged City Hall to create a “budget for black lives” by reducing funding for police and by boosting funding for “community infrastructure within Black and Brown communities,” including criminal-justice system alternatives, housing and social services.
She also recommended Seattle “immediately halt” the use of flash grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas against demonstrations while asking that arrested protesters be released from jail without charges and that police officers be held accountable for using excessive force.
Lastly, Lockhart urged City Hall to “decriminalize” its approach to homeless encampments by investing more money in outreach, services and prevention. She described encampment removals as “inhumane” actions that disproportionately harm Black people, Indigenous people and other people of color.
Those are some of the “demands and pleas” Lockhart has heard from community members and anti-racist activists “calling on us to do better,” she wrote. In closing, she suggested staff members forge strong partnerships with community organizers.
Seattle Human Rights Commission requests adoption of police accountability measures
The Seattle Human Rights Commission has requested Mayor Jenny Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best and members of the Seattle City Council adopt community recommendations on police accountability and reform.
The commission said it believes the Seattle Police Department (SPD) "exists to protect and serve our community," but when they fail to do so, "they should be reprimanded and face the appropriate consequences."
Here are some of the commission's requests.
- Any officer who has initiated force against members of the public should be immediately put on suspension and an investigation into the incident should be launched.
- Seattle should require officers to use a de-escalation approach in all interactions with members of the public.
- Seattle should ban officers from shooting at moving vehicles.
- Officers should not use their vehicles to intentionally harm members of the public.
- Seattle should require intervention from other police when an officer is involved in "wrongdoing."
- Seattle should incorporate a new Public Safety toolkit into its policing.
- The Seattle City Council should propose and vote for a 50% reduction of SPD's budget.
- Seattle's City Attorney should not prosecute protesters — including people arrested for violating curfew and people living in encampments.
Bank of America commits $1 billion to communities of color
Bank of America, Washington's largest bank by deposit, will deploy $1 billion in communities of color to address economic and racial inequality, bank executives announced this week.
The commitment comes as activists demand proponents of racial equality go beyond statements of support for protests seeking to end police brutality against Black Americans, and "open your purse."
Social media posts with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and carefully curated statements can be a calculated marketing move, many say, adding that companies and celebrities truly interested in racial equality will put their money where their mouths are.
Locally, the bank already partners with organizations including El Centro De La Raza, the Downtown Emergency Service Center and the Technology Access Foundation, according to a statement.
Amazon has also said it will donate $10 million to social justice efforts.
Bezos defends Amazon’s ‘Black lives matter’ message in exchange with angry customer
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos defended the “Black lives matter” message posted on the commerce giant’s site, explaining to an offended customer that the message “speaks to racism and the disproportionate risk that Black people face in our law enforcement and justice system.”
“‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter,” Bezos told the customer in an email exchange posted to his Instagram account Friday afternoon and spread on Amazon’s social media channels. The world’s richest person added, “I have a 20-year-old son, and I simply don’t worry that he might be choked to death while being detained one day. It’s not something I worry about. Black parents can’t say the same.”
SPD chief orders officers to end use of tear gas in protests for 30 days
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has ordered a ban on the use of tear gas by for 30 days during protests, she said in a news conference Friday.
During those 30 days, Best said she has asked the city's police accountability groups — the Community Police Commission (CPC), the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG) — along with other outside experts to review and update crowd-control policies.
SWAT team members who are specially trained are still permitted to use CS tear gas in the interim period in "life safety" situations and only under the authority of Chief Best, she said.
"We want to allow time for partners to take a look at processes that give us the most well informed advice about what we should do going forward," Best said.
Chief Best said use of all deadly force techniques, such as neckholds and chokeholds will be in review along with the use of pepper spray.
"The suspension is of CS gas for right now, but everything will be reviewed," she said. "It's really important that we're looking at every aspect of force and how we're utilizing it. We'll wait to hear recommendations in 30 days or so from our accountability partners."
The use of chemical agents to control protesters has been criticized as Seattle and King County continue to operate under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Jenny Durkan said she is asking Public Health — Seattle & King County to review all the tools used for crowd management, including OC pepper spray.
Unlike the use of tear gas, she said, "there is a department wide policy related to when OC spray can be used, what types can be used, how they’re trained.”
Watchdog groups to Seattle’s mayor and police chief: SPD should stop using tear gas on demonstrators
Seattle police should stop using tear gas to control crowds of demonstrators to build public trust amid the ongoing George Floyd demonstrations and until the department adopts policies and training for use of the chemical agent, three civilian watchdog groups recommended Friday to Seattle’s mayor, city attorney and police chief.
The joint recommendation, issued by the city’s Community Police Commission (CPC), the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG), asks “the Seattle Police Department to cease the use of CS gas in response to First Amendment activity, until such time as any appropriate use can be vetted by oversight entities and incorporated into a written SPD policy.”
“That policy should include sufficient safeguards so that CS gas is only used, if at all, in a manner that keeps faith with the public trust,” according to a memorandum sent to Mayor Jenny Durkan, City Attorney Pete Holmes and Police Chief Carmen Best.
Durkan and Best planned to publicly address the recommendations at a news conference Friday afternoon, Durkan’s chief of staff said in an email Friday.
Read the full story here.
I’m at a #BlackLivesMatter protest organized by students at Franklin High in Seattle. There are hundreds holding signs and chanting near the intersection of MLK & Rainier Ave.
— Dahlia Bazzaz داليا البزاز (@dahliabazzaz) June 5, 2020
Black officers are torn between two worlds amid protests
OKLAHOMA CITY — Black police officers find themselves torn between two worlds: They feel the pain of seeing yet another black man killed at the hands of fellow officers, yet they must also try to keep the peace during angry protests fueled by that death.
Those feelings, familiar to many blacks in law enforcement for years, have never been more intense than in the days since George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, died after a white officer jammed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as other officers watched.
“My emotion, my fervor is no less than those people on the streets,” said New York City police Detective Felicia Richards, who is black. “I stand in this uniform, and I understand what my obligation is to this uniform, but I can’t compromise my humanity.”
Since police killings gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, police departments have sought to better diversify their ranks. But minorities remain underrepresented in many agencies. For example, of the 36,000-plus officers in the New York Police Department, 17,000 are white, while 5,500 are black.
Read the full story here.
Franklin High School students to protest in place this afternoon
Students at Franklin High School will spread out across the intersection opposite their school for two hours on Friday in support of global protests calling for policing reform.
According to a Facebook page created for the event, the students' demands mirror those of the broader movement: demilitarization of the police, cutting funding to the police and more restrictive laws governing police response. They are also demanding a number of reforms in education, including ethnic studies courses throughout SPS, less police presence and more decision-making power for students.
It is the latest show of solidarity with the movement from youth in the area. Earlier this week, students from Rainier Beach High School organized a virtual protest Wednesday by going outside to chant for an end to police violence, then posting videos of themselves protesting on Instagram.
Later on Friday, Leschi Elementary School students and staff will hold a Black Lives Matter-oriented gathering with community speakers at 3:30 p.m.
Thousands march peacefully for 7th night in Portland
Thousands of protesters marched for the seventh consecutive night Thursday in Portland to decry the death of George Floyd.
NBA Portland Trail Blazer star Damian Lillard walked at the front of the crowd arm-in-arm with young demonstrators as they crossed the Morrison Bridge over the Willamette River and made their way to a large riverside park for a rally and speeches. Hours later, a smaller group gathered outside the Justice Center but also remained largely peaceful, police said.
Around 1:30 a.m., after most protesters had gone home, several hundred people remained downtown and set fires, engaged in street-racing, threw projectiles and pointed lasers at officers’ eyes, according to the Portland Police Bureau. Officers used a sound device that emits loud, high frequencies to deter those people. Twelve people were arrested, according to police.
“For another night, thousands of peaceful demonstrators were able to demonstrate, march, and express their First Amendment rights in a safe manner. We thank them once again for managing a successful event,” said Police Chief Jami Resch. “We will continue to facilitate free speech and assembly and focus efforts on arresting those who engage in criminal activity that reduces our public safety.”
Read more here.
Protesters remain on Capitol Hill
After Thursday night's mostly peaceful protest, demonstrators remain along a barrier near the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct on Capitol Hill. The protesters are gathered on Pine Street at 11th Avenue.
Click here to watch a live stream of the protesters via Facebook, or watch below:
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Seattle's police chief has ordered officers to show their badge numbers, in response to alarms raised by protesters about officers covering the numbers with black mourning bands. This came on a day of mostly peaceful protests in Seattle. Read how the day unfolded.
The family of a Tacoma man who died while being restrained by police — not long after saying “can’t breathe” — is demanding answers and criticizing the investigation of his death. The Tacoma City Council today will consider calling for an independent review.
Worried about spread of COVID-19, local public health authorities oppose use of tear gas
King County public health officials are worried the use of tear gas and other respiratory irritants could increase risk of the spread of COVID-19.
As thousands of people have gathered in Seattle over the past week to protest racial injustice and police brutality, Seattle police have several times deployed pepper spray and tear gas into large groups of demonstrators, sending people into fits of coughing and gasping and leaving their eyes and skin burning.
Public Health - Seattle & King County has “shared information with the city about the risk of using any agent that would cause coughing, as it increases the risk of transmission,” spokeswoman Sharon Bogan said in an email. “We did this as part of our advisory role as Public Health.”
Research conducted by the US Army in 2012 indicated risk of acute respiratory illness in the days after exposure to tear gas and has attracted new attention as police deploy gas amid a pandemic. “It is also possible that tear gas increases the risk for respiratory infection as reported in the US Army research,” Bogan said.
“Public Health — Seattle & King Co opposes the use of tear gas & other respiratory irritants based on the potential to increase COVID-19 spread,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health wrote in a tweet Thursday evening.
Why health officials support Seattle protests but Black Lives Matter calls them 'too dangerous'
Just a couple weeks ago, it would have been the stuff of public health professionals’ nightmares: thousands of people clustered together, chanting, amid a pandemic. But even though protests like this one in Seattle violate social-distancing guidelines, infectious disease experts are calling them “vital to the national public health." The local branch of Black Lives Matter is being far more cautious. Meanwhile, the CDC's director says protesters should highly consider getting tested for COVID-19. (Photo: Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
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