Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from demonstrations and other events on Saturday, June 6 as the day unfolded.
More than a week has passed since protests began in the Seattle area over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed on May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer when he pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
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.
On Friday, Seattle demonstrators again 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 filled a parking lot in the Central District for a “teach-in,” where community members, protest leaders, artists and musicians gathered to share knowledge and exchange stories.
Throughout Saturday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the protests in the Seattle area. Updates from Friday 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 Police Department confirms officers used blast balls and pepper spray during Capitol Hill protest
The Seattle Police Department confirmed its officers used blast balls and pepper spray after ordering protesters to disperse outside the department's East Precinct on Capitol Hill on Saturday evening.
Several officers were hurt shortly after 7:30 p.m., and two officers were taken to Harborview Medical Center with unspecified injuries, according to the department.
According to the police department, a scene commander warned protesters at 11th Avenue and East Pine Street to stop pushing barriers, and then some people "began throwing bottles, rocks and incendiary devices" at officers. A photo provided by the police department of the devices thrown showed what appeared to be a candle.
No tear gas was deployed, according to the department. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and police Chief Carmen Best announced Friday that Seattle police officers won't use tear gas on protesters for at least the next 30 days.
In a news release, the police department did not say whether any protesters or bystanders were injured.
More local leaders join Capitol Hill protest, telling Seattle police to de-escalate, stop using pepper spray and flash bangs
Calling for an end to tactics like pepper spray and flash-bang grenades, city, county and state elected officials joined protesters Saturday night on Capitol Hill.
Seattle City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss, Andrew Lewis and Teresa Mosqueda, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, state Sen. Joe Nguyen and state Rep. Nicole Macri, who represents Capitol Hill, joined the protest near the front line facing a line of police.
Protestors are peaceful but this doesn’t look like peace. pic.twitter.com/CrMfERloE6
— Joe Nguyen for King County Executive (@meetjoenguyen) June 7, 2020
Nguyen said the group asked Seattle police to move back from the barricade to decrease tensions. The elected officials spoke with Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Nguyen said, and officers later moved farther from the barricade.
Zahilay live-streamed the police response from his cell phone, chanting with the crowd "I don't see no riot here, take off your riot gear."
"This is the escalation that we see," Zahilay said as he panned the camera to a line of police. "It's just unacceptable. We need to demilitarize. We need to de-escalate."
Calls to defund Seattle police at Magnuson Park rally, march
At Saturday’s march beginning at Magnuson Park, demonstrators echoed demands to defund the Seattle Police Department. The rally and march took place in the northern Seattle neighborhood to honor Charleena Lyles, killed by Seattle police in 2017, and to bring attention to racial injustice in white neighborhoods, speakers said before the group left the park to march.
Reducing funding to the police would free up money to better support schools, healthcare and vulnerable people, said Leo McGee, 34, who attended the rally.
“We’re sending nurses into battle every day battling this pandemic with no correct PPE, but meanwhile you can send a police officer in full riot gear…to pretty much punish peaceful protests,” said McGee, who works in healthcare and lives in Wedgwood.
McGee’s own experience being profiled by police in Los Angeles pushed him to seek change, he said. As a child, his dad warned him about being wrongly stopped by police or wrongly accused of a crime because, his father explained, “When you’re born Black, you’re born with a strike against you.”
“I know what it’s like to be profiled, to be arrested, to be publicly embarrassed because of the color of my skin,” McGee said, “so this is all too familiar for me. When I saw the video of George Floyd… I saw myself. That could be me.”
McGee believes public opinion is turning in favor of defunding police, evidenced by large protests in Seattle and across the country.
“The people want it, but the problem is the politicians still don’t want to hear it,” McGee said.
Marching through the Sand Point neighborhood with a sign reading “Charleena Lyles,” Julia Massey said the recent wave of protests has meant “we can shed light on her once again.”
“She called police to come and help her and the resulting action was that she ended up being killed by a cop,” Massey said.
Her death showed “a use of violence first instead of some kind of mediation,” Massey said. “Just an unfortunate level of training where people come in and they show up in a situation and it escalates far too quickly.”
City of Seattle confirms National Guard was present at University Village protest
The City of Seattle’s Joint Information Center confirmed the National Guard was present at University Village Saturday "to assist with infrastructure protection and traffic and crowd management," but did not say how many officers were deployed.
Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a statewide activation of the National Guard last week in response to looting following protests against police brutality.
Seattle politicians join Capitol Hill protest, criticize police response
Seattle City Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez wrote on Twitter on Saturday night that she is "outraged" by the police response at a protest outside the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct. "This is NOT what de-escalation looks like!" she tweeted.
City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda urged Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best to "stop traumatizing protesters and neighbors" and said she received reports that the protests had been peaceful.
Mosqueda, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, state Sen. Joe Nguyen and state Rep. Nicole Macri are at the protest, which resumed soon after Seattle police ordered the crowd to disperse around 7:30 p.m.
Members of my staff are currently at the protest and we are outraged. A person in a wheelchair was given no time to back up from the front lines. @MayorJenny @carmenbest - this is NOT what de-escalation looks like! #SeattleProtests
— Council President M. Lorena González (Seattle) (@CMLGonzalez) June 7, 2020
At Seattle's University Village, protesters kneel for George Floyd
The crowd of hundred, which stretched for blocks, arrived at a nearly empty University Village where they filled the shopping center parking lot. The crowd sang Happy Birthday to Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker who was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky. Friday would have been her 27th birthday.
Then, the crowd kneeled silently, planning to stay kneeling for 8 and a half minutes to honor George Floyd.
Protesters were interrupted by organizers halfway through the silent observation, and told to leave calmly. An organizer said the National Guard had surrounded University Village.
Nearly silent here pic.twitter.com/LmD6BIVUxZ
— Heidi Groover (@heidigroover) June 7, 2020
Demonstrators march from Magnuson Park to University Village
Black Lives Matter group in Seattle meets with Mayor Durkan, calls for general strike and march
Black Lives Matter Seattle – King County is calling for a statewide general strike and silent march on Friday, June 12, the group announced Saturday.
“We’re calling on everyone in Washington state who is able to be there. If you can’t march in Seattle, organize one in your community,” board member Ebony Miranda said in a video news conference, asking people to participate despite the COVID-19 crisis.
“Anti-blackness is a greater threat to our survival, and racism in itself is its own pandemic. It’s killing us. We’re fighting to survive and thrive.”
More details on the June 12 actions are yet to come, according to the local Black Lives Matter group, which met Saturday with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to discuss police-reform demands as protests continued over police killings of Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
Marlon Brown, another board member, said the group had begun to establish some common ground with Durkan on certain demands. He said the mayor made several commitments, though Durkan’s office said the discussions were less than clear-cut and other officials would need to be involved in various decisions.
The Black Lives Matter group demanded that Durkan reduce the Seattle Police Department’s budget for military-style weapons and equipment by $100 million and invest that money in other needs, such as street outreach, crisis intervention, mental-health diversion and housing. The mayor agreed to divest funds and to reinvest them in community needs, Brown said.
Read the full story here.
Police using flash bangs outside Seattle's East Precinct
Seattle police are using flash bangs at a protest outside the department's East Precinct on Capitol Hill.
Around 7:30 p.m., officers gave an order for demonstrators to move, and then deployed flash bangs as people ran from the site.
A chaotic scene ensued on 11th Avenue between Pike and Pine streets, as bicycle officers formed a line and told demonstrators to move toward Pine Street, where flash bangs went off. Several people reported being pepper sprayed.
Police are setting off flash bangs at the protest on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The police chief yesterday announced a ban tear gas, but officers are using pepper spray to move the crowds. pic.twitter.com/emSNxLSLel
— Paige Cornwell (@pgcornwell) June 7, 2020
Hundreds gather at Magnuson Park to remember Charleena Lyles
On Saturday evening, hundreds of people gathered on the lawn at Magnuson Park to remember the life of Charleena Lyles, a Black pregnant mother who was killed by police in June 2017. People clad in black held signs that read “Defund SPD,” and “No more silence, we need justice.”
Sitting on the ground was Kevin Norris, 29, a human resource manager and Bremerton resident who remembers reeling from Lyles’ death three years ago. He hadn’t joined rally’s commemorating the mother’s death in previous years, but felt spurred to join tonight’s event after a week of global protests around racial injustice following George Floyd’s death.
“We have incidents here in our own state that go unnoticed,” said Norris. “This was one story that had a five minute news flash.” As a Black man, Norris feels that it’s time for change. He wanted to highlight the killing of a Black woman who also get targeted by police brutality, and whose “names often get lost” in the news cycle, Norris said.
He was joined by Alexis Keith, 28, a Bremerton resident who said she was encouraged to see so many people supporting the movement for Black lives. “Law enforcement definitely needs to be changed. There needs to be more training, different protocols,” said Keith. As a Black woman, she’s sick of seeing the killings of Black people and feels that “enough is enough at the end of the day. We’ve been going through this for years.”
Keith is happy that the world is paying attention to systemic racism, and she hopes that the commitment to change will continue. “We need to fight it out until we finally make a difference,” she said.
Tensions ebb as cities worldwide hold peaceful protests
Demonstrators filled the streets in cities around the world Saturday, staging some of the largest and most peaceful protests against racism since a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, was killed on Memorial Day after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
People marched in Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Paris, Sydney and elsewhere, with turnout reaching the tens of thousands in some cities. Washington alone hosted a dozen different rallies. In Chicago, there were at least five and in New York City, protesters turned out to dozens of events in all five boroughs.
Even as demonstrators mourned Floyd and other blacks killed by police in recent years, Floyd’s family held a public viewing of his body and a private memorial service in tiny Raeford, North Carolina, the state where he was born.
Read the full story here.
Large crowd of peaceful protesters gathered at Space Needle; moving toward downtown
What began as a crowd of a few hundred assembled at the base of the Space Needle around 2 p.m. has moved down 2nd Avenue toward the Pike Place market, drawing supporters from nearby newly opened businesses to join and shout encouragement.
Periodically, the crowd would stop to take a knee and chant.
Workers from nearby bars and restaurants came out to raise their fists in support and handed the protesters bottles of water.
Chris Lwanga, who works at Microsoft, said he came out today to “show my disgust for all the events that have transpired over the last few months.”
“The focus right now is obviously on black people, but women are also incredibly marginalized,” he said. “The American dream is not a reality for many in this country—I’d say the vast majority.”
— amandamsnyder (@amandamsnyder) June 6, 2020
By the time the demonstration reached Belltown, it was approximately two and a half blocks long.
Protesters laid down on first Avenue, their hands behind their backs as if in handcuffs, chanting: “I can’t breathe!”
Seattle Councilmember Sawant calls for Mayor Durkan to resign over police response to protests
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant issued a statement Saturday calling on Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign, describing her as responsible for “violence and brutality” in the city’s response to “overwhelmingly peaceful” protests against institutional racism and police killings of Black people.
A harsh Durkan critic long before the current demonstrations, Sawant also called on her council colleagues Saturday to remove the mayor, if necessary. Durkan didn’t immediately return a request for comment Saturday.
In the past week, “Durkan has repeatedly unleashed Seattle police to use ever-escalating violence against ordinary people protesting the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other black and brown people,” Sawant said in a news release.
“The police have inflicted tear gas, mace, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, curfews, arrests and other repressive tactics on Seattle activists and residents — including children — in an attempt to bully and silence the protest movement,” the council member said.
Since the protests began, Durkan has condemned Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis and praised protesters for speaking out against injustice. Along the way, she has mostly stood by Seattle’s police response and attributed violence in the city’s streets that peaked downtown May 30 to a relatively small number of chaos-seekers bent on destruction.
Several other council members have questioned the Durkan administration’s response to the demonstrations. None other than Sawant have called on the mayor to resign.
In her news release, Sawant cited an online petition, launched Friday night by some Democratic Party leaders, also calling on Durkan to resign. The petition had collected about 4,000 signatures as of midday Saturday.
Health care workers leave City Hall, march to SPD's East Precinct; neighbors join in
A large crowd of health care workers — some estimates are high as 7,000 people — has left City Hall and passed through downtown to Capitol Hill outside the Seattle Police Department's barricaded East Precinct at 1519 12th Ave.
A few protesters managed to get behind the police barricade, and were escorted to the other side by police officers. The most in the crowd took a knee and chanted “Black lives matter” for around five minutes.
The health care workers, who began their march at Harborview Medical Center this morning, were joined by other protesters from the neighborhood. All are protesting police racism and violence in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed and unarmed Black man, while in police custody in Minnesota. Photos of a white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck, and video of him begging to breathe, have ignited a national firestorm over the use of excessive force by police against people of color.
Sam Sen, a software engineer originally from Jordan, lives nearby and said he came down when he heard the noise.
“I show up almost every day,“ he said. “It’s been amazing! It shows how closely tied the community is, everybody’s got everybody’s back. I see all kinds of colors, backgrounds, sexual orientations. I’ve lived on Capitol Hill for 11 years, and this just makes me love this city even more.”
He said the mood from day to day at this gathering point has been generally peaceful, as far as the protesters are concerned.
“When things escalate, it’s usually from the police,” he said. “The other day they used tear gas — Punished everyone here because of one asshole who threw a water bottle.”
For now, the crowd is mostly silent, some eating hot dogs from a vendor who set up shop at the northern corner of the barricade.
Olympia police chief apologizes after photo surfaces of officer posing with armed men
OLYMPIA – The city’s acting police chief apologized Friday evening after a photo of an Olympia Police Department officer posing with a group of armed men in fatigues circulated online.
The photo came as individuals or groups of armed men have begun appearing at demonstrations in the city protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The photo was believed to be taken early Friday morning on the city’s west side after the officer responded to a noise complaint, according to a news statement by the Olympia Police Department. It’s unclear whether the individuals in the photo were involved in counter-demonstrations. A group of armed men followed demonstrators late Thursday evening in a march through downtown Olympia. Earlier that evening, two other men with firearms stood near demonstrators outside City Hall.
Night 6 of #georgefloyd protests in Olympia, WA:
About 100 people here so far at City Hall. Holding signs as motorists honk.
— Joseph O'Sullivan ⛰ (@OlympiaJoe) June 5, 2020
In the photo, “One of our officers is seen posing with a group of armed individuals dressed in fatigue or militia type clothing and identifying themselves as members of the 3 Percent,” according to the statement by interim Police Chief Aaron Jelcick.
“I share the community’s concern that this image does not promote the values held by the Olympia Police Department and the City of Olympia,” Jelcick added. “I am disappointed and frustrated that the photo was taken at all, but particularly at this sensitive time in our city and nation. I regret that this photo may damage the trust our community places in us that we have worked so hard to build. I apologize for the pain this has caused our community. “
The Police Department has begun an investigation into the incident, according to the statement.
“It is imperative that Olympia Police Officers up hold our values, remain neutral to the message at public demonstrations, and do not engage in or promote conduct that will bring discredit to themselves, the Department or the City,” Jelcick said.
Thousands of medical workers march against police racism and violence; 'Aren't many police'
At City Hall, an emcee on the dais estimated there were as many as 7,000 people attending the medical workers’ march that began earlier at Harborview Medical Center and wound its way downtown.
What was missing were the lines of riot-gear clad Seattle police officers and national guardsmen, the phalanx of bicycle officers or any show or force or intimidation which have been commonplace during the public marches.
“Notice there aren’t many police?” asked nurse Hazzaunah Underwood, who stood in the crowd with her four children. Her son, who is in first grade, sat in a wagon alongside a PA Underwood brought, and wore a sign on his chest that said “future police officer” and a face mask with “I can’t breathe” written on it.
“That’s normal when a gathering is put together by professional people, people who have clout, positions of power. Up on Capitol Hill, there have been hundreds of cops, the National Guard — and not nearly as many protesters as there are here.“
Then, walking, she turned on her microphone and started a chant: “what do we want?” “Justice!” the crowd around her roared back immediately
The crowd had turned north to march downtown along Fourth Avenue.
At City Hall, health care workers say it's wrong to think they're not political
A massive crowd of health care workers, many in the distinguishing white lab coats worn by doctors and professionals, others in scrubs, gathered on the steps of City Hall to protest racism and police violence.
After marching downtown from Harborview Medical Center this morning, the large crowd — many hundreds, maybe more than 1,000 marchers — were told by speakers that it would be a mistake to believe that the medical profession isn't engaged in problems outside medicine.
One speaker said, "Many people believe health care is apolitical. We need to disabuse you of that belief.”
The speaker talked about, how in the past, doctors would work with slavers and that Blacks and others have been the subject of questionable medical experiments and legacies.
Health care worker march stretches for blocks on First Hill, chanting 'Black Lives Matter'
As a long line of health care workers — doctors, nurses and others — marched from Harborview Medical Center toward City Hall, Nhi Tan, a physician at the University of Washington, said she joined the demonstration out of “overwhelming sadness.”
“It took irrefutable proof—the perfect video, the perfect camera angle, the perfect light for America to see what’s going on.”
The demonstrators are now at Sixth Avenue and James Street in a long line of mask-wearing protesters, stretching up and down First Hill for blocks to the chant of “Black lives matter.“
Health care workers, despite coronavirus threat, march to protest police violence and racism
On Saturday morning, as many as a 1,000 doctors, nurses and other health care workers assembled at Harborview Medical Center, the latest constituency to protest police violence against people of color, as well as embedded American racism.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of healthcare workers and their supporters chanting “Black Lives Matter” on their way to City Hall. pic.twitter.com/5qIaKX4eDv
— brendankiley (@brendankiley) June 6, 2020
Local physicians and public health professionals have endorsed the group protest, despite the current novel coronavirus crisis — a letter from UW infectious disease experts saying protests against systemic racism "must be supported" collected over 1,200 signatures.
"For me as an African American woman, police brutality has been my corona since before corona showed its face," Hazzaunah Underwood, a nurse since 2007, said before the march.
The marchers chanted "no justice, no peace," "Say his name: George Floyd" and "Say her name: Breonna Taylor" as they gathered Saturday morning. The deaths of Floyd and Taylor at the hands of police have been ignition points for nine days of national protests against police violence and racism.
The demonstrators plan to march to City Hall and deliver a letter to public officials, including Mayor Jenny Durkan, demanding greater transparency and accountability for police officers; increased funding for affordable housing and other human-needs services; and the end of disproportionate policing and violence against communities of color and the homeless.
In a candid call-to-action letter earlier this week, Dr. Estelle Williams — a surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Washington medical school who helped organize the march — described moments of racism and "police terror" in her own life, including a childhood incident when she and her father were pulled over while driving through a predominantly white neighborhood and police detained him for two days without charge.
"We must show a strong stance as a UW Medicine community and in solidarity with a community that has been brutalized for far too long," Dr. Williams wrote.
The King County Medical Association (KCMA) released a statement of neutrality on whether members should march during a pandemic, but acknowledged that the American Public Health Association has called police violence and racism public-health crises.
"We find ourselves at the crossroads of many public health priorities at this moment," KCMA wrote. "It is not a time to shy away from the moral and ethical dilemmas being faced, particularly as health care leaders."
Bellevue police ban use of controversial neck restraint following George Floyd death
Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said Friday that his officers are now prohibited from using neck restraints except when deadly force is called for.
Mylett's decision follows action by officials in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died under an officer's knee on May 25, and California to bar the use of so-called Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints (LVNR), a self-defense technique in which the officer compresses the neck, cutting off blood flow to the individual's brain and causing them to lose consciousness. The technique is a popular and supposedly less-than-lethal option for police has been used by law enforcement agencies around the country, but it is controversial and if not done right it can injure or kill.
Mylett said the department has trained and authorized use the technique since 2009.
"We recognize that neck restraint techniques, while effective, are highly controversial and divisive. Until we can have additional conversations with the Bellevue community, I have decided to stop their use until further notice, except when the officer’s life is in danger,” Mylett said.
The King County Sheriff's Office in 2014 reinstated use of the technique after it had been banned for more than a decade.
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