Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from demonstrations and other events on Wednesday, June 3, as the day unfolded. 

Protests in the Seattle area over the death George Floyd continued for a sixth day Wednesday, resulting in highway closures and extended curfews throughout the state — though Seattle’s was later rescinded when the mayor acknowledged the city’s peaceful protest. A white police officer killed Floyd, a Black man, by pressing his knee onto Floyd’s neck for around eight minutes.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best sat down at City Hall with protest leaders and longtime community activists to address the ongoing protests over police killings of Black people. Some activists at the meeting, including David Lewis — who has emerged as a leader at Seattle’s protests over the past week — said they felt the meeting was successful.

But others felt Durkan hadn’t directly addressed some of their concerns. They wanted clearer responses to their ideas, one of which being that Seattle reduce its police budget and redistribute money to community programs. Another was that police release jailed protesters.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes also announced Wednesday the city will withdraw its request to remove police force from federal oversight, a dramatic change that comes after six days of protests.

Shortly after 7 p.m., after residents were told to stay in, Durkan rescinded the city’s 9 p.m. curfew.

As the night wore on, the protest scene in Capitol Hill Wednesday remained peaceful. A noticeable space stretched several feet between the crowd and the line of police and National Guard members — seen by some protesters as a de-escalating technique.

Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the protests in the Seattle area. Updates from Tuesday 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.

Live updates:

Protesters stay at Capitol Hill intersection more than eight hours

A smaller but committed group of Capitol Hill protesters stayed planted at the intersection near Seattle police’s East Precinct as of 2:50 a.m., multiple livestreams showed. Some people had started to pick up trash in the area and collect umbrellas in preparation for the following day.

"We're not tired," they chanted.

A line of police officers also remained stationed at the corner of Pine Street and 11th Avenue, several feet away from the group of protesters. At least one officer wandered closer to the barricade around 1:30 a.m., shaking hands and chatting with some demonstrators, before returning to the police line.

—Elise Takahama
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'They can stand here all night if they want to': Capitol Hill protests have been peaceful, Seattle police say

A Seattle police spokesman said early Thursday morning that if the night's protests stay peaceful, he doesn't expect law enforcement officials will issue a dispersal order as they have on previous nights.

"There have been no breaking bottles tonight," said Seattle police spokesman Detective Patrick Michaud. "It's been really peaceful. No throwing rocks. It's been good."

He added that officers have been rotating in and out of protest duty all night.

“We would only give the order if it’s not peaceful," Michaud said. "They can stand here all night if they want to."

Michaud also said officers would stay on duty “as long as protesters are there,” confirming their purpose was to secure the department’s East Precinct.

National Guard members boarded a bus and left the intersection around 1:30 a.m.

—Elise Takahama

Capitol Hill protest crowd thins toward midnight

Like Tuesday night, Wednesday night's crowd at 11th Avenue and Pine Street continues to thin as the clock stretches past midnight.

On Tuesday, police used tear gas and flash-bang devices on protesters as the size and makeup of the crowd shifted late into the night and some threw things at officers.

—Sydney Brownstone

Olympia protest ends with Native American drum song

As the peaceful protest in Olympia wrapped up for the night, remaining demonstrators returned to City Hall and listened to a Native American drum song. The crowd began to break up once the song ended.

—Joseph O'Sullivan
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Portland protest remains peaceful at Multnomah County Justice Center

Meanwhile, in Portland, crowds again gathered in front of the fenced-off Multnomah County Justice Center to protest the police killing of George Floyd.

Around 11 p.m., police urged the group to remain peaceful — and protesters responded by asking police not to use tear gas.

The scene still looked peaceful as of about 11:30 p.m., though in previous days, police had declared "unlawful assembly" and deployed tear gas into the crowd.

On Sunday, some protesters had smashed windows at Starbucks, McDonald's, Bank of America and other storefronts throughout the city.

—Hal Bernton

‘Can’t breathe:’ Tacoma police restraint of Manuel Ellis caused his death, medical examiner reports

TACOMA — Manuel Ellis died in handcuffs while being restrained on the ground by Tacoma police.

At the time of his March 3 death, officials said the 33-year-old appeared to be suffering from excited delirium, which often includes attempts at violence, unexpected strength and very high body temperature.

They said that might have explained why Ellis allegedly banged on a patrol car and attacked two officers trying to calm him down.

Although Ellis, an openly struggling addict, had drugs in his system when he died, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined Ellis died of respiratory arrest due to hypoxia due to physical restraint.

“The harshest of realities is George Floyd is right here in Tacoma, and his name is Manny,” attorney James Bible, who is representing Ellis’ family, told The News Tribune.

Read the full story here.

—Tacoma News Tribune

Citizen journalist and live-streamer Omari Salisbury meets with police chief during sixth night of protests

Citizen journalist Omari Salisbury, whose live-streaming coverage has become a reliable source of real-time, street-level information at police barricades during the last week of Seattle protests, met with Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best during the sixth night of protests.

Salisbury had been filming from the front line of the protest at the 11th Avenue and Pine Street police barricade when he received a phone call letting him know that Chief Best had accepted a request for him to come behind police lines and film from there. Salisbury wanted to film the barricade from the police perspective.

Salisbury met Best in Capitol Hill and asked the police chief about whether police could do anything to amplify their dispersal orders. The crowds were so large that few people could hear police dispersal orders at the front of the barricade, Salisbury said.

He also asked Best about how protesters could trust police to be peaceful when their posture changes and they put on gas masks.

"Everybody's playing off of each other," Best said. "We kind of escalate stuff with each other."

Just before they began speaking, Salisbury's feed captured Best interacting with protesters at the barricade. She briefly answered a "Say His Name" chant, a call used at protests to invoke the names of Black people killed by police.

"George Floyd," Best said into a loud speaker.

Salisbury filmed the protesters from the police side Wednesday. In contrast to Monday, when police stood close enough to the barricade for an officer to grab a protester's umbrella from over the fence, he noted that police now stood several yards back.

You can follow Salisbury's live feed here.

—Sydney Brownstone
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Watch livestream of Seattle's Capitol Hill protest

Seattle Times photographer Amanda Snyder is at the Capitol Hill protest at the corner of Pine Street and 11th Avenue, outside the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct. She's broadcasting from above the intersection.

Follow her Instagram livestream here to to see what the crowd looks like now and hear her answer questions about Wednesday's protest.

Olympia protesters head back to Capitol building

After marching through Olympia's main thoroughfare late Wednesday, protesters circled back to the Capitol building.

The demonstration has remained mostly peaceful, except for a brief scuffle between protesters and a group of about a dozen bikers who dove into the crowd around 9 p.m. Olympia police quickly intervened, and the motorcyclists left shortly after.

The group also stopped at the Lee Creighton Justice Center earlier in the night, which includes Olympia’s municipal court.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Sights and sounds from Edmonds protests

Hundreds turned out in Edmonds on Wednesday night to mourn the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last week. The candlelight vigil was set to include a "long and possibly uncomfortable 15 minutes of silence to demonstrate that sometimes standing for the right thing is uncomfortable and sometimes speaking out doesn't involve speaking," according to The Lynnwood Times.

Hundreds of people turned out in Edmonds Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil for George Floyd, lining 52nd Avenue West. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

—Dean Rutz
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Space Needle remains dark in solidarity with Black community

Five more men who were arrested during Saturday's Seattle protests charged

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office on Wednesday charged an additional five men who were arrested during Seattle's Saturday protests, but in a statement, attempted to focus attention on protesters who have continued to march peacefully throughout the week.

"We should not lose focus on the thousands of individuals in King County who are marching peacefully, exercising their right to express outrage at centuries of systemic racism and calling for an end to racially-biased policing," according to the office's Wednesday statement. "It is the moral responsibility of law enforcement leaders and members of our justice system to listen to that call and do better."

Each case referred by police is being reviewed independently by the prosecuting attorney's office, regardless of the referring agency, the statement said.

"We see an important distinction between people who are gathered to non-violently air grievances against their government and those who take advantage of the protest to break into businesses and steal property," the statement continued. "We know there is tension on the street. We will carefully scrutinize all conduct if a criminal case is referred to us from a street confrontation. That includes independent reviews of police conduct in cases referred to our office."

Arraignments for all five men are scheduled to take place in two weeks.

—Elise Takahama

Wednesday night's protest again fills the intersection of Pine Street and 11th Avenue

Wednesday night’s protest crowd at 11th Avenue and Pine Street, seen from above on June 3, 2020.
Wednesday night’s protest crowd at 11th Avenue and Pine Street, seen from above on June 3, 2020.

A massive crowd on Wednesday night once again packed into the intersection of Pine Street and 11th Avenue, which has become a kind of anchor point in the week's protests – as well as a site of police tear gas and flash-bang grenades late into the previous two nights.

By 8:30 p.m., the crowd had been chanting for hours in front of the same police barricades. As with Tuesday night, the people closest to the police barricades were holding umbrellas, a tactic borrowed from 2014 protests for increased democracy in Hong Kong.

Police, however, stood several yards back from the barricades. This set-up was in contrast to the protests on Monday night, during which police stood so close to protesters that an officer was able to grab an umbrella that was over the barricade. The moment the officer grabbed the umbrella was captured on video before police began deploying tear gas and flash-bangs.

Another view of Wednesday night’s protests from above, June 3, 2020.
Another view of Wednesday night’s protests from above, June 3, 2020.

Police and the National Guard restricted access to sidewalks on several sides of the intersection, and residents of the block were escorted to their buildings by law enforcement.

The crowd at the Pine Street and 11th Avenue intersection was smaller than Tuesday night's, but still dense enough that it stretched well down the block toward 10th Avenue and spilled north and south of the intersection.

 

—Sydney Brownstone and Dahlia Bazzazz
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Smaller turnout in Olympia as of early Wednesday night

A smaller crowd than the previous night  gathered outside Olympia City Hall as of 8 p.m. Protesters stood at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Cherry Street, some arriving by themselves and others talking in groups.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

'We’ve got to get better at de-escalating' protests at end of night, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says

In a Seattle City Club interview Wednesday night, Mayor Jenny Durkan said some changes may need to be made to police tactics for demonstrations, particularly later at night.

“In the peaceful protests, we’ve done really well,” the mayor, who mostly has defended the city’s response to protests over killings of Black men by police, told Civic Cocktail host Joni Balter.

“But what we’ve seen is at the end of the night, when people need to disperse, we need to work on how we do it, because it has not ended well any night,” she added, amid mounting criticism from some City Council members over officers regularly deploying pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bang devices.

Monday and Tuesday nights, hours of nonviolent demonstrations involving thousands of people ended that way on Capitol Hill.

Seattle’s current crowd-management policies went through a court-approval process as part of the city’s federal police-reform consent decree, Durkan said. But it’s become clear another review is needed, and the Police Department’s independent Office of the Inspector General will carry out that review, she said.

“There’s a huge amount of distrust in the community,” she said. “We’ve got to get better at de-escalating that.”

Asked whether she would ban tear gas and flash-bang devices, Durkan said, “We have to look and find a different way,” but didn’t commit to that right away, noting officers came under attack Saturday night.

Durkan told Balter, “We have to acknowledge the rage and grief we see not just in Seattle but across this country,” describing Floyd’s killing as “the tipping point” on a problem generations old.

The mayor said she agreed with a decision announced Wednesday by City Attorney Pete Holmes to withdraw Seattle’s request to a U.S. judge that could have cleared the way for the termination of the consent decree.

Durkan had supported the motion last month and since then. But she said Wednesday, “We need to take a pause … With what’s going on right now, we need to engage more people.”

Asked whether downtown business owners should have been warned ahead of Saturday’s break-ins and looting to board up their windows, Durkan said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the level of destruction that was coming.” She attributed the damage to people who wanted to “create destruction and violence and to start a fight with police.”

—Daniel Beekman

More National Guard members to train on protests

OLYMPIA — Even as he announced more National Guard soldiers would get trained in crowd control, Gov. Jay Inslee  said Wednesday he was heartened that the protests rippling across Washington over the killing of George Floyd have seemed increasingly peaceful.

In a news conference, Inslee applauded the leaders of demonstrations for working to make sure protests didn’t turn violent.

“It appears to me there’s been a strong effort by the leaders of these protests to try to prevent people from hijacking their peaceful protests,” said the governor. “And it appears to me those things are working.”

Still, the National Guard would train additional members to handle demonstrations, Inslee said, “so that they can provide safety.”

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan
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Food and music relieve Capitol Hill protesters before they pack into intersection near police precinct

The early hours of Wednesday's Capitol Hill protest almost resembled a block party: Just off Pine Street, a block away from the police department’s East Precinct, people sprawled out across the baseball diamond at Cal Anderson Park, with an abundance of free food and music in every direction.

Melen Ghebrai, 21, was perched on a patch of grass just above the diamond. She’s been protesting in Seattle since she was 15 or 16 years old, when she first became aware of the Black Lives Matter movement, she said.

The energy in the crowd gives her hope for more police accountability, she said, though she acknowledged sometimes the sentiments can be fleeting.

“The Pacific Northwest can be passive progressive,” said Ghebrai, who is Black.

By 6:45 p.m., the field had emptied out some, and the crowd had packed into the 11th Avenue and East Pine Street intersection, where a police barricade stood just a block away from the department's East Precinct. Several yards down the street, behind the barricade, officers holding batons and National Guard troops stood on notice.

Umbrellas dotted the front of the crowd nearest to the barricades.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

'She was kind of talking in circles,' protester says of Durkan's address to crowd Wednesday afternoon

Weenta Benya-Stephanos, 27, and Genet Mretie, 27, hold up their fists at Broadway and Pine Street as cars passing by honk in support of protests over the death of George Floyd,  Wednesday.
Weenta Benya-Stephanos, 27, and Genet Mretie, 27, hold up their fists at Broadway and Pine Street as cars passing by honk in support of protests over the death of George Floyd, Wednesday.

After watching Mayor Jenny Durkan address crowds on City Hall steps amid a meeting convened with local Black activists, protesters Weenta Benyam-Stephanos and Genet Mretie, both 27, said they were unimpressed with the city leader's words.

"She was kind of talking in circles," Mretie said. "She wasn't really telling us how anything was going to change."

Community leader and former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver livestreamed part of the meeting with Durkan, during which she presented a list of demands. Among them: defunding the police department by half, stopping encampment removals and releasing jailed protesters.

Mretie said she was frustrated that the only demand Durkan spoke to was the issue of officers placing pieces of black tape over their badges — a practice aimed to mourn slain officers that has drawn criticism from protesters who say it can obscure their badge numbers from public view.

"And also that we hear you and we can't fix it overnight, which is ridiculous because you have the authority, you have the means, have the privilege to do that," Mretie said. "You're our mayor."

Benyam-Stephanos and Mretie were born and raised in South Seattle and watched the city gentrify around them as they grew. Mretie said she decided to join the massive protests that have stretched for six straight days in Seattle because she was tired of "waking up and looking at the news and watching people that look like me and people that I love being murdered, not being protected by the people we pay to protect us."

—Sydney Brownstone

Seattle mayor lifts curfew order

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best on Wednesday evening rescinded the city's daily curfew, which had been in effect since Saturday night.

"Earlier today (Best) and I met with community leaders who asked us to end the curfew," Durkan tweeted just after 7 p.m. "Chief Best believes we can balance public safety and ensure peaceful protests can continue without a curfew."

"For those peacefully demonstrating tonight, please know you can continue to demonstrate," she continued. "We want you to continue making your voice heard."

—Elise Takahama
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Seattle City Council members criticize militarized response to protests, grill police chief

City Council members grilled Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best about the city’s response to protests over the police killings of Black people Wednesday afternoon. The questions came after the council listened to public commenters and community panelists describe officers repeatedly deploying chemical weapons and other force against peaceful demonstrators.

“I’ve never in 25 years of participating in protests experienced such an indiscriminate use of tear gas and pepper spray and flash bombs against people who are not doing anything wrong, with so little effort to de-escalate, negotiate with protesters, utilize peacekeepers … and focus your efforts on people doing wrong,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold told Best during a special public safety committee meeting.

The meeting was held via video conference, but Herbold dialed in from her office in City Hall. As she addressed Best, she noted a massive crowd of protesters marching from Capitol Hill had just reached City Hall and could be heard chanting outside.

Minutes later, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda asked whether Best would stop officers from continuing to use tear gas, flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets, stop arresting protesters and take immediate action against cops who were caught on video using excessive force.

Her questions went unanswered because Best, Deputy Mayor Mike Fong and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins had by then signed off to oversee the response to Wednesday’s protests.

The council has yet to challenge emergency orders issued by Mayor Jenny Durkan and has yet to vote on any measures related to the situation.

Hours earlier in the meeting, public commenters described being terrorized by police during the protests and urged the council to make sweeping changes.

A middle school teacher said her students wanted to participate in the protests but were too scared of the police. A nurse described officers ratcheting up tensions by massing in riot gear.

A father described tear gas seeping into his Capitol Hill home.

“My 3-month-old son … who was sleeping, was awoken from his sleep coughing, crying, spitting out mucus,” he said, telling the council he and his wife and son fled in their car. “Mucus was bubbling out of his nose, he was bright red. … My wife had to pour breast milk on his eyes.”

Public commenters asked the council to stop the police from escalating situations and using tear gas at demonstrations. They also asked the council to defund the police, and some rebuked Mayor Jenny Durkan. “How dare Mayor Durkan allow something banned for use in war to be used on civilians,” a commenter said.

The council also heard from a panel of Black community members, including Netsanet Tjirongo, who said Seattle’s nightly curfew should be ended, and Dominque Davis, who said the police should be demilitarized.

“I was down there in a peaceful manner,” Willard Jimerson said about one demonstration. “We still ended up with pepper spray in our mouths, nostrils and eyes.”

Councilmember Mosqueda slammed Durkan for “gaslighting” protesters by insisting that officers have targeted only wrongdoers, and Councilmember Kshama Sawant said she would seek to ban Seattle police from using chemical weapons and rubber bullets. Councilmember Tammy Morales apologized “for the way this city has reacted to people merely trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Fong and Best said they were open to suggestions for how the police could better handle the protests, though the chief defended her officers. For hours each day and night, Seattle police have allowed nonviolent protests to proceed, she said, blaming the chaos that also has erupted each night on bad actors hurling concrete, fireworks and feces at officers.

Fong and Best said each instance of alleged police misconduct would be scrutinized, investigated and dealt with.

Councilmembers pushed back, with Dan Strauss noting officers Tuesday night used tear gas and flash bangs after some in a crowd lobbed water bottles at them.

“I don’t need to have an investigation to understand that is out of balance,” Strauss said. “There’s not a place for military-grade weapons on our streets.”

Councilmember Andrew Lewis questioned Best about the moment when police Monday night broke up a crowd on Capitol Hill that was chanting, “Take off your riot gear. We don’t see no riot here.”

Videos show pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bang grenades deployed without warning, after an officer grabs a pink umbrella from a protester. The police declared the situation a riot.

Though some objects were thrown from the crowd, "I'm having a hard time seeing how that could be labeled a riot,” Lewis said, arguing police shouldn’t allow a bad-behaving protester minority to dictate how demonstrations play out.

—Daniel Beekman

Olympia demonstrators gather for fifth night of George Floyd protests

On the fifth night of protests in Olympia, demonstrators met up near the Washington State Capitol building Wednesday evening.

The group remained peaceful as of 6 p.m., holding signs and soliciting honks from passing cars in support of their message of racial justice.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Durkan, Best meet with protest leaders, community activists at City Hall

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best sat down with protest leaders and longtime community activists at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon amid ongoing protests over police killings of Black people.

The meeting gave people from different organizations a chance to speak and make demands but paused when Durkan went with community leader Nikkita Oliver, a onetime mayoral candidate, to address a crowd of demonstrators massed outside.

Standing with the mayor on the steps of City Hall, Oliver listed demands, urging Durkan to cut Seattle's police budget, redistribute the money to community programs, release jailed protesters and demilitarize the police.

Durkan delivered a speech, condemning the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and promising to work toward change. "I know I have enormous privilege," she said. "My ancestors came here from Ireland to seek freedom," unlike the ancestors of African Americans who "came here in shackles," Durkan added.

When the mayor returned to her meeting, Oliver told the crowd the mayor had not addressed the demands. Demonstrators chanted, "Nikkita for mayor," and the rally closed with a rendition of the Black National Anthem.

Wednesday afternoon, Nikkita Oliver called for the expulsion of the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the King County Labor Council and told demonstrators Mayor Jenny Durkan had not directly addressed concerns. (Amanda Snyder / The Seattle Times)

The meeting was closed to the press when it began, but Oliver livestreamed an initial segment on Facebook.

“We would like to see the police begin to defunded,” said Oliver in the meeting, listing her first demand. She said there are grassroots movements that can respond to public safety needs.

The activists at the meeting also included Andre Taylor of the police accountability group Not This Time! and the brother of Che Taylor, who was shot to death by Seattle police in 2016, as well as two new leaders who have emerged at protests over the past week: Rashyla Levitt and David Lewis.

They spoke about their desire for real change in the culture of policing that has led to deaths of Black and brown people around the country and in Washington.

David Lewis, an emerging leader in this week’s protests, reflects on Wednesday’s meeting between activists, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Levitt also alluded to criticism from some in the community who have questioned who she and Lewis are and why they are putting themselves forward as leaders. She said they were not attempting to steal the place of other leaders but felt passionate about what was going on and decided to speak out.

“We acknowledge we’re new at this,” Levitt said.  “I’ve never done anything like this — ever. …I’m here to support every single one of you.”

Durkan spoke only briefly. It was hard to hear what she was saying on the livestream due to technical problems. "I want to listen to you," she said.

—Nina Shapiro, Evan Bush and Daniel Beekman
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Jayapal rebukes curfews, National Guard troops, police violence during protests

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, who serves Washington's Seventh District, opposes the curfews Seattle and other Washington cities have implemented as protests against police violence and racial injustice have extended through a sixth day. She also rebuked the reliance on National Guard troops and law enforcement to respond to protests.

"The reality is that this kind of constant reliance on a militarized response—a response of domination over protestors—is, in part, why thousands are uniting to take to the streets in the first place. Rather than this unnecessary show of force, we must insist that we respond differently, focusing instead on concrete policies that take on institutionalized racism, white supremacy and anti-Blackness," Jayapal said in a statement.

Curfews, she said in the statement, are "incursions on civil liberties and the Constitutional rights of people to protest and assemble peaceably. They should never be used unnecessarily."

Jayapal said she has not seen evidence curfews are still necessary in Seattle.

The lawmaker also opposed officers' use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades during protests.

"That is as true in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Park as it is in Cal Anderson Park. Continued displays of force are part of the problem, not the solution."

—Michelle Baruchman

Bellevue imposes 7 p.m. curfew for Wednesday

Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson has imposed a 7 p.m. curfew for the Eastside city’s downtown neighborhood ending at 5 a.m. Thursday, and a curfew starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

The curfew applies to the area within the boundaries of 100th Avenue Northeast, Main Street/Southeast First Street, 120th Avenue Northeast/Northeast First Street and Northeast 12th Street, the city announced Wednesday afternoon. Each curfew ends at 5 a.m. the next day.

The city says the curfew is “due to continued threat of public disturbances and looting/vandalism in the area.”

—Paige Cornwell

After days of Seattle protests, city will withdraw request to remove police force from federal oversight

City Attorney Pete Holmes announced Wednesday that the city intends to withdraw Seattle’s recent request to a U.S judge that could have cleared the way for lifting eight years of federal oversight of the Seattle Police Department.

The dramatic change comes after six days of protests in Seattle over the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minnesota.

Holmes, in a statement, said he has been closely monitoring the city’s response to the demonstrations and the 14,000 complaints to Seattle’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) that have come during the protests, noting “we are about to witness the most vigorous testing of our city’s accountability systems.”

Holmes said, “It’s become clear to me that we need to pause before asking U.S. District Judge James Robart to terminate” part of a 2012 federal consent decree “so that the City and its accountability partners can conduct a thorough assessment of SPD’s response to the demonstrations.”

Before Holmes’ announcement, Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González told The Seattle Times she supported withdrawing the motion, saying much had changed since the police killing of Floyd.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who had supported the motion to terminate, had said earlier she planned to bring together city’s police union and community leaders in an attempt to resolve lingering differences on police accountability.

Read the full story here.

—Steve Miletich
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Former Defense Secretary Mattis blasts Trump in message that defends protesters, says president ‘tries to divide us’

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis excoriated President Donald Trump on Wednesday, accusing the nation’s chief executive of deliberately trying to divide Americans, taking exception to his threats of military force on American streets, and praising those demanding justice following the police killing of George Floyd.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic.

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” he continued. “We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”

The message marked a significant shift for Mattis, a retired Marine general who said he felt it was his duty to stay out of politics after resigning as Pentagon chief in 2018. He has broadly been criticized for that stance.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Busload of police arrives in Capitol Hill

A busload of police descended around Seattle City Hall, where protesters have gathered to speak out against police violence and racial injustice.

—Scott Greenstone

Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib slams curfews for limiting peaceful protests

Washington Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib is publicly criticizing the use of curfews imposed in the past week as cities react to massive peaceful protests, as well as incidents of violence and looting.

On Twitter, Habib said such orders hamper legitimate demonstrations.

"The purpose of curfews is not to limit looting. Looting is illegal with or without a curfew in place,"  Habib wrote. "The purpose of curfews is to limit peaceful protest."

He added: "The preemptive use of curfews has escalated this situation, endangered the public, and is almost certainly unconstitutional."

Several cities, including Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma, have imposed curfews in recent days.

While some have expired, Durkan's office reissued a curfew order, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Saturday, June 6.

In issuing that order, Durkan said she was acting on the advice of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, calling the order critical to protect the "ability to peacefully protest" and that "we believe this new curfew time will allow us to keep these protesters and the community at large safe.”

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Habib's tweet Wednesday afternoon.

—Jim Brunner
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I-5 is closed in Seattle due to protests

Officials closed Interstate 5 on Wednesday afternoon during the sixth day of protests over the death of George Floyd. The closure will be in effect from Interstate 90 to Highway 520.

—Michelle Baruchman

Protesters form march in Capitol Hill

People protesting the police killing of George Floyd formed a march for the sixth day in Seattle.

—Scott Greenstone

Watch live: Obama steps out as nation confronts confluence of crises

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama is taking on an increasingly public role as the nation confronts a confluence of historic crises that has exposed deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities in America and reshaped the November election.

In doing so, Obama is signaling a willingness to sharply critique his successor, President Donald Trump, and fill what many Democrats see as a national leadership void. On Wednesday, he’ll hold a virtual town hall event with young people to discuss policing and the civil unrest that has followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Watch here.

—The Associated Press
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Durkan's Office invites community activist to meeting

In a video on Facebook live streamed from Cal Anderson Park, community activist Nikkita Oliver said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's office invited her to a "last-minute" meeting.

Oliver said she would consider attending the meeting if it is live streamed.

 

—Michelle Baruchman

Homeless man injured in Monday night’s protest, prompting city investigation

Clayton Yorton, 51, said he was trying to get some sleep in Cal Anderson Park on Monday, June 1, 2020, when something exploded next to his head. (Sydney Brownstone / The Seattle TImes)
Clayton Yorton, 51, said he was trying to get some sleep in Cal Anderson Park on Monday, June 1, 2020, when something exploded next to his head. (Sydney Brownstone / The Seattle TImes)

Clayton Yorton, 51, was trying to get some sleep on Monday night when something exploded next to his head. 

Yorton, who estimates he’s been sleeping outside for 17 years, is well known in Capitol Hill, where he often stays in Cal Anderson Park. He hadn’t even been aware of the protests over the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police until suddenly, one surrounded him.  

In a video that’s since made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, Yorton’s friend, Keith Guy, films riot police amid plumes of tear gas as a big, explosive crack can be heard. Guy runs over to Yorton, who is lying in the grass, stunned. 

“Ay, are you okay? You okay?” Guy can be heard shouting. The side of Yorton’s face is white with what appears to be flash powder. “Clay, put water on your face.”  

“Ay, he’s hurt,” Guy shouts to police. “Come on, man.” 

Protesters quickly surrounded Yorton, who was bleeding from the right ear, according to Guy. He was later admitted to Harborview Medical Center, treated for his injuries and released the following morning, according to Harborview spokesperson Susan Gregg.  

Clayton Yorton, 51, has scabs on his right ear where people who saw the incident said a device exploded next to his head during the Monday night protests. (Sydney Brownstone / The Seattle Times)
Clayton Yorton, 51, has scabs on his right ear where people who saw the incident said a device exploded next to his head during the Monday night protests. (Sydney Brownstone / The Seattle Times)

People who saw the incident told The Seattle Times that police were using tear gas and flash-bangs on protestersand that they believed it was a police device that injured Yorton. The city did not confirm that the projectile that exploded next to Yorton was theirs, but did confirm that the Seattle Fire Department transported a 51-year-old man to Harborview. 

City spokesperson Kelsey Nyland said, “the Seattle Police Department reported using less-lethal munitions and establishing a mobile line of bike officers to disperse the crowd near the East Precinct.” 

The Office of Police Accountability said it had initiated an investigation into the incident Tuesday afternoon.  

On Tuesday, Yorton had scabs on his ear – and a shaved head and beard from the medics. 

“My sleeping bag got burned a little bit,” Yorton said.  

Steven McNerlin, manager at the local Out of the Closet Thrift Store, sought Yorton out as he smoked a cigarette in the park. Yorton still had the hospital band around his wrist. 

“If you need anything, I’ll be in the shop, Thursday, Friday or Saturday, just swing by, and I’ll grab something from inside for you,” McNerlin told Yorton. 

When McNerlin found out it was Yorton who had been hurt, he was worried. 

“Clayton’s been on the Hill for, like, 15 years now,” McNerlin said. “I just wanted to make sure Clayton was okay. 

McNerlin also urged Yorton to try to find somewhere else to sleep – the protests were likely to come back.  

After McNerlin said goodbye and walked away, Yorton’s eyes welled up. 

“It warms the cockles of my heart,” he said. “He’s a nice guy.”

—Sydney Brownstone

During City Council committee meeting, protesters speak about their experiences with police

At the Seattle City Council's public safety committee meeting Wednesday, people who participated in protests against racial injustice spoke about their encounters with the police.

People who have participated in Seattle protests have asked for continued federal oversight of the Seattle Police Department and for officers to stop using tear gas during protests.

While Washington State Patrol troopers were supposed to be unarmed, people said troopers have been armed with weapons and even had a tank out on Capitol Hill Tuesday night.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant said she intends to bring forward a proposal that would cut the police budget. She also wants to ban Seattle's use of chemical weapons and rubber bullets.

Councilmember Dan Strauss said using military-grade weapons in response to some water bottles being thrown is disproportional force.

In an exchange between Sawant and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Best said SPD's crowd management policies were developed under the "watchful eye" of the federal government and approved by the Department of Justice and courts.

—Daniel Beekman
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Seattle musicians want more justice in industry, not just #BlackoutTuesday hashtag

The black boxes stacked up by the minute. Your favorite bands, brands and distant relatives flooded social-media timelines with blank black squares on Tuesday, using the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday.

What began as a music industry initiative to spur support for the Black community morphed into a full-blown social-media phenomenon, with users posting the black squares in solidarity with protesters across the country demanding justice for George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police.

As celebrities and corporations across industries ran with the trending topic, the original message became increasingly obfuscated for many. Was it a day of social-media silence? Some sort of call for action? Or just another back-patting hashtag for well-meaning white folks?

Here's what some local musicians thought of Tuesday's blackout.

—Michael Rietmulder

Durkan says she 'reached out' to Seattle police union, community leaders

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she has “reached out’’ to the city’s police union and community leaders to explore bringing them together in an attempt to resolve lingering differences on police accountability.

“I do think there is a way to do that,” Durkan said in public remarks Tuesday. “We need to have those kinds of meaningful conversations and have a reconciliation process between officers and community.”

But Durkan has declined to say whether she would consider withdrawing or pausing the city’s recent request to a U.S judge to clear the way for lifting eight years of federal oversight of the Seattle Police Department, as some have demanded.

The city’s motion, citing the need to recognize the department’s efforts to address excessive use of force and biased policing and shift resources to the coronavirus crisis, drew moderate criticism when it was filed last month.

But since then, the issue has been swept up in the torrent of national outrage over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minnesota.

Durkan was asked by a Seattle Times reporter on Monday if she would consider withdrawing the request to allow community leaders and the Seattle Police Officers Guild the opportunity to seek consensus on police accountability measures.

She called the proposal a “good idea,” but did not address whether she might withdraw the motion pending community talks.

—Steve Miletich

Seattle should maintain federal oversight, cut police budget, some leaders say

A number of politicians and community leaders are calling for Mayor Jenny Durkan to keep the Seattle Police Department under federal oversight amid widespread demonstrations over police killings of Black people that have in certain cases been met by pepper spray and tear gas.

Some also are calling for City Hall to cut the department’s budget and redistribute the money to other needs, including alternative public-safety strategies and social services, they said during a video news conference hosted Wednesday morning by City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

They were joined by relatives of two people killed by Seattle police who asked Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best to acknowledge local cases in discussions about George Floyd, whose death at the hands of a Minneapolis officer sparked protests across the country.

Seattle has since 2012 been subject to a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice requiring its Police Department to curb biased policing and excessive use of force.

Durkan was involved in setting up the agreement in her former job as U.S. Attorney for Western Washington. But her administration filed a court motion last month asking U.S. District Judge James Robart to rule the Police Department had cemented most of its mandated reforms and clear the way for the consent decree to be terminated.

“The consent decree must stay in place,” Seattle/King County NAACP President Carolyn Riley-Payne said in the news conference, arguing that court oversight is still needed.

Sawant said she would be asking her council colleagues to sign a letter demanding Durkan withdraw last month’s motion.

She, community leader Nikkita Oliver and other advocates, criticizing a “militarized” response to mostly peaceful protests, said half the city’s police budget should be redirected to youth programs, affordable housing, health care and other uses.

The Police Department’s budget is more than $400 million this year, accounting for about a quarter of Seattle’s general-fund spending. The city has projected a budget gap of $300 million this year, due to tax revenue streams reduced by coronavirus business shutdowns.

“There is absolutely no reason for police forces to be marching through the streets with military-grade equipment,” Oliver said in the news conference.

Oliver and other activists planned to rally at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill later Wednesday.

Sawant suggested the city could start by cutting the Police Department’s spending on “riot gear, flash bangs, pepper spray, mace and tear gas.”

“Violence is not what makes communities safer,” she said.

At least one other council member also seeking Police Department cuts. In a video posted to social media Wednesday morning, Councilmember Tammy Morales asked constituents to join her in calling for “a drastic reduction” in and redistribution of the Police Department’s budget.

Morales also said Durkan should lift Seattle’s nightly curfew, which began Saturday.

Katrina Johnson, a cousin of Charleena Lyles, said her family is still waiting for more details about what happened when Lyles was killed by police in 2017. Inquests into police killings locally have been stalled by the city, which is challenging new rules, Johnson noted.

“I was terribly pained by hearing (Police Chief) Carmen Best talk about what’s happening in Minneapolis with George Floyd but not addressing … her own backyard,” Johnson said.

“To see you cry about looting and vandalism when kids are being pepper sprayed in the face and people are being tear gassed is completely absurd,” she added, referring to Durkan.

Jason Fuhr, whose son was shot to death by police responding to a domestic violence call April 29, also spoke. Riley-Payne has questioned whether deadly force was necessary in that case.

—Daniel Beekman

Prosecutors upgrade murder charge against officer in Floyd case, also charge the 3 other cops present

MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors are charging a Minneapolis police officer accused of pressing his knee against George Floyd’s neck with second-degree murder, and for the first time will level charges against three other officers at the scene, The Star Tribune reported Wednesday.

Widely seen bystander video showing Floyd’s May 25 death has sparked sometimes-violent protests nationwide and around the world. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired May 26 and initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers involved were also fired but were not immediately charged.

The Star Tribune reported that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison would be upgrading the charge against Chauvin while also charging Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The newspaper cited multiple law enforcement sources familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Earl Gray, who represents Lane, told The Associated Press that the report “is accurate” before ending the call.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Seattle school students to protest virtually

Seattle public school students are calling on their peers to hold a virtual protest, using Instagram, at noon Wednesday by going outside to chant for an end to police violence, then posting videos of themselves protesting on the social media site.

Many students have been unable to protest in person because of the pandemic, but they're also "very fired up and very upset with what's been going around the country and around the world," said Angelina Riley, a junior at Rainier Beach High School, who is a member of the NAACP Youth Council.

The group has organized under several Instagram hashtags, including #Studentshavehadenough, #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, #JusticeForBlackStudents and #JusticeForBlackLives. The idea of a virtual student protest has quickly traveled around the region and the country, Riley said, and she's been contacted by students as far away as Minnesota.

The group has a list of demands for elected officials: That they hold police and schools accountable for abuse behavior for black students; eliminate the presence of police in all schools; implement restorative justice and de-escalation tactics in all schools; urge school districts to fire all staff members who reportedly act with racist/anti-black intent; end racist police violence; and defund police.

—Katherine Long

Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County press conference

Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County held a press conference at 9:15 a.m. to respond to the recent protests in the greater Seattle area. Watch a recording below:

Washington State Patrol apologizes after officer tells his team, ‘Don’t kill them, but hit them hard’ in reference to Seattle protesters

The Washington State Patrol issued an apology after video surfaced of an officer telling his team, “Don’t kill them, but hit them hard,” while preparing to clear protesters from the streets in Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening.

The video was taken shortly before 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Twitter users responded, some with comments praising police aggression, others with horror. One response: “Hit them hard but don’t kill them? Just maim and disfigure, am I right officer?”

State police spokesman Chris Loftis, in a statement released Wednesday morning, said the officer was trying to motivate, reassure and prepare his team for a difficult task.

From the statement: “WSP is aware of the video and apologizes for the poor choice of words by one our team leaders preparing his troopers for a possibly confrontational situation. We hope the public will accept that apology and we ask for grace and understanding as our troopers are serving in tense situations of danger and difficulty."

Read the full story here.

—Christine Clarridge

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Last night's Seattle protests were peaceful until just before midnight, when police used tear gas and flash-bang devices against protesters on Capitol Hill. Here's how the day unfolded. The use of flash-bang grenades came despite recommendations against the military-style percussion devices. Learn how they work and why they’re controversial.

Across the nation, the streets were calmer yesterday than they have been in days. President Donald Trump appears to be backing off his threat to dispatch military troops to quell protests, after an outcry from retired senior military leaders. This is what the law says about that.

No, the Thurston County Democrats did not offer to pay anarchists. That's just one example of the misinformation that's flowing in Washington state amid the protests.

The live-streamer who recorded a widely shared video of a moment when Seattle police officers began shooting pepper spray and tear gas at demonstrators is talking about how there was "no sense of de-escalation" at that apparently crucial moment.

Don’t buy the "outside agitator" trope, columnist Danny Westneat writes. Various officials from the president on down point the finger at outsiders or shadowy national conspiracies, but arrest records suggest Seattle’s rioting last weekend was more likely homegrown.

Six Atlanta police officers have been charged after video showed authorities pulling two young people from a car and shooting them with stun guns while they were stuck in traffic caused by Saturday's protests.

It was "sickening" to watch the video of Floyd's death, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said yesterday as he spoke about his ideas for making change happen.

—Kris Higginson