Eighteen people were arrested during an anti-police-union protest march south of downtown on Sunday night, according to Seattle police.
The march began at about 7 p.m. in the International District, with about 100 people and some vehicles following behind them, and made its way to the Seattle Police Officers Guild building in the 2900 block of Fourth Avenue South, police said.
That’s when things apparently took a turn, although police and protesters give differing accounts of how the situation escalated.
Police wrote in a 1:50 a.m. police blotter post that someone in the crowd “set off a large explosive and attempted to break out a police vehicle window” around 10 p.m., at which point an incident commander issued an order to disperse. They wrote that a few people then began throwing rocks, bottles and explosives toward officers.
Six Seattle police officers were injured during the protest, one of whom was hospitalized and has since been released, police said in a statement Monday evening.
That’s when the incident commander declared a riot, police said. Officers deployed pepper spray and blast balls. The crowd moved north, eventually dispersing, according to the blotter post.
The city of Seattle agreed a week ago to a federal court order barring police from using the declaration of a riot as justification for indiscriminate force at protests. That change was one of the concessions the city made in an agreement filed jointly Aug. 10 with lawyers for protesters who are suing the city for allegedly allowing the police to use unnecessary violence in controlling and suppressing crowds.
Some protesters tweeted about being injured by the blast balls and wrote that no one had destroyed any property before police declared their demonstration a riot. What police called explosives, protesters on Twitter called firecrackers, which they argued aren’t as harmful as the “less-lethal” crowd-dispersal tactics police use.
On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said in an email that Seattle police referred four cases for review and prosecutors determined there wasn’t enough evidence to meet the office’s filing standards to request bail. Police continue to investigate and collect evidence.
Since many of the people arrested were booked into jail after 12 a.m. Monday, their cases will be reviewed by prosecutors on Tuesday, which is standard court procedure, spokesperson Casey McNerthney wrote.
“For cases to be independently reviewed for a felony filing decision, we need to receive a certification for determination of probable cause and all associated police reports and any available digital evidence,” McNerthney said by email. “In protest-related cases specifically, we want to make sure we have all possible evidence – including dash cams, body cams, or other evidence – before we make a filing decision.”
None of the four cases submitted for review so far involve suspects accused of injuring police officers, according to McNerthney.
“We cannot overemphasize the important distinction between people who are gathered to non-violently air grievances against their government and those who take advantage of the otherwise peaceful protest to commit acts of violence, victimize peaceful protesters, or commit acts of arson, property destruction and theft,” he wrote. “Each of the cases we file are public, and we believe that when people in the community read those public documents they’ll see the distinction, too.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green contributed to this report.