Seattle police broke up a crowd of protesters on Capitol Hill on Monday night after some in the group threw fireworks at the East Precinct and started a fire outside the building. Police arrested one person for investigation of arson, the department said.
Earlier Monday evening, a group of about 250 people had gathered to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, marching past the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, then to the West Precinct downtown and back to the East Precinct. Along the way, some in the crowd smashed parking meters, graffitied, damaged an Amazon Go store and broke windows of several Starbucks locations on Capitol Hill and near the West Precinct. Protesters have targeted Starbucks because of its donations to the Seattle Police Foundation.
Demonstrations in Seattle have continued since the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis; protesters have called for abolishing police or cutting police budgets and redirecting that money to Black-led organizations.
At the West Precinct — which the city surrounded with cement barricades during protests this summer — some in the crowd spray-painted the building with “burn me” and other messages, threw objects at the building and damaged surveillance cameras. The Seattle Police Department said objects thrown at the building caused minor damage. Later, an empty SPD bus near the precinct had broken windows and appeared to be smoldering, though there were not visible flames inside.
Throughout most of the protest, there was no visible police presence. When the group returned to the East Precinct, some began throwing fireworks at the building and started a fire behind a chain link fence surrounding the precinct.
Police quickly descended on foot, in SUVs and with an armored vehicle. “This is no longer a peaceful protest. You are endangering people’s lives,” an officer said over a loudspeaker, ordering the crowd to disperse.
Part of the remaining group set a small fire on nearby Pike Street before leaving the area. Near the precinct, one person being led away by police called out to observers, “I hit my head when they … knocked me down … I hit my head when I fell.” Police said one officer was injured, though it was not immediately clear what type of injury.
Seattle police were not available Tuesday to comment further on their strategies for preventing property damage. Previously, when officers have stayed back while property damage is occurring, the department has said that their primary focus is life safety and they are trying to avoid putting officers and other people at risk.
“However, this doesn’t mean that suspects in crimes won’t be arrested at a later date,” the department said in a statement last month. “If lives are at risk, you can expect a swift response by the Seattle Police Department.”