Seattle police have opened a preliminary internal investigation, prompted by a viral video, into a clash between officers and protesters during a pro-President Donald Trump march Saturday.
The 26-second clip, shared on Twitter, shows an officer tripping over his bike as a line of officers pushes back protesters clad in dark and hooded clothing at Westlake Park. The officer then appears to grab and struggle with one protester, setting off a melee involving several officers and protesters. At least one other protester can be seen being pulled to the ground by officers.
The video, which had more than 2.5 million views by Tuesday afternoon, was posted by a person who uses the Twitter handle @spekulation. On the post, the person described the police conduct as “appalling,” alleging the officer who tripped had used that as an excuse to “violently attack” and arrest the protester, who was moving back and “obeying orders.”
The person, in a message, told The Seattle Times the video was shot by Twitter user @JamesonJaymie. Contacted by The Times, that person said she shot the video and asked that her name not be used out of fear of retribution.
Seattle police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a spokesman for the department, said Tuesday that the clip doesn’t show the full range of events.
Whitcomb said officers were trying to keep the protesters separated from pro-Trump supporters participating in what was billed as a Mega MAGA (Make America Great Again) march on Saturday afternoon.
The officer who tripped was in the process of making an arrest, moving toward a protester he believed had engaged in illegal conduct, Whitcomb said. That conduct is not shown on the video, he said.
As the officer grabbed the protester, another protester pulled from behind on the protester’s backpack as officers rushed in, and a melee ensued.
One protester was arrested for assault and harassment, another for obstruction and a third for assault, all misdemeanors, Whitcomb said.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said she was aware of “community concerns” about police response at the protest and asked the Police Department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) to investigate.
“I look forward to the conclusion of their investigation,” she said. “As always, we remain committed to constitutional policing, supporting First Amendment rights for all.”
Andrew Myerberg, the civilian director of the OPA, which conducts internal investigations, confirmed his office has opened a preliminary investigation based on the emergence of the video. The review is used to determine if a full investigation should be launched.
In an email, Myerberg said his office also plans to review “another video that was posted that showed bike officers pushing through individuals to make an arrest.”