As Seattle crossed the 100-day mark since protests began here against racial injustice and police violence, demonstrations continued Monday focused on the Seattle Police Department, its budget and the union that represents its rank-and-file officers.
In the afternoon, about 200 people marched to the Sodo offices of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, where police descended on the crowd, scuffles broke out and 22 people were arrested.
Meanwhile, the coalitions King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle organized a separate caravan of events Monday in all seven Seattle City Council districts. The groups called on the City Council to override Mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto of the council’s revised 2020 budget that would have cut up to 100 police officers and made other reductions to the Seattle Police Department.
King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle have advocated for cutting police funding and redirecting that money to Black-led organizations and community services. Durkan has criticized the City Council for what she calls insufficient planning for the police cuts and had objected to cutting the salaries of SPD’s command staff.
In remarks before the march to the SPOG office, activist and former City Council candidate Shaun Scott called for ongoing pressure on council members.
“The rate of legislative change was moving much quicker when there were cop cars on fire in this city,” Scott said. “What that points out is to say all other alternatives have been exhausted.”
Protesters arrived at the SPOG office in Sodo shortly after 6 p.m. Most wore black and some carried shields, umbrellas and gas masks.
When the group arrived, the 2004 Big & Rich song “Save a Horse [Ride a Cowboy]” blared from speakers on the building and dozens of officers rode out from behind the building on bikes and confronted the crowd.
Officers ordered people to back up, rode into the crowd and grabbed umbrellas from protesters. A protester deployed a fire extinguisher; police pushed their bikes into the crowd and used pepper spray and blast balls or flash-bang grenades. After officers began pushing the crowd out of the area, some in the group threw fireworks at police. As officers tried to make arrests, scuffles broke out.
From the front of the crowd of protesters, it was not immediately clear what prompted the police response. The Seattle Police Department later said that as police made arrests, members of the crowd threw rocks, bottles and explosives.
The department said it found Molotov cocktails at the SPOG building and posted a photo of three unbroken beer bottles containing fluid and bandanas. A body camera video posted by the department showed an object thrown from the crowd land in the street between protesters and police and start a fire, which the department said was a Molotov cocktail.
A live-stream video from the scene showed a protester toss a bag of garbage at the building as police arrived around the corner and started ordering the crowd back.
Police said 22 people were arrested on suspicion of assault, arson, obstructing and failure to disperse.
Officers on foot and on bikes pressed the crowd through Sodo and the Chinatown International District, ordering people to disperse as police vehicles with sirens followed. Eventually, near Judkins Park, most officers turned back and protesters dispersed.
At the park, some demonstrators said the police response was disproportionate.
“They made us move for nothing,” said one protester, Diamond. “They just basically bum-rushed the crowd,” said another, Ali.
Another, who gave the initial V, described seeing a child who looked about 5 years old drawing on the ground with chalk when police began dispersing the crowd and some people began running. “His mother had to pick him up and run… They charged the whole crowd,” the protester said.
SPOG has been the target of protests before, as demonstrators call for cuts to police budgets or abolition of police altogether.
At a protest outside the SPOG office in mid-August, police arrested 18 people, demonstrators threw fireworks at officers and police used pepper spray and blast balls. Later in August, a group of protesters gathered outside SPOG president Mike Solan’s house.
In a separate incident in August, SPOG posted a video including surveillance camera footage of two people throwing flaming objects at the building, though the people did not appear to be part of a larger protest. In the video, Solan described “criminal actors conducting acts of domestic terrorism.” Solan called on Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, to condemn the actions.
Since protests began in late May, Seattle police have faced scrutiny for their use of crowd-control devices, including blast balls, pepper spray and, earlier in the summer, tear gas. A lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and several individuals resulted in a federal judge issuing an order limiting SPD’s use of pepper spray, tear gas, foam-tipped projectiles and other force.
Protests continue because “Black people continue to be viewed as expendable,” said activist Jaiden Grayson ahead of the Monday afternoon march. SPOG should be disbanded and the police department abolished, Grayson said.
SPOG did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday.