Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from demonstrations and other events on Sunday, May 31, as the day unfolded.
In the aftermath of protests in Seattle and across the country, questions abounded Sunday for organizers, businesses and public officials over how the meaningful demonstrations aimed at spotlighting the treatment of Black people by police devolved into scenes of destruction and mayhem.
The protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being pinned to the ground by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer for several minutes. Undeterred by rain and risks from the novel coronavirus, Seattle protesters throughout the day chanted “stop killing us,” “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe!”
But tensions built throughout the afternoon, as police struggled to disperse the crowd and enforce social distancing. Business owners on Sunday morning were left sweeping up glass from broken windows and taking stock of looted inventory.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a curfew Saturday night that will also be in effect Sunday starting at 5 p.m. Gov. Jay Inslee activated National Guard troops to respond shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday. Interstate 5 through downtown remained closed for hours after protesters walked onto the freeway.
Throughout Sunday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the protests in the Seattle area and throughout the nation. Updates from Saturday 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.
Inslee orders statewide activation of National Guard
Governor Jay Inslee ordered statewide activation of the National Guard Sunday evening in response to looting and protests that have sprung up all over Washington.
A release from the Governor's office says the order allows unarmed troops to be sent to local governments that have requested them, most recently Spokane County. Inslee has authorized "at least 600 troops" over the weekend to manage protests in Seattle and Bellevue, the release says.
“We must not let these illegal and dangerous actions detract from the anger so many feel at the deep injustice laid so ugly and bare by the death of George Floyd,” reads a statement from Inslee in the release. “But we also will not turn away from our responsibility to protect the residents of our state.”
In Spokane, a "rogue group" damaged property and looted the downtown area, the release said.
Protests intensify in Olympia
OLYMPIA — Police faced off with protesters in the state's capitol Sunday evening, setting off flash bangs toward a crowd of about 100 people. At around 10:30 p.m., a police officer threw a flash bang at a woman who was walking away. It exploded at her feet.
Demonstrators gathered outside City Hall, where the police department is, calling for officers to take a knee.
NOW: Demonstrators outside Olympia City Hall.
— Joseph O'Sullivan ⛰ (@OlympiaJoe) June 1, 2020
Oly PD breaking up crowd with flash bangs. pic.twitter.com/sfSFaWhYyF
— Joseph O'Sullivan ⛰ (@OlympiaJoe) June 1, 2020
Wow- Oly Pd just tossed a flash bang at a woman who was walking away from the line. Exploded at her feet.
— Joseph O'Sullivan ⛰ (@OlympiaJoe) June 1, 2020
Looting in South King County suburbs
Police departments in Renton and Tukwila reported looting from large chain stores on Twitter Sunday evening. The police forces appear to be assisting each other.
Renton police reported looting at a Walmart. In Tukwila, which is under a curfew until 6 a.m. Monday, police reported damage to a few stores and theft at a Target.
Seattle demonstrations vent anguish at death of George Floyd and more, for a ‘grieving nation’
Andre Taylor knew the situation was volatile when he set out to organize a peaceful demonstration in Seattle on Saturday for people to voice sadness and anger over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being pinned under a white police officer’s knee pressed to his throat.
Floyd’s killing “is bad enough, and you mix it with COVID and people who were isolated for two months, it is already so much worse,” said Taylor, who with his wife Dove founded the non-profit Not This Time after his brother Che’ Taylor was killed by Seattle police in 2016.
But the gathering this weekend was essential, Taylor said, “to create space for people to cry and yell and heal. And they were able to do that, we accomplished that.”
Read the story here.
Hearing rumors of protests, armed residents line Snohomish's main street
Responding to rumors that protesters were coming to wreak havoc in Snohomish, scores of armed residents gathered Sunday night on First Street, the main drag of a town known for its antique shops and restaurants.
A party atmosphere prevailed — albeit a heavily armed one. People in web gear and semi-automatic weapons and handguns walked the street, drinking from plastic cups. Many people sat in the backs of pickups, chatting and keeping watch on the passing cars.
The scene oddly resembled the cruising scenes from the film “American Graffiti,” with pickups instead of classic cars and firearms instead of fuzzy dice.
On one corner, a young woman with a sign that read “Black Lives Matter” was approached by a woman who asked, "Are you Antifa?”
Snohomish Police could not be reached for more information. Marysville Police, which assisted with patrols, said on Twitter there was a "credible threat of civil unrest intent on causing damage to this amazing community."
Downtown businesses assess damage, weigh reopening after nights of riots, looting and chaos
As hundreds of businesspeople and volunteers spent Sunday cleaning up the damage from two nights of rioting, there was a palpable sense of resolve to get past this latest setback to a downtown business community that has seen more than its share of adversity.
But there was also anger that city and police officials had allowed the rioting to spiral out of control, as well as as fear the weekend’s destruction could make recovery even more difficult for businesses already wounded by the pandemic shutdown.
Read the story here.
By sundown and after curfew in Seattle, protest groups peacefully press on
Protesters in Seattle, split into several diverging crowds after first meeting in downtown, pressed on Sunday evening despite a citywide curfew imposed at 5 p.m.
Despite frequent blocking of the crowds and a deployment of flash bangs by the police earlier this afternoon, the demonstrations remained largely nonviolent.
One group met up at Westlake Park Sunday and eventually started marching through downtown at 5:15 p.m., drawing support from Seattleites cheering from windows and honking from cars. The group came face-to-face with multiple police barricades, kneeling in front of officers each time.
“Please remember this is a peaceful protest,” one woman yelled. “We are stronger when we are unified.”
When Seattle police blocked the group with bikes at the corner of Boren Avenue and Madison Street, the group started asking officers to cross the line and kneel with them. After about an hour, officers moved aside and the crowd continued back toward an empty Westlake Park around 8:30 p.m.
One protester, David Lewis, said his group was an “independent movement,” rather than a group led by one organization.
“They were trying to take advantage,” said Lewis, referring to Saturday’s violence. “But that doesn’t speak to our larger movement.”
Bellevue police chief: People who don't follow curfew order will 'go to jail'
In Bellevue, crowds and looting prompted Mayor Lynne Robinson to request assistance from the National Guard for the first time in at least 30 years, and a warning from Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett that anyone caught not adhering to the curfew would “go to jail.”
Gov. Jay Inslee activated the National Guard in response to the request, with up to 200 unarmed troops to assist the city’s officers.
Bellevue Police Department Chief Steve Mylett stressed that Bellevue’s curfew would be enforced, though he didn’t specify the department’s tactics or how officers planned to differentiate between people who had a legitimate reason to be downtown versus others. In Seattle, city officials have said that its curfew would only be enforced “for violations that result in public health and safety threats including fires, extensive property damage and violence.”
“We are going to make everyone aware of it, if they don’t leave, they are going to jail,” Mylett said. “If people do not leave and heed the mayor’s rule, they will go to jail.”
Read the full story here.
Bellevue transit center shut down temporarily amid protests
The Bellevue Transit Center is temporarily closed due to "police activity," Sound Transit announced Sunday evening. Protests and looting broke out in the city a few hours earlier, and the mayor announced a civil emergency and 5:30 p.m. curfew. It's not clear when the transit center will reopen.
Earlier on Sunday, Sound Transit announced the downtown Seattle Link light rail stop would be closed for the rest of the day as a group of demonstrators moved through the area.
Big downtown protests might complicate Seattle’s coronavirus recovery
For many protesters in Seattle over the weekend, the outrage over racial injustices outweighed the risk of contracting COVID-19.
That calculus sent people streaming into the streets of downtown Seattle, where they shouted face to face with authorities and pushed into tight crowds, although many wore masks.
Read the story here.
Bellevue declares civil emergency, imposes downtown curfew and requests National Guard
Bellevue Mayor Lynn Robinson has declared a civil emergency throughout the Eastside city and imposed a 5:30 p.m. curfew for downtown in response to protests that began Sunday afternoon.
The city has also requested deployment of 200 members of the National Guard, which Gov. Jay Inslee granted Sunday evening. It is believed to be the first deployment of the National Guard in Bellevue in at least 30 years.
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 shortly after the start of the curfew.
Protesters have marched throughout downtown Bellevue on Sunday as part of a demonstration against police brutality, including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.
Several people broke into Bellevue Square and stole items from the mall's stores, according to the Bellevue Police Department.
Westlake light rail station closed for rest of Sunday
The Westlake light rail station in downtown Seattle will remain closed through the rest of Sunday, Sound Transit announced Sunday evening. All other Link stations are open.
Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle closed in both directions
Both directions of Interstate 5 are now closed in downtown Seattle due to a protest, which started at Westlake Park and around 5:15 p.m. progressed toward Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I-5 North is now detoured at Interstate 90 to Eastbound I-90, and I-5 South is detoured to Eastbound Highway 520 at Roanoke.
UPDATE: Demonstration at Westlake Park. I-5 NB detoured at I-90 to EB I-90. I-5 SB being detoured to EB SR-520 at Roanoke. pic.twitter.com/IJN8WQHxFI
— SDOT Traffic (@SDOTtraffic) June 1, 2020
Inslee and Durkan hold press conference to share their response to protests
Governor Jay Inslee, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle Colleges president Sheila Lang, protest organizer Andrè Taylor and other area leaders called a press conference Sunday afternoon at 4:30 to discuss the protests.
More than 100 gather for demonstration at Westlake Park, walk through downtown toward Capitol Hill
A demonstration and march formed downtown on Sunday afternoon, with upwards of 100 people. The police deployed flash bangs near 4th Avenue and Seneca Street, and separated the crowd. In response to the protest, both directions of Interstate 5 are closed in downtown Seattle.
At around 5:15, the crowd progressed toward Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
At the start of the march, at Westlake Park, Names of Black Americans killed by police were drawn in chalk on bricks that lined the ground. Attendees were careful not to step on them, KUOW reporter Casey Martin reported on Twitter.
Black Lives Matter march in the International District
A group holding a banner that reads "Asians for Black Lives" was seen marching through Seattle's International District this afternoon.
— Ken Lambert (@SeaTimesFotoKen) May 31, 2020
Volunteers help clean up downtown Seattle following protests
Following Saturday's protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, volunteers came to clean downtown Seattle on Sunday morning, including the walls of the Forever 21 store.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says peaceful protests co-opted by people looking to cause chaos
The vandalism, destruction and looting during Saturday's protests were committed not by people sincerely seeking justice for George Floyd, but rather aiming for "chaos, destruction and hate," Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a news conference Sunday.
"For most of yesterday, people came and they were peaceful as they expressed their grief, as they built community, as they expressed their anger and demanded greater justice," said Durkan, who began the news conference by describing how "Mr. Floyd's tragic death," like those of other Black Americans, "echoes through too many decades of hopes dashed, promises broken and lives taken."
Much of the violence during the protests "has been instigated and perpetuated not by the people most impacted by generations of discrimination and institutional racism but by young white men," Durkan said. "These were not the acts of allies. These were the acts of people who came with their own intentions, to destroy, to ensure and to cause chaos."
Faced with many questions about police use of force against protesters during the protest, Durkan emphasized that each incident "will undergo a high level of scrutiny and review."
"If any use of force was outside of compliance, the officer will be held accountable," she said.
The mayor said officers sought Saturday afternoon to keep a crowd of people downtown from entering Westlake Park, where a peaceful demonstration started about 3 p.m. She attributed the tensions that subsequently erupted to some people in the crowd outside the park rather than to the officers.
"I've seen and heard some of those criticisms, that somehow it was SPD that instigated the violence and chaos, and it's just false," she said, promising to provide details later Sunday.
The mayor and Police Chief Carmen Best defended the many officers who covered their badge numbers with black bands, describing those as mourning bands meant to recognize officers in Washington state who have died recently.
Durkan and Best said officers with their badge numbers covered also wear name tags, dismissing concern the mourning bands could make identification more difficult during demonstrations.
Best said she couldn't immediately provide demographic information for the dozens of people arrested Saturday night. She said no one was arrested for violating the city's 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, which was announced with no advance warning at around 5 p.m.
Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said his department handled 530 calls to 911 Saturday, representing a 40% increase over normal volumes.
Durkan appeared to hold back tears as she reflected on the morning she spent downtown, watching volunteers help business owners and employees clean up damage.
"I visited downtown this morning and it wasn’t a downtown that I recognized," she said. "There was much destruction and much broken glass, but what I did recognize were the hundreds of volunteers and residents who came because they love Seattle."
Inslee activates additional 200 National Guard troops
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee activated an additional 200 National Guard troops, according to his office, responding to a second request for support from the city of Seattle.
A total of up to 400 guard personnel have now been activated. Inslee said they will be unarmed and will help with cleanup, protection against property damage, crowd management and traffic direction during any further potential protests.
“Saturday’s disheartening events in Seattle — carried out by a smattering of the thousands of protesters on hand — will not deter the cause of justice. Hundreds of public servants and volunteers are already helping clean up the property damage done," Inslee said in a statement. "I have complete faith that downtown Seattle will recover from this quickly, and the state will help, however we may be of assistance."
Zero curfew arrests made, city warns of travel delays
Seattle police made no arrests related to Saturday's 5 p.m. curfew, the city announced Sunday. Another curfew is in effect from 5 p.m. Sunday night through 5 a.m. Monday morning.
The city warned that travel delays could be possible Sunday and urged residents and commuters to watch social media from local transit agencies for the latest information.
If you will be out today, impacts to roads and transit service could make it more difficult to get home. If you don’t already, we encourage you to follow @kcmetrobus, @SoundTransit, @SDOTtraffic, and @wsdot_traffic for updates on transit service and road closures.
— City of Seattle (@CityofSeattle) May 31, 2020
Boarding up broken windows
The windows of Chu Minh Tofu in the Chinatown International District were broken during Friday night's demonstrations. Tanya Nguyen was out front Sunday morning offering free food to people in need as volunteers helped her board up.
“We picked up a dozen sheets of plywood this morning, and we’re going to keep boarding up windows until they’re gone,” said volunteer Karen Nelson, who had severa business owners contact her for help via the Facebook group Support the ID. pic.twitter.com/hhbf3KzBdm
— Katherine Long (@_katya_long) May 31, 2020
Evaluating the damage
Downtown Seattle was abuzz with the sounds of glass being swept and boards clanking well before 8 a.m. Sunday, as paid workers and volunteers worked almost side-by-side during a cleanup of businesses damaged Saturday night.
At Old Navy, clothes were being piled up and glass swept off the floor by private citizens. The front of Nordstrom had over half a dozen people milling about, cleaning up spray paint, and the scene was repeated at nearby Timbuk2 and other businesses.
Emily Lautenbach, Casey Humphrey and Arlana Angel walked with their brooms, looking for another business to help. Angel said she came out because "It's my home."
Folks are cleaning up and down Pike Street in downtown Seattle. pic.twitter.com/Cx7yL1MQrS
— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) May 31, 2020
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best toured the area together Sunday morning. Durkan jumped through a broken window at GameWorks, while the chief and staffers walked through the door.
Durkan comforted a manager in the store who smiled and gave a gentle tap of thanks on the mayor's shoulder. While walking on the street, a man pointed his finger and shouted at Durkan, accusing her of not showing support for the police Saturday night. Several officers stood in front of the man, keeping him from approaching the mayor.
Anger over police killings shatters U.S., spreads to Europe
Americans awoke Sunday to charred and glass-strewn streets in dozens of cities after another night of unrest fueled by rage over the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of police.
Few corners of America were untouched, from protesters setting fires inside Reno’s City Hall, to police launching tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators in Fargo, North Dakota. At least 13 police officers were injured in Philadelphia, and at least four police vehicles were set on fire. In New York City, dangerous confrontations flared repeatedly as officers made arrests and cleared streets.
Overnight curfews were imposed in more than a dozen major cities nationwide, including Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.
In Los Angeles, National Guard troops deployed onto the streets early Sunday morning as looting, vandalism and violence intensified and the Police Department struggled to restore order.
By Sunday morning, the outrage had spread to Europe, where thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square.
Most Read Local Stories
- What vaccinated people can do safely now, and what COVID precautions the rest of us should take
- Inslee to announce possible new COVID restrictions Monday
- Washingtonians seeking open appointments make long treks to COVID vaccine sites, but health officials discourage it
- Three North Seattle light-rail stations to open Oct. 2
- Coronavirus daily news updates, April 9: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world