How May Day in Seattle Sounded As It Unfolded

May 2, 2017

In the week leading up to May Day, Seattle prepared for the worst. For the past five years, peaceful May Day marches have been overshadowed by violence and property damage.

Those demonstrations unfolded peacefully for the most part this year. In the end, five people were arrested. Two of those people were released and three face charges for assault, resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer.

KNKX spent the day with demonstrators around the city. Here is how May Day unfolded in Seattle.

Preparing For The Worst

In 2012, then-Mayor Mike McGinn declared a civil emergency because of the unrest that caught police officers off-guard. Since then, unruly demonstrators have continued to make their presence known at May Day. And the Police Department has been criticized for how it's handled them.

That history provided the context for May Day 2017.

Several groups indicated they planned to hold rallies and demonstrations at different times. The largest event was the annual labor and immigration march.

The 18th Annual Labor and Immigration March

The demonstration began in the rain that morning with a series of speakers at Judkins Park, including Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver. 

The rain cleared up as the marchers began the hike to Seattle Center. Along the way, demonstrators were encouraged to participate in "action stations," from taking a picture in front of the controversial King County Juvenile Detention Center to signing petitions supporting contingent faculty at Seattle University and security workers at Amazon.

Worker and immigrant rights' activists showed up in equal force along with environmentalist and people opposed to President Donald Trump. Some of the demonstrators were new to May Day, but many had been participating in the international workers' holiday for years.

Overshadowed in years past, this year's march was the main event for May Day. But smaller groups did gather around the city later in the day.

Small Evening Clashes

A small group of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in Westlake Park after the main march made its way to Seattle Center.  They performed two small marches around downtown. They intended to serve as a counter-protest to both the labor and immigration march as well as an anti-capitalist demonstration that typically happens on May Day.

Anti-capitalists and self-proclaimed anti-fascists gathered in opposition to the counter-protesters downtown. That's where Seattle Police made their first arrest.

The opposing sides clashed a few more times, but police mostly kept the two groups separated. By sunset, police commanded both groups to disperse from the area.

A small group also gathered briefly at the Juvenile Detention Center.

For the most part, Seattle's May Day passed without incident. However, violence did break out at demonstrations in Olympia and Portland.