Violent May Day protests in Seattle; Mayor signs emergency order; Businesses board up windows

May 1, 2012

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn evoked his emergency powers – during a day of violent protests and six arrests – ordering police to confiscate items from May Day protesters and revelers alike that could be used to damage property.

Some protesters dressed all in black used 3-inch thick sticks, which were disguised as flag poles, and tire irons to break windows in Seattle during rolling protests and marches that paralyzed downtown.

"The police officers will be approaching individuals who’ll be carrying items known to be weapons, confront them and ask them to peacefully give them up.  And if not peacefully given up, they will be confiscated," McGinn said at an afternoon press conference.

Around 4:30 p.m. officers arrested a handful of protesters after one policeman took a pole from a protester at First Avenue and Pike Street. That protester attempted to take the pole back and several others came to his aid, but officers made the arrests and pushed the others back. Both sides then faced off again in the street at the Pike Place Market until the demonstrators migrated back to Westlake Center.

(Photo gallery and videos after jump.)

The Seattle Police Department's blog reported at 5:30 p.m.:

The most recent arrests came just after 5 p.m., when officers took a 24-year-old man, a 30-year-old woman, and 28-year-old man into custody for felony assault at 1st Avenue and Pike Street  just after 5 pm. Preliminary information indicates the 30-year-old punched an officer, the 28-year-old grabbed an officer, and the 24-year-old spit on an officer.

The protesters had abandoned Westlake Center a little after 3 p.m. and marched up 4th Ave. to the John T. Williams memorial at Seattle Center. Williams was the woodcarver shot by a Seattle Police officer two years ago when the officer saw him walking down the sidewalk with a knife. Then the marchers moved back into downtown.

Earlier, violence erupted sharply around noon resulting in a rash of broken windows and other property damage before police put an end to the destruction and many of the perpetrators dissolved back into the crowds.

Police said officers made at least two arrests at that point: A 23-year-old man was arrested for vandalism and a 19-year-old man with a knife was also arrested.

By 4 p.m. business owners had begun boarding up windows with sheets of plywood.

Video of a rap session at the May Day protests at Westlake Center:

May Day demonstrators who marched through Seattle turned violent Tuesday afternoon, as several protesters used sticks to smash downtown store windows and ran through the streets disrupting traffic.

Police loosed tear gas on violent demonstrators on 6th Avenue downtown after windows were smashed in the Nike Town building. The violent protesters were dressed in black and appeared to be wearing some sort of body armor.

However by 2 p.m. the mood at Westlake Center downtown had shifted to a more positive vibe with uplifting music and people of all ages gathered.

"It's a shame that the focus is already turning to violence when we should be focusing on the message," said one protester who gave his name as Eazeman

Another protester in downtown Seattle echoed the national Occupy movement goal of putting the movement back into the public consciousness.

"Our goal is to reaffirm the Occupy movement on a global scale," Pete S. said.

At one point, police closed the corner of 6th Ave. and Pine Street in reaction to the protests.

Related May Day violence stories from KPLU:

May Day roundup

Oakland, Calif., was the scene of some of the fiercest clashes between police and Occupy protesters last fall, and things boiled over again today. A stinging gas sent crowds fleeing a downtown intersection. The protesters had been trying to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a "general strike." Police took at least four people into custody.

In New York, police in riot gear lined the front of a Bank of America, facing several dozen Occupy activists marching behind barricades and chanting "Bank of America. Bad for America!"

About 50 demonstrators in Chicago rallied outside another of the bank's branches. They allowed patrons to go inside, but the doorway was eventually blocked by police who placed their bicycles end to end.

Across the world, protests drew thousands of demonstrators into the streets from the Philippines to Spain. They demanded everything from wage increases to an end to austerity measures.


Previous coverage:

The anticipated May Day protests and rallies have gotten underway in Seattle and there have been reports of at least one arrest and windows being broken out.

KOMO TV tweeted just before noon that reporters were “starting to see some street blockages on Cap Hill; could affect buses at Broadway & Pine.” Protesters are walking from Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill toward Westlake Center downtown Seattle.

City officials remain concerned that the protests could turn violent today.

However, KING 5 has reports that Seattle May Day organizers said they have their own security forces. Both Occupy Seattle and El Comite will have a group of "peacekeepers" in the crowds working with police. The Occupy Movement is also placing "peacekeepers" within their march from Seattle Central Community College to Westlake Park. They too said they ask troublemakers to stay away.

Around the nation

Arrests have been reported in New York, and on the West Coast police have kept a high profile presence.

Stinging gas has sent May Day protesters fleeing an intersection in downtown Oakland, Calif., AP reports. The protesters had been trying to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a "general strike." Police took at least four people into custody. Occupy Wall Street members in several cities have been leading demonstrations against major financial institutions today.

New York Times reports that “a few hundred protesters who had assembled on the Lower East Side at Sara D. Roosevelt Park began heading east, crossing Forsyth Street. They were met by a line of police officers who pushed them back, grabbed people out of the crowd, threw them to the ground and arrested at least four of them while trying to wrest a large banner away from the marchers.

“Officers then plunged into the crowd gathered on the south side of Houston Street, at the north end of the park, pushing protesters and journalists alike and making further arrests. The crowd took off running south through the park and east onto Forsyth Street.”

The Associated Press this morning reports:

"Officers with helmets and batons have lined the Golden Gate Bridge, as May Day protests get underway in the San Francisco Bay area. Protesters had backed away from a call to block the bridge. But scores of California Highway Patrol officers nonetheless lined the span and gathered around the toll plaza on Tuesday morning. A couple of protesters with signs stood nearby, but did not disrupt traffic."

Around the world

Associated Press reports from Madrid that May Day demonstrations around the world have been less a celebration of workers' rights and more a venting of fury over spending cuts, tax hikes and soaring unemployment around.

The trend began in Asia, where unions demanded wage increases, and continued in Europe. Thousands of workers filled the streets of Greece, France and Spain to protest austerity measures. Spain is the latest focus of the eurozone debt nightmare that has already forced three countries to seek financial bailouts.

Among the protesters in Madrid was a 25-year-old woman who speaks three languages and holds a masters degree as a translator. But with Spain's unemployment rate topping 24 percent, she says "there is no future for the young people of this country."

Even in Germany, where the economy is churning and unemployment is at a record low, unions estimate that 400,000 people showed up at May Day rallies. Unions there are calling for stimulus programs rather than austerity measures to revive Europe's depressed economies.