Seattle police arrested at least 47 people Saturday night at a protest against the presence of federal law enforcement in cities such as Portland, Oregon. The protestors are facing charges of assaulting officers, obstruction of justice, and failure to disperse.
Approximately 5,000 people attended the demonstration, which police claim escalated into a riot. Police said that protestors threw rocks, street cones, glass bottles, and fireworks at officers.
One protestor threw an unidentified explosive device into the East Precinct building, tearing an eight-inch hole in the wall. Others broke into a construction site and set fire to a portable trailer and other equipment.
The Seattle Police Department claimed that 59 officers were wounded while suppressing the demonstration, with injuries including abrasions, bruising, and burns. One officer was hospitalized for a leg injury. SPD released body camera footage of officers being hit with projectiles but has refused to release footage of the arrests. None of the reports mention injuries to protestors.
The demonstration in Seattle was one of many protesting the actions of federal agents in Portland this weekend. Since July 14, unidentified federal agents in military-style camouflage have been arresting Portland protestors at random, placing them in unmarked vans, refusing to explain the reasons behind their arrest, and driving away.
Many protestors and local officials, including Mayor Jenny Durkan, fear that Seattle will be the next city targeted by the Trump administration.
Seattle has been the site of demonstrations over state-sanctioned police violence and systemic anti-Black racism for more than six weeks. Protestors have refused to disband until their demands, which include defunding the SPD by 50 percent and dropping all charges against protestors, are met.
The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, but there have been occasional violent outbursts by law enforcement and counter-protestors. Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old protestor, was killed by a man who drove his car into a crowd on July 4.
On June 8, a group of protestors retreating from a wall of tear gas took control of the East Precinct building, which police had abandoned. This led to the establishment of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), a six-block area free of police presence filled with vendors offering free food, medic tents, community gardens, co-op shops, and memorials to victims of police violence. After a series of internal skirmishes, demonstrators were forced to abandon the zone on July 1. Police quickly cleared the area and arrested 31 people.
At least twelve families have filed financial claims against Seattle or King County police over excessive use of force. Protestors have been kettled, beaten, tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot with rubber bullets.
On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Seattle’s new law that would have prohibited police from using flash-bang grenades, tear gas, blast balls, pepper spray, and other violent crowd-control methods. The law, which was passed unanimously by Seattle City Council, would have gone into effect on Sunday.
Despite the announcement that federal agents are being placed on standby outside Seattle, peaceful protests resumed on Sunday.
Sources: King 5 Local News 7/27/2020; CNN 7/26/2020; Seattle Times 7/25/2020; New York Times 7/25/2020