Police break up Labor Day march for Black Lives with show of force

by Chris Rojas and Renee Raketty

A Labor Day demonstration in Seattle Sept. 7 in support of Black Lives drew hundreds of people who marched from the International District Light Rail Station to the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) building in the 2900 block of 4th Ave. S. The police swarmed the protesters after 6pm with a large contingent of officers and vehicles before making 22 arrests and deploying blast balls and pepper spray.

The march began after one arrest when a person tried to prevent a street preacher from using his megaphone to interrupt a pre-march rally. Officers were later observed pushing people to the ground and hitting others with their riot sticks outside the SPOG building. Police continued to pick-off more protesters as they pushed the demonstration all the way back to Judkins Park. The police say their arrests were for a variety of offenses including arson, assault, obstructing and failure to disperse.

It is still unclear what triggered the police to initiate their offensive but a bag of garbage was thrown over a fence surrounding the SPOG building. Someone also hung a “Park Closed” sign, a likely reference to police sweeps of unhoused residents at Cal Anderson Park. A song, “Save a Horse [Ride a Cowboy]” by Big & Rich, was blaring as officers emerged from behind the building.

Police announced that a protester dropped a box of molotov cocktails during the initial confrontation with police. The SPD later claimed that rocks, bottles and fireworks were also thrown.

The march had been organized by Every Night Direct Demonstrators and was joined by other groups, such as the evening Everyday March (EDM). Later, EDM organizer’s Tatii and T.K. were among five individuals arrested at 14th Avenue South and Rainier Avenue South as officers were attempting to impound a vehicle. One person was taken to Harborview Medical Center for injuries she sustained and the others were booked into the King County Correctional Facility. Protesters rallied outside Harborview in support of T.K. before going to the jail to hold a rally outside.

Protesters view SPOG as excusing police misconduct and resisting reforms, such as a reducing the size of the SPD in favor of other community priorities. A protest last month outside SPOG had also resulted in multiple arrests. That evening Everyday March for Black Lives also led a protest outside SPOG president Mike Solan’s home.

Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now also held an event on Monday. The coalitions traveled to the Seattle City Council districts, seven in all, to call on the Council to override a Mayor Jenny Durkan veto of SPD budget cuts in the revised 2020 budget.

 

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