Police, Protestors And Pepper Spray At Seattle Pride Dust-Up

Seattle is known for its protest culture, so we’re disheartened to hear about possible police brutality in the Emerald City over Pride weekend.The Capitol Hill Seattle blog reported “a heavy presence of uniformed officers” in the nabe at a demonstration early Sunday morning, where the crowd was disbursed with pepper spray. Six people were allegedly taken into custody.

A tipster to the Seattle Stranger’s Slog recounts the situation:

What took place tonight was unnecessary. I understand that these cops were somewhat provoked by a group walking down the middle of the street after hours. However there was no traffic around. No matter what the media may say, there was no traffic impended by this group.

They swooped their cars in and pinched the group from the front and rear. Tensions were obviously high on the law enforcement’s side, hastily they pointed everyone to the side walk. The resistance the cops encountered when they opened their car doors to a group of protesters would get anyone’s adrenaline pumping. However, by singling out and attacking a small girl is uncalled for. I wonder if it was a ‘let’s make an example out of her sort of thing’.

Below, amateur video of the encounter:

This clip is taken out of context, but it appears the police were at least initially attempting to peacefully get the crowd, which was taunting and cursing at them, to disburse. In 2011, a much larger group roamed the area, inflicting damage to walls, windows and cars.

In a report filed on the Seattle Police Department Blotter, Detective Mark Jamieson wrote:

Just after midnight this morning a group began to assemble for a “flash mob”  at the corner of 12th and Madison. This was during the annual Pride Festival Weekend, so there were a lot of people out on the streets and a number of officers assigned to the event.  The group grew to about 40 people and then about 15 minutes later broke up, with most wandering north on 12th Avenue.  Shortly thereafter, the group reassembled on 13th Avenue and began marching westbound on East Pine Street towards 12th.  Once on 12th Avenue, the group continued north, walking in the street, and then east on Olive, toward Cal Anderson Park.  At approximately 12:40 am, there were reports of members of the group lighting off fireworks.

The group continued on to Broadway, still taking over the street.  Officers were now seeing members of the group knocking over road signs and dragging garbage cans into the street.  At about 12:45 am officers attempted to contact and detain an unidentified white female who was in the process of dragging a trash can into the street, but she eluded officers and ran back into the crowd.  The group then continued onto East Pike Street, walking eastbound, where they were met by a line of officers at 10th Avenue and East Pike Street.  The group stopped and began to dance and bang on drums.  Several in the group took the opportunity to yell at the officers.  Several in the crowd then began to place bandanas over their faces and officers overheard some in the group discuss breaking windows.

Apparently, officers believed some protestors were involved with “various anarchist groups,” though it’s not clear which ones—or what constitutes an anarchist group.

Shortly after 1:00 am, a police commander gave the group the order to get out of the street and back onto the sidewalk.  The street was cleared and the group left the street and assembled on the sidewalk.  A 25 year-old male, who was on the sidewalk, purposely stepped off the sidewalk back into the street and proceeded to walk directly to, and in front of, the police commander.  The man clicked his heels and stood at attention in front of the commander.  The commander informed the man he was under arrest, and directed officers to arrest him.  When the man was taken into custody, the group grew agitated and verbally abusive.

Officers saw an unknown man jump on top of a parked car and begin to stomp and jump up and down on it.  Officers ordered the man to stop and get down off the car.  The man refused, and pepper spray was used.  Several members of the group surged forward and a 24 year old male rushed forward and kicked the commander in the knee.  Pepper spray was again used on the suspect.  That man was arrested for assault.  As officers moved forward to assist the officer, a 30 year old man and a 31 year old woman immediately grabbed onto the man being arrested and attempted to pull him back into the crowd. The 31 year old female had been arrested earlier in the week for trespassing and is well known in the anarchist community.  The two were arrested for Hindering Law Enforcement.  A 29 year old woman was arrested for Pedestrian Interference and Obstructing, while a 22 year old woman was arrested for Pedestrian Interference during the disturbance.

All six suspects were transported to the East Precinct, where they were treated for the effects of pepper spray and later booked into the King County Jail for the various charges.

Was the Seattle Police Department using excessive force to curtail some excited protest marchers or was there legitimate concern for property damage and violence? It’s worth noting the Department of Justice has criticized the SPD’s use of pepper-spray where lesser force would suffice and the Seattle Police Department has begun a disciplinary investigation into possible misconduct by officers during the incident.

A rally in support of the protestors is planned for Friday night at Seattle Central. We’ll revisit this story as more information becomes available.

Below, photos from the Capitol Hill Pride Protest

Photos: J Seattle