Seattle police to review evidence of May Day crimes

SEATTLE — In the wake of a May Day melee that ended with 17 people arrested and eight police officers injured downtown, Seattle police say they’re reviewing video, photographs and other evidence to investigate “all criminal activity” that occurred during the event.

Police said they also will review the use of force by police, which police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said is “per department policy.”

The damage and arrests came at the end of a day of largely peaceful demonstrations promoting worker rights and pushing for changes in federal immigration laws.

Hours after that march ended, an “anti-capitalism” demonstration turned violent as demonstrators hurled rocks, bottles and other objects at police and storefronts.

Demonstrators taken into custody Wednesday were arrested for investigation of property destruction and assault.

Whitcomb said their actions were “souring an otherwise peaceful day.” Police asked people who have video clips or photos of the event to save them for possible use by a police task force investigation.

The eight injured officers incurred mostly bumps and bruises, police said. The most serious injury was to an officer who was struck in the knee by what police called “a fist-size rock.”

Police said a woman driving by one of the protests suffered cuts from broken glass after a bottle was thrown at her car and shattered a window. She was treated by medics at the scene.

Earlier Wednesday, hundreds of sign-carrying, flag-waving demonstrators jammed downtown streets in a series of May Day marches and rallies — some at the peak of afternoon rush hour — protesting capitalism, promoting worker rights and pushing for changes in federal immigration laws.

From the Central Area to Capitol Hill to downtown, the daytime marches and rallies were peaceful. But by 8 p.m. the scene was starting to show signs reminiscent of May Day 2012, when groups of demonstrators, including black-clad anarchists, broke free from a march and smashed windows in businesses, a courthouse and cars.

There were a handful of protesters taken away in handcuffs.

From the start, police seemed determined to carry out their main goal: Let protesters peacefully move about the city while not tolerating lawbreaking affecting property and safety.

Despite some property damage, no widespread vandalism like that which occurred a year ago was reported.

Officers drew praise on Thursday from Kate Joncas, president of the business-oriented Downtown Seattle Association.

“I think the police did a really good job,” Joncas said, noting the department’s initial efforts to facilitate the peaceful afternoon march.

“Then in the evening, they did a great job in the face of a lot of provocation,” said Joncas, whose organization was upset after last year’s disturbances.

Joncas said the department learned from a critical after-action report it commissioned after last year’s problems, including refresher training on the appropriate use of pepper spray.

Private security also played in a role in protecting businesses, she said.

The march in support of immigration reform drew the largest crowd — between 3,000 and 4,000 people who rallied at Judkins Park early in the afternoon before taking a circuitous route through the Chinatown International District for a later rally at the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle.

From along sidewalks and inside stranded cars, from downtown overhangs and in the windows of office and apartment towers, onlookers crowded in to watch as marchers chanted and waved flags and signs.

One read “No human is illegal.” Another said to heck with weed, “… legalize my mom.”

This year’s march took on a certain urgency, coming just two weeks after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill that, among other things, would grant legal status to an estimated 10 million people in this country unlawfully.

“This is it,” Mauricio Ayon, legislative director for Washington Community Action Network, said as he marched down Fourth Avenue. “The tide is turning on this issue, and I don’t think anybody wants to be caught on the wrong side of it.”