Did new approach prevent May Day violence in Olympia?

by: Richard Thompson Updated:

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Sources told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News there were at least 125 police officers from five different agencies on Olympia's streets during Wednesday's May Day marches. At times police outnumbered protesters.

Some of those protesters, like Royal Mitchell, were not happy about the police presence.

"There shouldn't have been that many cops there. It was just scaring people off. America has become a police state," Mitchell said.

Officers did not stop marchers and allowed them to walk down city streets even when they reversed course on one-way roads backing up traffic.

Many business owners were impressed by the police approach.

"Basically, they were everywhere on every corner," said Jennifer Miller, the owner of The Blend Cafe.

Officers walked on both sides of marchers putting themselves between marchers and businesses.

Other officers were pre-positioned at likely vandalism targets such as banks, and every time the crowd of marchers stopped moving, a nearby team in riot gear moved in to show force.

Business owner Carleta Rawlings said the police presence was a big relief.

"I was very pleased with all the police presence. I was nervous the night before," Rawlings said.

Some people in Olympia said Seattle could learn from Olympia's example, but there are key differences.

The crowd in Olympia was much smaller and so is Olympia's downtown, which made it easier to track marchers.

There are several big banks in downtown, but most businesses in Olympia are independent and not symbols of big business that are preferred targets for many lawbreakers.

Regardless, the business owners who spoke with KIRO 7 after the protests credit the large number of officers on the streets for keeping things peaceful.

Many officers had their schedules adjusted to minimize overtime during the protests, but shop owners said even if some officers were on overtime it was well worth it.

"If you're not having to follow up and fix damage to your building or lose customers because they don't feel secure coming into your establishment then absolutely it's worth it," Miller said.