May Day march escalates into chaos, confrontation, violence


SEATTLE - Police arrested more than a dozen people and used flash-bang grenades and pepper spray after apparent anarchists and May Day marchers converged in downtown Seattle, throwing pipes, fireworks and rocks, lighting flares and sparking confrontations with officers.

Protesters met at Seattle Central Community College at the busy intersection of Broadway and Pine Street and then spilled into the street, blocking traffic.

KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Essex Porter said at first there appeared to be more spectators than participants and the gathering seemed to be more of a party than a rally.

But as the crowd began to move, flares were lit and the crowd became noisy as it made its way toward downtown on Pike Street, flanked by police officers.

Seattle police tweeted that someone in the crowd broke a window at Sun Liquor on East Pike Street and Belmont Avenue.  People clad in black, with their faces covered, were seen in the mix.

As the group of several hundred people moved north on Sixth Avenue after turning off of Pike Street, police said some in the group were throwing metal bars and water bottles at business' windows.

A KIRO 7 News crew was surrounded by rowdy protesters. They spit and sprayed Silly String on KIRO 7 reporter David Ham and hit his photographer.

Police said there was no permit for the rally, and no information about where they were headed, but their final destination was Westlake Plaza.

We found people purposely trying to get out of town before protesters made their way towards Westlake Center.

Police surrounded businesses and security guards watched their property closely. Ben Bridge Jeweler made sure the window displays were empty- just in case windows got shattered.

Police protected businesses by standing in between protesters and stores.   Officers used flash bangs and pepper spray to get the crowd pushed back up towards Capitol Hill.  They didn’t discriminate between who was on the street and who was protesting, they used their bikes to push everyone out.

It was at Westlake Plaza that some  people were taken into custody.  One man was hog-tied when he refused to cooperate with police as the crowd's anger escalated.

As the fervor intensified, metal pipes were thrown from the crowd onto cars and people.  Small fires were lit, and fireworks and even a skateboard were among the items thrown at officers.   Police gave an official order to clear the streets, but the protesters were unrelenting in their confrontation with officers.

Officers resorted to flash-bang grenades and pepper spray to move the crowd out of the downtown core and back up to Capitol Hill.  Some dispersed into smaller crowds that continued to chant "our streets! our streets!" and throw water bottles. Some removed newspaper boxes from sidewalks and threw them into the street along with garbage cans to form a line across the road.

As bicycle officers advanced, the crowd continued to thin, but left a trail of destruction in its wake.  The windows of the Walgreen's on Pine and Broadway were smashed out.

Seattle police said 17  people  arrested on charges of assault and property damage and eight officers were injured.

But law enforcement was prepared this year.  Seattle police had twice the number of officers on the street  as compared to last year's May Day, and some businesses had security guards.

In contrast, earlier Wednesday, peaceful May Day marchers converged at the Federal building under the watchful eye of law enforcement.

About 1,000 people  gathered at Judkins Park Wednesday afternoon for the first of two major May Day marches.  The first march wound through downtown Seattle and ended at the Federal Building at Second Avenue and Madison for a rally.  By 6 p.m., the crowd was beginning to thin.

Watch video from the march to the Federal building

That march, which had a permit, was peaceful, with no criminal activity or arrests, police said.  There was one incident in which protestor's bicycle was hit by a Seattle police motorcycle officer.  No one was hurt, but the victim's friends became upset when the officer didn't stop immediately.  The incident was resolved and the marchers moved on.

Masked protesters could be seen throughout the crowds, and some protesters blocked a police motorcade at Fourth Avenue and Madison Street.  But the few incidents were minor compared to the evening protest.

May Day protesters took to the streets  in Olympia as well, where marchers were peaceful among a heavy police presence.

They met at Sylvester Park around 3 p.m., and then the crowd of about 100 marched past several banks, at times slowing down, but the group remained calm.

May Day is not unique to Seattle. It's a worldwide celebration of the labor movement that dates all the way back to 1886.

May Day has since become a focal point for demonstrations by labor organizations and anarchist groups around the world.