SEATTLE — After several hours of peaceful gatherings and marches Saturday by thousands of people in Seattle protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Seattle police said the crowd turned violent, throwing bottles and Molotov cocktails, setting fires, breaking windows and looting businesses in the downtown core.
The damage stretches several city blocks.
Seattle police say multiple officers and citizens were injured when the violence broke out late Saturday afternoon. Seattle police Chief Carmen Best said so far, 27 people were arrested for a variety of offenses including assault, arson, destruction and looting.
Around 5 p.m., Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced an emergency curfew from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. for both Saturday and Sunday to prevent more violence and widespread property damage. All people were ordered to disperse from the downtown core and refrain from traveling in and through Seattle. The curfew applies to the entire city. Watch the news conference.
None of the 27 arrests were for violations of the curfew that was in place, officials said.
At 6 p.m., she declared a civil emergency and banned the use of weapons, both formal and informal -- such as pipes and rocks -- throughout the city.
Durkan asked Gov. Jay Inslee to activate up to 200 members of the Washington National Guard. They are unarmed and will manage traffic and crowds, and help protect property in Seattle for the next seven days. Inslee later sent even more guards to the city to assist.
Police said the crowd became “violent and aggressive” and began to throw bottles at officers and hurl lit fireworks into the crowd. People were ordered to disperse, but when they failed to obey, police set off flash-bangs. Officers wearing gas masks formed lines to hold back the crowds in smoke-filled streets.
Seattle police cars and other vehicles were burned, spray-painted and smashed. Two AR-15-style rifles were stolen from police cruisers. Both were later recovered, according to a tweet from Seattle police.
Windows at numerous businesses were shattered as the crowd chanted “We demand justice," and “Black lives matter.”
Protesters, many wearing masks, looted and vandalized stores. Some entered a downtown Starbucks, which has “F--- the police” spray-painted on its door. Others entered Nordstrom through a broken window and threw items such as designer purses and perfume from the store out to a cheering crowd, leaving shelves empty. See video here.
One man, who appeared to be trying to stop the looting, was attacked by a group of people on the street.
Shards of glass littered the ground along with huge piles clothing and debris outside the Old Navy store. Windows were shattered at the Cheesecake Factory and people were seen grabbing bottles of liquor. A woman on the street was seen carrying a whole cheesecake.
One man used a garbage can lid to try to further smash out a police SUV’s windshield on Sixth Avenue and Pine Street. Another man was on top of a different vehicle using some type of hammer to batter the car.
Graffiti was scrawled across numerous store fronts along Sixth near Olive, where the street is lined with burned-out cars.
Loud booms were heard as officers deployed tear gas. As officers in riot gear advanced, people fled.
Molotov cocktails were thrown, and some businesses have fire damage. Seattle fire put out burning cars earlier, but some were reignited. By 7 p.m., crowds had began to disperse around Westlake Center, but a block away, about 100 people were still gathered. About 15 minutes later, multiple cars were set on fire at Fourth and Pine and activity began to escalate again.
Firefighters had to be escorted into the area by police, but some couldn’t be reached because they were too unsafe to enter. Crews from other communities were summoned.
Bellevue, Kent, Tukwila, Renton and Snohomish County sent officers to help Seattle police.
By 11 p.m., crowds were smaller but the people who remained were confrontational with police. Armored police vehicles were seen on the move.
Traffic, public transit halted by protesters
Around 4 p.m., hundreds of people spilled onto I-5 in downtown Seattle. The Washington State Patrol closed both northbound and southbound I-5 between 520 and I-90. Both directions reopened about 12:21 a.m. Sunday.
All Seattle-bound ferry service was suspended until further notice. By Sunday morning, normal service had resumed out of Colman Dock during the daytime, but was suspended again in the evening due to the curfew in place.
There were many street closures in the downtown area, and bus service stopped operating in the downtown corridor.
Westlake Station will remain closed until further notice.
Protests remained peaceful for hours
The first protest, called “March for Justice for #GeorgeFloyd” started at noon at 610 Fifth Ave. in the Chinatown-International District. By 5 p.m. Friday, 1,000 people said they plan to go, with another 3,400 people marking “Interested” on Facebook. Heather Stoltzman is the organizer of that protest.
Several hundred gathered at the beginning of the protest and the crowd swelled to at least 1,000 by the time the march to Westlake Center began. Protesters chanted “I can’t breathe” and “hands up, don’t shoot” as they walked.
The second protest, organized by “Not This Time” started at 3 p.m. at Westlake Center, 400 Pine Street. The event is called “The Defiant Walk of Resistance Against Injustice” and will include a march, plus speakers.
Before the protest officially began, several thousand people were already crowded into Westlake Park.
The founder of “Not This Time,” Andre Taylor, said Friday he is urging the protests to stay peaceful. His brother, Che Taylor, was killed by police in 2016.
“It’s really about healing and giving people space. Giving people a space to stomp down the streets, to cry, to yell, to scream, to get it out of their system. And that’s important. That’s a preventative measure of the potential of violence we could see in our city and state,” Taylor said.
Friday, Seattle leaders –— Mayor Jenny Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best, and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins — also voiced their dismay about Floyd’s killing.
“Everyone there, all the officers, showed a grave indifference to life. It was heartbreaking, upsetting, infuriating — especially disappointing to see this,” said Chief Best.
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer seen on video with his knee on Floyd’s neck, was taken into custody and charged with third-degree murder Friday.
Taylor says it’s not enough.
“Third-degree murder and manslaughter — that is a slap in the face and an insult when the world has seen what he did,” he said.
“Unless there are charges and convictions of law enforcement officers when they unjustifiably kill somebody, I hate to say what I’m going to say — there is going to be blood in the streets,” Taylor said.