Major protest disrupts tree lighting ceremony at Westlake Center

The annual Christmas tree lighting in downtown Seattle, marking the unofficial start to the holiday season, was disrupted by pro-Palestine supporters Friday night.

The Downtown Seattle Association has held this event for the last nine years.

The event is focused on bringing people to downtown Seattle to help with its economic growth, organizers said.

As people gathered in front of the Westlake Center to bring in the holiday spirit, dozens of pro-Palestine supporters marched along Pine Street from 5th Avenue toward 4th Avenue, roughly at about 4:40 p.m.

Supporters took over the holiday event as protestors chanted while holding signs, along the street and on the event’s stage.

The demonstration continued to intensify.

Shortly after 5 p.m., the protest was met with dozens of people chanting “Light the tree.”

The Christmas tree lit up roughly at about 5:14 p.m., with a fireworks show that shortly followed.

KIRO 7 News spoke with people who shared strong mixed reactions.

A number of people told KIRO 7 News that they supported the protest.

“I’m not going to leave. I understand everyone has a right to protest, and if it’s been allowed by the Constitution and the city, then, hey, it’s a part of it. But it can put a damper on some people who may want to come down here though,” said Corwin Scott, who visited the Christmas tree lighting with his partner.

“I agree free Palestine, but there was some vandalizing over there that I do not agree with. I mean I’m supporting freeing Palestine 110%. But I was kind of unexpected because I didn’t expect this to happen while I was here,” said Tara Mehrsadeh, who also attended the Christmas tree lighting ceremony with her loved ones.

KIRO 7 News asked Mehrsadeh about her thoughts on the protest impacting people’s holiday plans.

“In the end, when children are dying in Palestine, and we’re over here happy, it’s just a difficult situation because there are kids here too, but there are also helpless children in Palestine, not having any help, not having any joy or celebrations.” She added, “These kids get to go home to their house, to their water, to their food, but the ones in Palestine, the ones they’re fighting for don’t.”

However, a number of people were also upset and frustrated at the sudden disruption.

“Horrible. I don’t feel safe,” said Julie Davis, who attended the Christmas tree lighting with her husband. “I want the tree to light. This is the Christmas spirit. They (protestors) just walked in and took over the stage.”

Davis told KIRO 7 News they noticed many families were on high alert as they tried to make sure their children were safe.

“I don’t think they (children) should be here. Their parents are trying to hide them from all of this,” she explained.

“It can bring people to downtown for the purpose of lighting the tree. It’s not for this. If they (protestors) want to do all this, they can do this on their own time, and not bring people together like this because we don’t want a protest. We want to light the tree,” she continued to share.

KIRO 7 News reached out to the Seattle Police Department to get more details.

A spokesperson for the department said a significant amount of officers were at the original Christmas tree lighting to direct traffic and for security.

No arrests were made in connection to the holiday event and protest, the spokesperson said.

There are no reported injuries, as of Friday night.

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