Seattle police prepare for 2020 stay-at-home May Day

SEATTLE — Stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 remain in place statewide.

However, May Day – which is Friday – has historically meant large and often violent gatherings in downtown Seattle.

Capt. Todd Kibbee told KIRO 7 on Wednesday that the Seattle Police Department expects fewer people to gather for May Day this year, but SPD officers will be staffed and prepared for whatever happens.

Since 2013, self-proclaimed anarchists have used the first day in May as an excuse to wreak havoc in downtown Seattle; destroying property and rioting in the streets.

This year, downtown businesses are already boarded-up because of the COVID-19 crisis. Kibbee said protecting against property crime is one less thing his officers will have to worry about.

The SPD’s May Day Incident Commander also said organizers of multiple May Day events – including the annual Immigration and Workers’ Rights Rally – agreed to cancel their plans, in line with the state’s stay-at-home order.

But if people do gather, “We have a plan in place to deal with demonstrations, protests and free speech events here in Seattle,” Kibbee said.

He added, anyone who gathers will be reminded to practice social distancing but officers will not arrest anyone or issue citations for violating the stay-at-home order.

“I think it’s been pretty clear from Chief Best that we are not taking enforcement action in Seattle,” Kibbee explained. “Our role is more of education, asking for voluntary compliance. We do not anticipate that changing for May Day.”

Officers will, however, arrest law-breakers.

“We obviously are ready to enforce other laws that are on the books,” Kibbee said, including “any crimes of violence.”