SEATTLE - Demonstrations on Black Friday in Westlake — downtown Seattle's shopping core — have become an annual event over the last few years that coincides with the lighting of the Christmas tree and Macy's star.
Nearly 10,000 people were interested in attending the Black Lives Matter protest on Friday, according to the event's Facebook page. But only a few hundred showed up to march and rally for the six-hour demonstration, which remained mostly peaceful.
Tensions rose between shoppers and protesters when the demonstrators purposely blocked the entrance to Nordstrom Rack in Westlake Center as they chanted “Black Lives Matter on Black Friday.”
Nordstrom security managers worked with Seattle police officers to create a path between the protest line and the shoppers. The protest continued to line Westlake Park – around the iconic holiday carousel and tree – for the entire afternoon.
Protesters and people there for the holiday festivities tended to blend together as the Christmas tree lit up for the season. After the fireworks were launched from the Macy’s building, they dispersed.
Friday’s demonstration was the least disruptive in years.
- In 2014, protesters upset over a grand jury decision in the officer shooting of Micheal Brown, disrupted the musical performance on the balcony of Westlake Mall. Five people were arrested, two for assaulting police.
- In 2015, the performance was moved to a stage in the middle of the intersection on the street level, with fences barricading the area. The protest started peaceful, but it ended with at least two arrests.
- In 2016, protesters rallied in Westlake during the early afternoon, but they marched to South Lake Union near the Amazon headquarters before the tree lighting. There were no arrests.
The Downtown Seattle Association, which oversees the holiday events, did not expect a repeat of 2014 and 2015, due in part to downsizing the programing.
The association changed it last year, cutting out the performances, but they say it has nothing to do with the demonstrations.
The Seattle Downtown Association has worked with the Seattle Police Department over the last few months to prepare for the event — to ensure safety for everyone.
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