Demonstrators arrested, one officer injured during protest

SEATTLE — After the tree lighting ceremony, shoppers and revelers dispersed from the area while protesters sat down in a circle in front of the entrance to Westlake Center. Speakers continued to address the rally for the next hour while officers in riot gear stood guard blocking them from entering the shopping center.

“This year, we were able to light the Christmas tree, people celebrated, and people protested. And both sides respected each other,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said.
On lookers continued about their day, doing errands.
Brandon Lomax, who was just walking about downtown when he saw the protest, said he supports the cause but wishes the phrase could include “all lives.”
“We’re all human. We all bleed the same blood. It’s all the same. Just because my skin color is different, doesn’t mean treat me any more special,” Lomax said.

The evening concluded an anxious day for both law enforcement.

When protestors entered Macy’s this afternoon, some shoppers grew agitated.
We come here to shop – Christmas shop, do your thing. This is not a peaceful protest. No one should be stuck in this. I can’t even leave,” said Drew McQueen, referring to security who had blocked the doors so no one could come in or out.
But earlier, demonstrator Rachel Bjork explained that disruption and inconvenience are the only way for some people to pay attention.
“Racism is a very real thing, and I think people forget that. Because if they’re not experiencing it themselves, they think ‘oh well, that doesn’t happen anymore. But it does,” Bjork said.

5:25 PM: SPD officers line barricades and entrances to Westlake Center and restaurants. Shoppers allowed to enter. Protestors seen waving signs and shouting at officers blocking them from entering.

5:10 PM: Westlake Center tree lit about 15 minutes earlier than expected and announced by organizers. Large crowd assembled includes families and revelers, as well as group of protestors carrying signs and banners scattered throughout the crowd. Law enforcement, in bright and reflective vests, lining barricades, entrances to park area, and stage near performers and Christmas tree. So far, no reports disruptions to festivities.

3:30 PM: One officer injured and two demonstrators arrested during protests in downtown Seattle on Black Friday.

The demonstrators attempted entry into multiple stores.

The officer is recieving emergency treatment for a possibly dislocated shoulder.

One protester was arrested for trying to break windows at Westlake Center, another was arrested at Pacific Place, where crowds were seen trying to force their way past officers.

2:00 PM: Officers are on site monitoring the protest. Demonstrators moved south on 5th Avenue from Pike Street. The march remained within a several block corridor of the downtown Seattle shopping district.

1:30 PM: Peaceful protestors started marching outside Westlake Park about 30 minutes later than previously announced.

The Black Lives Matter group called for no new youth in jail and no police body cameras. They also called for black equality.

People attending the event say they are divided on whether or not last year's march was effective.

Gerald Hankerson, with the Seattle King County NAACP, told KIRO 7 why protestors chose Black Friday.
“Our community is not festive, when we look every day and find out one of our kids, one of our people, are being gunned down in the streets and not being held accountable,” Hankerson said.

Last year, the Black Lives Matter group interrupted the tree-lighting ceremony by marching into Westlake Center and climbing onto the balcony where performers were in the middle of a hoilday performance.

This year, event organizers said there won’t be anyone performing on the balcony.

“This is a city that respects protests, it’s an American tradition,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Our hope is that those people who want to protest and make a statement are able to do that. And others don’t try and create problems by destroying property or harassing individuals.”

Murray said that Chief Kathleen O’Toole and the Seattle Police Department will have enough officers to make sure the tree lighting show goes off in a way that allows people to have fun.

The Downtown Seattle Association spokesperson, James Sido, told KIRO 7 earlier this week that stakeholders in the area and police are in better communication this time.

Sido said with all the terrorist events happening around the world, any large gathering now requires a great deal of attention to safety.

Lizanne Venneri said she plans to bring her family to the tree-lighting festivities.

“I love the holidays. And I just think the tree lighting is such a perfect way to kick off the season,” Venneri said. She said she would still enjoy it with demonstrators there, as long as the show can still go on.

Dr. Sheley Seacrest, vice president of the Seattle King County NAACP, said the message of bringing about police reform and calling for fair treatment of African-Americans, is more important than Black Friday holiday festivities.

When asked whether the group intends to shut down the show again, Seacrest said, “A good soldier never reveals their strategy in a time of war.”

She said their priority is to make sure the law-abiding demonstrators are not assaulted by police.

“They want to see change. They want to see a particular race of people is treated like Americans,” she said.