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Pepper gas, flash bangs, smoke bombs, busted windows, injuries

May 02, 2013

Marchers at a May Day 2013 event in downtown Seattle waving a smoke bomb just before the police unleash some smoke bang grenades their way. From video taken atop a building. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(SEATTLE, WA) -- It appears to be on its way to becoming a ritual in the Emerald City, somewhat like a rite of passage or the swallows returning to Capistrano.

A May Day march in downtown Seattle seems now to follow a script. Things go well for a while - peaceful marchers, no broken windows, no property damage, no tussles with cops, no arrests - and then at some point things do not go so well.

The big worm turns.

Wednesday was the second year in a row a May Day march - this one in support of immigrant rights and the working class - went south and into property damage and violence.

It began peacefully enough, as did the march in 2012, with a few thousand people marching a bit over 2 miles from the Central District toward Seattle's downtown Jackson Federal Building following a rally in support of immigrant rights, immigrant law reform and labor.

During the daytime things were peaceful but by 8 p.m. the scene began to change.

A relatively small group of marchers - including some people clad in black who kept being referred to as "anarchists" by breathless TV and radio reporters who seemed to think they were in the thick of World War Three - broke away from a march and smashed some windows of businesses and cars and some windows at the courthouse in downtown Seattle. But nothing like last year and nothing like WW3.


When the worm turned police were at the ready with pepper spray, flash bang grenades (they go bang very loud and make a big flash) and a strategy that seemed to be keep people on the move -- don't let them stop and dig in deep to make a stand.

By and large it appeared to be strategy that was successful. Police on bikes filled the streets to keep the crowd rolling along and the crowd did indeed keep rolling.

You'll see and hear a few flash bangs in the video below shot from the top of a building in Seattle.

By the evening some 17 arrests had been made and eight officers were reported injured - mostly minor things like scrapes and bruises. And the relative few in the crowd, estimated at several thousand strong through the day, that got out of line left some streets filled with debris.

But things were kept much more orderly by police this year compared to 2012 when the Seattle Police Department came in for heavy post-event criticism for allowing things to get out of control due to what was later seen as ineffective planning by police and a rank and file that said they got mixed messages from command operatives on what to do.

Later some official reviews found fault with the way the department brass prepared for the event.

In a report to the public called "Everything that happened on May Day 2013," Sgt. Sean Whitcomb wrote on the Seattle Police Department's web site, "With the exception of a few minor scuffles between clowns and our local superheroes, the 13th Annual May Day March for Worker and Immigrant Rights was a complete success and went off without a hitch.

But two hours after that march ended, at about 6 pm, another group of demonstrators smashed windows, hurled rocks at officers and bystanders, souring an otherwise peaceful day."

The report said earlier in the day, police throughout downtown provided traffic control and security as thousands of people celebrated their First Amendment rights during the May Day March for Worker and Immigrant Rights and that police "were prepared to provide the same level of public safety service for a 6 o’clock demonstration, that began at Seattle Central Community College. "


Also from the report:
"The Capitol Hill march was unpermitted, and demonstrators did not provide the city with any information about which route the march would take through the city. According to a flyer, this march was advertised as the Anti-Capitalist/Anti-State May Day 2013 Rally and March.

Even without a permit, police worked to assist demonstrators as they marched down Broadway, providing traffic control.

The behavior of the group during the evening demonstration steadily escalated into violence. Just after 7 p.m., protestors began spraying the costumed Rain City Superheroes with silly string. Shortly after that, the window at Sun Liquor was smashed.

The march then wound its way downtown on Pike Street towards the Downtown Retail Core, where demonstrators began shoving and attacking reporters as they provided live on-air reports from the event.

Shortly after that, demonstrators ignited a smoke device, spewing orange pinkish smoke throughout the block.

After demonstrators began damaging property, throwing fireworks and rocks at officers, police formed a tactical line to prevent the marchers from moving any further into the retail core or on to the Interstate on-ramps.

After demonstrators began throwing metal rods and full water bottles at officers and business windows, officers moved in and made arrests.

When officers arrested several protesters and began loading them into transport vans, demonstrators surrounded the officers and prevented the vehicles from leaving.

Some demonstrators then began to throw large rocks and pieces of asphalt at officers. In the interest of safety, police commanders issued clear orders to the crowd to disperse. The order was repeated three times.

Meanwhile, some demonstrators continued to hurl rocks, bottles, fireworks and a skateboard at officers. Officers chose to deploy oleoresin capsicum, better known as OC pepper spray, to move the crowd.

It should be noted that all officers equipped with OC spray must be pepper sprayed during training before they are able to use OC in the field."

Whitcomb says police gave demonstrators numerous opportunities to leave as officers worked to clear downtown streets but a large group of demonstrators moved up Olive Way and officers followed, using pepper spray and "blast balls" to keep the crowd moving.

Officers, he says, took some hits in the melee, enduring "a barrage of rocks and bottles throughout the melee until the crowd finally did disperse around 9 p.m."

In all, police say 17 people were arrested for various offenses including property destruction and assault. Eight officers sustained injuries, mostly bumps and bruises with the exception of one female officer who was struck in the knee by a fist sized rock.

And a woman driving by the scene of one of the protests was injured when a protester hurled a glass bottle at her car, shattering her window. The woman sustained cuts from broken glass and was treated at the scene by medics.

The report adds there was limited damage to cars and business around the demonstration route. A complete tally of the damage will be forthcoming.

Police also have planned to form a task force to investigate all criminal activity that occurred during the evening demonstration. They ask that anyone who has pictures or video clips to save them.


But depending upon who you are and how you perceive events in this country, one person's out of control crowd is another person's community pushing back against what it perceives as a government that has failed at every turn and doomed a generation -- undermined it with a shattered economy, low wage jobs, dismal prospects for the future, college costs that few can now afford, massive student loan debt just to get an education and a government that now wants to keep watch - and control - over the same crowd 24/7 with thousands of police drones flying in the air across the land.

A poster going by the handle of mlatono2 put this comment near the video you see in this story:

"They got people out in the streets angry things are slightly out of hand. When they implode the economy people will be out in the streets REALLY pissed off and things will really get out of control. This gives them the excuse to get the MILITARIZED police force out to crack down on SOCIETY. It's a subtle Coup d'état a Putch Going from civilian rule to Military rule and People don't see it. Including and especially the Police. We are all victims of Stupidity being duped by foreign powers."



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