by Carolyn Bick
At the request of City of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee has sent up to 200 members of the state’s National Guard to the city.
In a press release sent out in the early evening of May 30, Inslee said that the city had requested the extra force to help protect against property damage, and manage crowds and traffic at the downtown protests that began that afternoon.
Protestors were engaging in demonstrations to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, earlier in the week, as well as to protest systemic racism and police brutality against Black people. There did not appear to be any destruction of property downtown until later in the day. It is unclear if this happened before or after police started firing what appeared to be teargas and flash bangs at peaceful protestors.
“The National Guard is on stand by to assist the Seattle Police Department as requested by Mayor Durkan,” Inslee said in the press release. “They will be unarmed and assist with infrastructure protection and crowd movement. They will only be utilized if absolutely necessary.”
Durkan decided to issue an emergency order that placed a 5 p.m. curfew on everyone but essential workers within the city limits. She made the announcement via Twitter about 15 minutes before 5 p.m., leaving protestors and others outside little time to disperse or get home. Emergency alerts about the order did not pop up on mobile phones until exactly 5 p.m.
Durkan said in an evening press conference about the day’s protest that most of the demonstrators were peaceful, and that the City of Seattle had reached out to organizers, such as Andre Taylor, leading the day’s peaceful protests. She said police officers only used force, after other demonstrators caused the protests to turn “violent and destructive.”
“Demonstrators threw molotov cocktails at cars and buildings, causing multiple fires. Some threw fireworks into peaceful crowds and at police, and for a period of time, our firefighters could not access the fires and put them out,” Durkan said. “At least two rifles were stolen. One was recovered, one may be outstanding.”
She said several Seattle Police Department officers and civilians were injured, but that there had been no serious injuries reported at that time.
A Facebook Live stream from PCOMG earlier in the afternoon showed police, some of whom were kitted out in gas masks and carrying teargas canisters, start to push back against peaceful protestors, before firing flash bangs and teargas at them about 8 minutes out from the end of the video. Some of the officers were not from Seattle Police Department, as shown by the names of the different cities listed on the backs of their gear.
Durkan said that these videos will be reviewed for compliance with SPD use of force requirements.
“They will be referred to [the Office of Police Accountability]. They will have a supervisory revival, and any police officer using force inappropriately will be held accountable,” Durkan said. “I will also note that the [Washington State] inspector was present today at the emergency operations center, so that she could observe in live time how the Seattle Police Department was functioning in the emergency operations center with other departments.”
Durkan also noted that some social media posts were “inaccurate,” in that they claimed only peaceful protestors were present. She said “there were a number of people who were acting destructively” in protests the night before. She said they were throwing frozen water bottles, rocks, and incendiary devices at police officers, and that each time officers asked them to move, there were some who resisted. She said those videos will also be reviewed.
There is at least one video on Twitter by Seattle journalist Dae Shik Kim Hawkins, Jr., showing police officers punching a protestor, whom they have pinned down, during last night’s protest. The video shows one police officer shove a protestor to the ground, and another officer pin down a different protestor. Another officer assists the officer who has pinned down the protestor. The video then shows the pinned protestor hit the side of one of the officer’s arms once, after he is flipped over, after which the officers atop him start punching him.
A separate Facebook Live stream from community organizer Nikkita Oliver showed police officers standing in front of protestors with covered badge numbers.
Durkan said her office will look into the issue of covered badge numbers, but that it is a common tradition among police officers to cover their badge numbers, when mourning a fellow officer. The Emerald is not aware at this time of any police officers who have recently passed.
Featured image: Police walk down the street at the protest in downtown Seattle, Washington, on May 30, 2020. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You can reach them here.
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