Police Clash With Protestors in Capitol Hill

by Elizabeth Turnbull

On Saturday, protesters set fire to portable construction buildings at the site of the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center and inflicted damage on the East Precinct, while Seattle Police officers used blast balls and pepper spray on protesters — and in some instances, engaged in forceful arrests.

Saturday’s march began at 1 p.m. on Broadway and Pine, in support of the Portland protests against racial injustice and in order to reassert the demands of previous Seattle protests. Saturday’s demonstration was called by the Youth Liberation Front. After an hour of various speeches, a crowd of a few thousand protesters began marching toward the Central District, ultimately arriving at the construction site for the new youth jail at 3:40 p.m. .

Protesters at the King County Youth Service Center/Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center at 12th Ave and Alder St. began chanting, “I don’t see shit! I don’t know shit!” as some in the crowd pulled down the fencing surrounding the site and later set fire to portable trailers and damaged other equipment and property. Some protesters tagged the sidewalk in front of the jail, with one protester spray painting “Free them all!”

Marchers make their way down 11th Avenue during Saturday’s protest. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Of the protesters’ five demands, one insists that the youth jail not be built and advocates against youth detention in general.

An explosion sounded from inside the fencing at roughly 3:50 p.m. as protesters cheered before heading back in the direction of Capitol Hill toward the East Precinct. Before arriving at the precinct, a police report claims that members of the crowd broke the windows of several businesses located on 12th Ave.

As protesters passed by the precinct, some spray-painted over the building’s security cameras, and shortly after, one protester managed to get behind the fence surrounding the precinct. An explosive device was set off, damaging the interior wall and exterior of the precinct, according to the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

At this point, the police declared the protest a riot. In the ensuing moments, smoke from explosives, which sounded similar to flash bangs or blast balls, could be seen directly above or in the crowd standing in front of the precinct on Pine St. After police arrived on scene, protesters scattered toward Cal Anderson Park.

While protesters initially began marching up Pine St., in the direction of the precinct, they were met with a strong police presence, blast balls, and OC spray. From about 4:30 p.m. onward, protesters marched and ran through various streets near the intersection of Broadway and Pine, as police pushed protesters away from the intersection and ultimately the precinct.

During this period of time, protesters threw water bottles and lit smoke bomb fireworks in front of police. According to the SPD, one officer was treated for a knee injury and 21 officers sustained injuries, most of which the officers were able to come back from.  Police claim protesters threw, “bricks, rocks, mortars, and other explosives at officers,” though it is unclear where or at what time such projectiles were thrown.

Due to the SPD firing of sponge rounds, blast balls, and OC spray, several protesters sustained injuries as well (the exact number was unclear at the time of this article’s publishing), with many calls for volunteer medics among the crowd throughout the evening.

A protestor wears a Mom band around their arm in solidarity with the Wall of Moms organizers associated with the Portland protests against racial injustice. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Many of the blast balls released by officers appeared to be set off directly above, or in, the crowds, with remnants of the explosives shooting through the crowds. Police also used pepper spray at close range to deter protesters’ advances and some officers fired sponge rounds, which resulted in injuries.

At 6 p.m., one man appeared to be bleeding after suffering what some crowd members shouted out was a head injury,  while another protester said he was pointing at police officers to turn on their body cameras when he was shot with what may have been sponge rounds, resulting in pain and large welts on his torso.

As of 10 p.m. on Saturday night, SPD had arrested 45 protesters for what they say was a failure to disperse, assaults on officers, and obstruction. At times police appeared to drag, push, and tackle protesters in an attempt to apprehend them.

After the protests continued through to the night and into early morning, the police formed a line on Pine and 11th, reminiscent of protests earlier in the year near the East Precinct that led to the creation of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in June.

Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist

Featured image by Susan Fried