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May 2, 2014 at 5:58 AM

Police chief pleased with how officers handled May Day events


Captain Chris Fowler  briefs the media about how the Seattle Police Department handled May Day protests and marches. At right is Interim Chief Harry Bailey.  (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Captain Chris Fowler briefs the media this morning about how the Seattle Police Department handled May Day protests and marches. At right is interim Chief Harry Bailey.
(Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Update 1:42 p.m.: Seattle police Interim Chief Harry Bailey this morning called the department’s handling of yesterday’s May Day events “a success.”

Speaking to reporters during a press conference at police headquarters, Bailey said the afternoon march from the Central Area to Westlake Park, followed up with a labor and immigration rights rally, didn’t cause the department any problems. The unpermitted evening march from Capitol Hill to downtown then back to Capitol Hill resulted in property damage, minor injuries to an officer who tussled with a protester and 10 arrests.

“Any property damage in this city is too much,” Bailey said, adding that the amount of damage done by protesters this year was far less than during May Day marches the last two years.

Police said the arrests varied from felony assault to property damage to malicious mischief. One officer sustained scratch marks on his face after fighting with a protester in Belltown; a fight that resulted in police officers’ deploying pepper spray. Another officer suffered an injury while riding his bicycle, the department said.

When questioned by reporters about why officers allowed protesters to trek back and forth from Capitol Hill to downtown for hours, Bailey and Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh said that allowing protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights, whether they are organized and have a permit with the city or not, is how things are handled in Seattle.

“We had some choices to make and we could have gone hands on,” Bailey said. “As a Chief, I’m proud of the way officer handled themselves.”

Update at 10:22 a.m.: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement on the performance of the Seattle Police Department on May Day:

“Seattle police officers conducted themselves with admirable patience and professionalism during May Day yesterday and throughout the night.

“Their training and preparation showed: Officers kept order in our streets and supported the marchers in their peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Arrests were limited in number, and damage to property was kept to a minimum.

“I want to thank Chief Harry Bailey, Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh, Captain Chris Fowler and all SPD officers for their excellent work.”

Update at 9:38 a.m.: Detective Ron Smith, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, said this morning that he was pleased with the work done by officers during last night’s May Day demonstrations as well as the department’s pre-planning. However, he expressed displeasure with statements made by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who has blamed police for inciting previous May Day violence.

“I take great exception to assertions made by Councilmember Sawant putting the blame for May Day violence upon the men and women of the Seattle Police Department. Nothing is further from the truth. She should examine whether she wants to remain in a legislative role or return to her true calling of an activist.”

We’re awaiting comment from Sawant.

UPDATE 7 A.M.: The head of the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) praised the job done by Seattle police Thursday night, but wonders whether stricter controls might be possible on disruptive, unpermitted and potentially dangerous marches.

“I think the general feeling is relief.  I think the police department did a good job in managing the unpermitted march and preventing damage to the businesses downtown. And we’re pretty grateful for that,” said Kate Joncas, president/CEO of the DSA.

Joncas said the DSA had a team in the police operations center that was able to track the movements of the marchers and warn local businesses and property owners what was headed their way.

Joncas said lessons were learned after the 2012 protest that resulted in many broken windows and other damage to downtown businesses.  She was particularly complimentary of Police Capt. Chris Fowler, incident commander at the May Day event last year and yesterday.

In general, she said, it appeared that police used firm, but not confrontational tactics, to keep the crowd away from some potential targets, such as large store windows.

Joncas said she had no problem with the permitted march for immigration and wage reform, but with the later event in which mask-clad demonstrators roamed downtown through the evening.

She’d like to see an exploration of ways to discourage and disperse such events, which she said go on for hours, causing disruption through the city core and costing the city money in police time and cleanup.

“We need to sit down and say, ‘Is is there something better we could do?’ ” she said.

Previous post: Seattle police made ten arrests during May Day activities and there were few reports of property damage, according to a blog post from the Seattle Police Department.

A march of May Day demonstrators from Judkins Park to Westlake Park, sponsored by El Comité and the May First Action Coalition, drew several hundred people on a sunny afternoon and was mostly peaceful.

After many of the marchers had dispersed from downtown, a core group of a couple hundred protesters continued to meander through Seattle streets late into the evening, contained and herded by dozens of police officers on bikes. Read more from our story.

According to a list from Seattle Police, officers made a total of ten arrests throughout the night:

  • A a 22-year-old man for property damage in the 1500 block of Broadway.
  • A 23-year-old man for assaulting an officer at 6th Ave and Battery Street—officers also recovered a gun on the man during the arrest.
  • An 18-year-old man for malicious mischief at 6th and Virginia Street, where he damaged at least one vehicle.
  • A 22-year-old man arrested for obstruction at 5th and Virginia.
  • A 17-year-old man arrested for property damage at 6th and Pine.
  • A 37-year-old man arrested for assault at Broadway and Pine.
  • A 21-year-old man arrested for assault at Broadway and Pine.
  • A 19-year-old arrested for assault at Broadway and Pine.
  • A 20-year-old man arrested for assault at Broadway and E Olive.
  • And a 17-year-old man arrested for obstruction at Broadway and Pine.

The department’s Force Investigation Team was activated and available during the event, but was not needed, according to police.

Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: arrests, May Day, pepper spray


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