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November 24, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Seattle protesters block I-5; police use pepper spray

About 100 people gathered at Westlake Park in Seattle and then took to the streets as the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury decision was announced on Monday night.  (Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times)

About 100 people gathered at Westlake Park in Seattle and then took to the streets as the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury decision was announced on Monday night. (Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times)

Update at 12:46 a.m: Group is on the move again, heading north on Fifth Avenue.

Update at 12:40 a.m.: Protesters have left the old federal building and are standing in the middle of Fifth Avenue singing “We Shall Overcome.” Number has dwindled to about 50.

Update at 12:30 a.m.: Protesters gathered outside the old federal building at 5th and Spring. Police reported that some vandals were spray-painting a building.

The crowd of maybe about 100 chanted “What is this for? All people.”

Update at 11:27 p.m. Police now say there have been four arrests. Standoff still happening at 12th and Pike.

Update at 10:55 p.m.: The freeway has reopened and the crowd is now headed toward 10th Avenue and East Pike Street. Some are throwing rocks at police.

Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole says she believes there have been at least two arrests. No word on injuries to protesters or police.

Update at 10:01 p.m.: What has largely been a peaceful protest erupted into chaos a short time ago as marchers tried to get onto Interstate 5 near Cherry Street and 7th Avenue.

Police kept the protesters away from the freeway by using pepper spray and flash-bangs. SOme protesters kneeled in front of a freeway entrance chanting, “This is about Mike Brown.”

A small fire was set in the street. A handful of protesters managed to make it onto the freeway

It’s unclear whether there have been any arrests. Police say they’ve been pelted with bottles, rocks and canned food.

Police have ordered the protesters to leave the area.

Original post: An estimated 200 to 300 people are marching in downtown Seattle to protest the decision by a Missouri grand jury to not indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen.

Shouting “No justice, no peace,” the protesters marched from a rally at  Westlake Park to Seattle Central College. Dozens of Seattle police bicycle officers are stationed along the streets, watching the crowd, which has thus far been loud, but peaceful.

Many marchers are carrying signs protesting the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer. Earlier, while the crowd first gathered at Westlake Park, several dropped to the pavement in an organized “die-in” to protest the shooting. They staged a second such demonstration later in the march.

“Seattle is just like Ferguson,” protest organizer Mohawk Kuzma said before the grand jury’s decision was announced.

Protesters staged a moment of silence as they sat down in the middle of Broadway near Pike Street for 4 1/2 minutes, signifying the 4 1/2 hours Brown’s body was in the street after he was fatally shot. Protesters chanted “hands up, don’t shoot.”

As marchers gathered on Capitol Hill, streets around the police department’s East Precinct were blocked off. Demonstrators stood outside the barricades shouting,”Black lives matter.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray held a news briefing about an hour after the Ferguson decision.

Murray and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole urged people protesting the Ferguson decision to do so peacefully. Murray acknowledged that Seattle is failing its young African-American men by allowing educational and economic disparities to persist. But he insisted that “Seattle is not Ferguson.”

“My message to young people in Seattle tonight and particularly to African-American young people is, while we do not have the answers, we in this city are listening to you. We in this city love you,” Murray said.

O’Toole said Seattle police are “entirely committed to facilitating the First Amendment rights of those in our community.”

“During these challenging times, I hope we can be a beacon of hope and calm that others will look to,” O’Toole added.

Pamela Banks of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle said the city must tackle economic disparities in addition to police reform.

Estela Ortega of El Centro de la Raza encouraged people in Seattle to march and protest.

King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a statement: “We all mourn the loss of a young man’s life. This is a moment to say what is in our hearts, with tolerance, respect, and restraint, as we were asked to do by Michael Brown’s family.”

At the Garfield Community Center, during one of two “Rapid Response” events being held in the city, 19 people, including two Seattle police officers, sat in a circle on a meeting room processing the decision. Several teens were in the group.

“As a mother I’m terrified,” said one woman who didn’t want to give her name. “I’m hurt.”

Several people said that even though they expected the decision, hearing that the Ferguson police officer won’t be prosecuted has made them  lose hope.

“I’m shocked, but I’m not shocked,” another woman said. “I feel like I’m just shaking inside. I want to know if the white people in this room feel the same.”

Seattle Public Schools officials are asking school principals to help students express their emotions about the verdict, and give them a safe place to share them.  If students are planning a protest or a walkout, for example, they encourage principals to consider providing a “well-supervised” forum where students can talk about how to achieve their goals.

The verdict, the message said, “may be difficult for students to deal with, and what matters most is they know that you car, you’re helping them to be heard, and you want to keep them safe while safeguarding their futures.”



Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Ferguson, grand jury, Officer-involved shooting


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