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December 7, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Crowd gathers downtown to protest Ferguson, Garner rulings

Seattle protesters holding up sign: "Badge [doesn't equal] license to kill." (Paige Cornwell / The Seattle Times)

Seattle protesters holding up sign: “Badge [doesn’t equal] license to kill.” (Paige Cornwell / The Seattle Times)

A protester on Sunday night. (Paige Cornwell / The Seattle Times)

A protester on Sunday night. (Paige Cornwell / The Seattle Times)

About 100 people gathered in downtown Seattle on Sunday night to protest against police brutality and racial inequality in the wake of the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand-jury rulings.

As of Sunday night, Seattle police had made one arrest.

Marchers carried signs and chanted “I can’t breathe” as they walked through the downtown core, stopping at intersections to drop to the ground and stage “die-ins.” They were monitored by police, on foot and on bicycle, who occasionally hemmed them in and kept them from going down certain streets.

As they marched through Belltown, apartment dwellers stood on their balconies and raised their arms in support of the protest.

Queen Pearl, who lives in Queen Anne, compared the Seattle protests to the ones that occurred during the civil-rights movement.

“The protests were a must-do then, and they’re a must-do now,” Pearl said.

At the beginning of the protest, Maya Harvey, a teacher from Seattle’s Othello Park neighborhood, told the crowd that she was “a teacher of mainly minority students, and I know one day one will be shot by police.”

The protests have been growing nationwide after a grand jury declined last week to indict New York police Officer Daniel Pantoleo in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was being arrested on suspicion of illegally selling loose cigarettes. That decision came shortly after a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer for shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.

Seattle police described Sunday’s protest as “very peaceful, just marching up and down the downtown core and doing die-ins at intersections,” said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb. “This is the kind of speech we’re here to provide public safety for.”

The original protest, scheduled for Friday, was moved to Sunday to accommodate the Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition that benefits the Pike Market Senior Center, organizer Mohawk Kuzma said.

Police arrested a 16-year-old girl for pedestrian interference and obstruction at Third Avenue and Bell Street.

“The police pushed her,” Kuzma said.

Whitcomb said Sunday’s protest stood in contrast to Saturday evening, when a small group broke away from a larger protest and began throwing rocks at officers.

“When officers start getting rocks thrown at them, and otherwise physically assaulted, that’s the time when we’re going to move in and make arrests,” he said.

Whitcomb said he didn’t know if the demonstrations were planned to continue throughout the holidays. “A lot of these demonstrations are organic, organized by word-of-mouth or social media, and it’s a pretty significant topic when you’re talking about race and social justice.”

He added: “We’re also keenly aware we’re the target.”

In addition to Seattle, protests over the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases continued around the country:

In Philadelphia, about 200 protesters staged a silent “die-in” outside the football stadium Sunday night. The demonstrators lay on the street for four minutes and 30 seconds to symbolize the four hours and 30 minutes the body of Michael Brown lay on the street after he was shot. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a few football fans exiting the stadium after the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Seattle Seahawks cursed at the demonstrators.

In Northern California, three officers and a technician were hurt and six people arrested when a protest in Berkeley turned violent. Police fired rubber bullets and used smoke and flares during the protest that began Saturday night and continued into early Sunday as the crows grew increasingly unruly. Protests also were reported elsewhere, including Miami and Milwaukee.

 

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Ferguson, protest, Westlake Park

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