Are you bracing for mayhem during the upcoming May Day protests?
The press certainly seems to be. At Seattle police headquarters this afternoon, Captain Chris Fowler answered questions from the media about May Day—historically a day of protest by labor organizers, anarchists, and more recently, immigrants—which is this Wednesday.
Seems like last year there was an effort to not line the streets with officers, to not do a show of force... Has that changed? Will we see officers lining the streets?
So what's the line? When do you move in? When do you use force?
Why don't you just say, permitted marches only. Anyone starts to block the street, you're done. Throw down the gauntlet right now and say you're not going to tolerate this. Is there any discussion about that, about not being as tolerant as we've been in the past?
Are you ready?
I felt like I was watching a scene from an action movie.
Fowler refused to give into the hype. He said SPD is taking a "wait and see" approach to allow everyone to peaceably exercise their free speech rights. SPD will facilitate unpermitted marches as long as they're not harming anyone, he said, and officers will "only use force when it's necessary to effect an arrest."
He seemed mildly concerned with property damage. Asked what he anticipates, Fowler referred ominously to the "use of devices to cause damage" during last year's smashup.
Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, SPD's top media guy, told me he doesn't expect major disruptions on the scale of last year's. He said police expected "orchestrated violence" based on "open source" public information in 2012. "Those signs haven't been present this year," he said.
Rioters could be "organizing in fashion that's more sophisticated and under the radar," Whitcomb continued. "Or, maybe just nothing's going to happen. Which is actually typical, for what we see. There's years of nothing, and then, something extraordinary."
There was a hint of the us-versus-them mentality in his final comment, though: "I personally think they're just biding their time."