1. Mayor Ed Murray said May Day trouble makers were "from out of town." Rating: False.
(UPDATE 5/18: SPD's Public Affairs Unit says the information provided to Szilagyi is outdated. If that's true, Mayor Ed Murray is right about this.)
Last week, in an interview on our new podcast, Mayor Ed Murray said most of the people causing trouble on May Day were "from out of town," echoing a long-standing meme that people who engage in property destruction on May Day are outside agitators.
But police records show the mayor is wrong.
Slog tipper Joe Szilagyi filed a public records request for where the 14 people arrested on May Day live. Seven of the 14 live in Seattle proper. The others, with the exception of Adrien Roques and Casey Miller, come from nearby municipalities.
Here's the list Szilagyi received from the SPD, with the listed residence of each person at the end of each line:
Adrien Roques, 32, pleaded not guilty to assault. Olympia
A 23-year-old male was arrested for felony assault. Seattle
Diego Miguel, 19, pleaded not guilty to obstruction, and failure to disperse. Kent
Casey Miller, 20, pleaded not guilty to obstruction. Puyallup
Tobiah Goetz, 27, pleaded not guilty to obstruction. Seattle
A 24-year-old male was arrested for felony assault. Seattle
Kristopher Watson, 28, pleaded not guilty to obstruction. Seattle
Brendan McCormack, 28, pleaded not guilty reckless endangerment. Seattle
A 19-year-old male was arrested for felony assault. Shoreline
Gary Tonks, 24, pleaded not guilty to obstruction and illegal weapons possession. Kenmore
Austin Larkin, 24, pleaded not guilty to obstruction. Seattle
A 21-year-old female was arrested for felony assault. Unknown
Tavner Castle, 24, with third degree assault for allegedly throwing a lit flare. Seattle
Rolando Cordova-Kelly also faces a third degree assault charge for allegedly throwing “dangerous objects into a crowd of officers. Shoreline.
So that's a solid 50 percent of arrestees coming from the Seattle area. It's also worth noting that 88 percent of Seattle police officers live outside Seattle, according to Nate Silver. Who's really the outside agitator, then?
2. Police "showed great restraint," according to police chief Kathleen O'Toole. Rating: Open to question.
In addition, police reports obtained by The Stranger through its own public records request raise new questions about the way police handled the arrest of Adrien Roques—an arrest that has been at the center of concerns raised by city council member Bruce Harrell about whether police needlessly escalated tensions on May Day. Watch video of his arrest below. Rocques is alleged to be the masked figure who tosses a traffic cone at police; officers tackle him from behind and arrest him 90 seconds later, prompting a melee:
In his incident report filed on May Day, Officer Ty Selfridge identifies himself as a bike patrol policeman who helped wrestle Roques to the ground during the arrest. He writes:
I saw a suspect (later identified as ADRIEN M. ROQUES - w/m - 3.29.83) pick up a large orange traffic cone (and heavy rubber base) and hurl it at me and other bike officers in my squad. This cone did not strike anyone, but landed very close to us—less than 3'away. My bike squad continued to follow the protestors and ROQUES south on Broadway. I would estimate the size of the crowd to be in the hundreds. They were very hostile and trying to block our path with construction debris and NO PARKING SIGNS. ROQUES was a threat to officers and seemed intent on assaulting one/all of us.In another police report, Detective Damon Dees said he heard secondhand that Rocques threw the traffic cone and it "struck Officer Willis in the upper arm and torso." Dees reports that Willis was not injured and did not ask for any medical assistance. The video appears to show the traffic cone bouncing harmlessly off an officer's outstretched arm. Roques is pleading not guilty.
The decision to arrest Roques by tackling him from behind blew the May Day anticapitalist march apart. Prior to this arrest, protesters had been marching en masse on Broadway. Police say that by this point, they were being pelted with rocks, but they've offered no evidence for the claim. (Though the overhead video does clearly show a protester throwing the orange traffic cone toward police—and protesters dragging items into the roadway as barriers—before the arrest of Roques.) Immediately following the tackle on Roques, the SPD began began using pepper spray and blast balls on the crowd of protesters, scattering the crowd. Police continued using force on the protesters as they chased them around Capitol Hill, including throwing blast balls into crowds. Blast balls sent two women—protester Jaci Conger and Seattle Times reporter Paige Cornwell—to the hospital with bruises and burns. That evening, a bartender found an unexploded one in a gutter on Capitol Hill.
"The video," Council Member Harrell wrote in a May 8 letter to police chief Kathleen O'Toole, "standing alone and without context, in my opinion, does not appear to demonstrate de-escalation or strategic control."
Patricia Sully, a staff attorney at the Public Defender Association, said that regardless of why police chose to tackle Roques from behind, "it both looks like and was experienced as an inexplicable attack. It is was felt by protesters as police aggression, and it created a sense of panic, chaos, and fear. Because such tactics seem so inexplicable and so unpredictable, the perceived reality on the ground is that the police are attempting to end, rather than protect and facilitate, the march."
Indeed, a May 12 memorandum from Assistant Chief Steve Wilske to the city council said "the decision was made to shut down the event and return it to the point of origin at SCCC.” Police spokesperson Sean Whitcomb wouldn't tell me when this decision was made relative to the arrest of Roques.
In stark contrast, the department used a plainclothes officer to carry out another arrest on May Day without inflaming the crowd and without use of force, according to police reports, even though the alleged offense was arguably more serious than tossing a traffic cone towards police. Plainclothes officers are also known as "undercover"—more on that in this report.
Brendan McCormack is alleged to have thrown a "baseball sized rock" toward a "pack" of police and protesters. Plainclothes detective Thomas Hanley said he saw McCormack throw the rock, then followed him until he "sat down with several friends on a grass planting strip" and began smoking a cigarette. At that point, a group of officers arrested McCormack without incident. McCormack is pleading not guilty.
Could police have arrested Roques the same way, if they'd wanted to, without tackling him from behind and blowing apart the march? SPD's Whitcomb said he couldn't shed any additional light on why police used the tactics they did.
In a call placed from King County Jail last night, McCormack said he was pushing his bike up the hill at the time and denied throwing a rock or doing anything that should have resulted in an arrest. "I don't know if it's malicious lying or being completely mistaken" on the part of the police, he said. His girlfriend in a separate interview, said she'd been walking with him and maintained he did nothing wrong. She believes he was targeted for arrest because, in a separate case, Seattle police have accused (not convicted) him of vandalizing ATMs. McCormack is a peer educator at a local counseling service and needle exchange for drug-addicted LGBTQ men. He is being held on $30,000 bail—an amount he described as "insane."
Why had they joined the May Day protests? "I'm against police brutality and the way that capitalism treats the poor and minorities," said McCormack's girlfriend, who asked to not be identified by name.
3. The dude who allegedly broke a window and was carrying around a machete was a "rioter." Rating: False.
A final question: Was the dude with a machete really a rioter? In its blog and social media posts, the Seattle Police Department tied arrestee Garrett Jones directly to May Day's "full-scale riot," and made much of their allegation that he was carrying a bottle of paint and carrying a machete with the word "death" written on it. Jones doesn't appear in the list up above, but according to police, he lives outside Seattle, in Burlington.
The department first announced his arrest with a tweet saying, "Man arrested @ #MayDaySea for throwing rock at window." (#MayDaySea is the hashtag used for protests on May Day.)
According to a police report, however, Jones was arrested at about 4 p.m., not near any protest, and almost two hours before the evening's anticapitalist march was scheduled to begin. An officer who interviewed him reported that Jones "admitted" to breaking the window "because he was upset after his girlfriend broke up with him." The report continues, "Concerned about the paint, Ofc. Auderer asked Jones if he was planning to participate in the anti-capitalist event slated to kick off a few hours later in the evening. Jones said he was not a part of that but did say that there were 'going to be big riots tonight.'" A riot is, by definition, two or more people using violence or disturbing the public peace. Jones was alone when he was arrested.
It's possible Jones was making things up about his reasons for breaking the window. But if Officer Auderer believes so, he doesn't indicate it in the police report. Nevertheless, SPD described Jones as one of 16 "rioters" arrested on May Day.
"That may have been our error," said Whitcomb, the department spokesperson. "You might call him a would-be rioter." He said the department believes Jones was planning to participate in the protests that evening.
"That's what I was told," Whitcomb said. "I don't have any evidence."
Here's why all this matters: Any time police get away with using force on peaceful protesters and journalists, or sweeping unrelated people into generalizations about criminal rioters, it chills dissent and harms democracy.
The Seattle Police Department does not deserve anyone's presumptive trust (exhibits A, B, C, and D)—not yet, anyway. In February, claims that police made about a violent Martin Luther King Day protester who injured an officer were shown to be false and retracted.
May Day 2014 was a success on all sides. Anticapitalist protesters expressed their views with minimal police interference; police used little force compared to this year. The SPD reported one damaged bus window and only 10 arrests in 2014. Here's what I wrote at the time:
The police could not have taken a more different approach this year, under Chief O'Toole, and it's worth asking why.
"We’re gonna stand here as long as they’re standing over there," Captain Chris Fowler, who directed SPD's May Day response, told me in the evening. "They want to have a street party, that’s fine." He was standing with a group of officers on bikes, chatting and looking relaxed, across from the protesters. Only when the group set a trash can on fire in the middle of the intersection did police deploy gas and clear the crowd away, then withdraw again. The protesters re-occupied the intersection and lit the trash can on fire once more (a really pathetic moment was when they added a second can to the blaze, hooting and cheering). SPD cleared them out again—this time remaining in lines to prevent the crowd from surging back into the street.