On Wednesday, prosecutors filed no charges against two protesters arrested for felony assault by Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers during a pro-Palestine protest outside the World Trade Center Seattle last Friday. The lack of charges seems to support claims from protesters that SPD overreacted to the demonstration, as does the fact that, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, SPD itself said the department might not have a felony case against either defendant. However, the department said Thursday they were still investigating the protesters.

SPD said demonstrators used people and cars to block the entrances and exits into a parking lot and a garage of the World Trade Center and the Waterfront Marriott Hotel and ignored orders to move. However, protesters described their response as cooperative and said the cops escalated the situation.

According to two of the organizations present at the demonstration, the UW Progressive Student Union (UWPSU) and the Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, cops did not clearly warn protesters before rushing them and aiming pepper ball guns at the crowd. Though no one reported watching SPD shoot the pepper balls, several witnesses said they experienced eye irritation similar to the effects of pepper spray. 

SPD policy allows cops to use pepper balls to disperse a crowd so long as they can prove that protesters caused a traffic disturbance that could have resulted in “imminent harm” to demonstrators or to members of the public. Organizers pointed out that videos show protesters separated to either side of the sidewalk to give space for tow trucks to enter the parking lot. SPD said the department is reviewing officers response to the protest.

One series of video clips from the demonstrators shows cops rushing the protesters. At some point during that process, 62-year-old high school teacher Linda Bevis, who appeared to be standing on the sidewalk, was knocked down. The video shows officers helping her up only to arrest her. Officers tried to book her into jail, but a nurse who examined her there told them to take Bevis to the hospital because she had a large lump on her head. In an interview, she said she’s still not clear why officers put her in the paddy wagon and dragged her to King County Jail before releasing her.

SPD officers arrested Bevis and three other protestors that evening. The jail released one of the protesters right away, and prosecutors have not filed charges against that person. The jail held the other two protesters for more than 24 hours after finding probable cause for felony assault charges. 

In charging documents, officers described the two alleged assaults. In the first, officers said the protester had shoulder-checked SPD Officer Erik Eastgard hard enough that he injured his knee. Witnesses said the protester had simply run into Eastgard while running away from the irritant that cops released. SPD has still not sent prosecutors their investigation into that arrest. 

In the other case, charging documents said that a protester shoved SPD Sgt. Matt Newsome multiple times before he arrested them for felony assault. That protester captured their arrest on camera. In the video, the cameraperson appears to walk down a street while filming police as they direct another protester to the sidewalk. Officer Newsome then spots the cameraperson and approaches them. When the protester sticks out their arm, Newsome says “don’t touch me” and threatens to take the person to jail if they touch him again. The camera then starts jostling around. Another angle of that arrest shows officers appearing to dogpile on the person shortly after they stick out their arm.

A compilation of videos UWPSU posted on social media also show footage of an officer stabbing a protester’s tire. One clip shows an officer appearing to wave a driver forward just as another cop runs up to the van and stabs its back wheel. 

SPD’s official account of the incident acknowledges deflating tires, though it did not mention anything about pepper balls, which several demonstrators reported seeing. SPD declined to comment, citing ongoing investigations. 

Demonstrators say they’re considering all potential legal avenues against the police and demand a full investigation into the police response to the protest. They’ve also asked for SPD to fire the commanding officer at the protest.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include the fact that SPD plans to review the response by officers to the protest and to clarify that prosecutors may still file charges.