Sunday evening I-5 was shut down north of Pike St. and south of Seneca St. due to a protest against police brutality, which started earlier in the afternoon in the Chinatown-International District.
At 4:20 p.m. Seattle Police threw blast balls into a crowd of approximately 100 people marching behind a banner in support of Asians for Black Lives. The group headed to Capitol Hill via First Hill, shouting into apartment buildings and asking people to join their ranks as a helicopter refused to shut the fuck up overhead. Around 6:00 p.m. the still "aggressively peaceful" group, according to Stranger digital editor Chase Burns, had grown in number on Capitol Hill and started moving downtown, until they were rerouted back up to the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct near Cal Anderson Park.
Turned into this:
A Seattle PD officer on his bike tried to get past a protester peacefully marching with us and knocked into them from behind and then officers swarmed. One officer punches someone while they’re pinned to the ground. pic.twitter.com/mtKgZQjpnD
— MaxOnƬwitter (@The_Stepover) May 31, 2020
The third day of demonstrations came as three different narratives emerged about Saturday's much larger protests downtown.
The story several local politicians keep telling involves nefarious men "hijacking" a peaceful protest honoring the life of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis Police earlier in the week, and strongly condemning systemic racism. SPD Chief Carmen Best supported this narrative yesterday, when she said "the first dispersal order was issued" at 2:38 p.m. after some protesters allegedly threw rocks and bottles at officers. After that, police launched flash bangs and tear gas into the crowd, and pepper-sprayed protesters as people vandalized buildings, set patrols cars on fire, and looted.
Some criminal justice activists pushed back against that overall narrative, arguing that property wasn't more important than human lives, and that the police were in part responsible for the chaos.
“I don’t give a fuck about a car. The Seattle PD has $410 million a year to oppress us. To over-police us. They can buy a new a car. We can’t buy a new George Floyd. We can’t buy a new Charleena Lyles.”
Nothing but respect for my Mayor @NikkitaOliver 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/9wLHY2Gf8d
— giovanna orecchio (@Vanna_Orecchio) May 31, 2020
The other narrative is that all of this is complicated: it's unclear who lobbed the first rock or who fired the first flash bang, and it's unclear which protesters engaged in what kind of activity.
In two press conferences on Sunday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said police will release a timeline of events "shortly."
In the earlier press conference, Durkan praised the peaceful protestors and condemned "young white men" who she says were responsible for the vandalism and the looting. At one point she choked up while talking about the destruction and "broken glass" she'd witnessed earlier in the morning.
Broken windows and graffiti on Nordstrom move Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to tears. She stands in solidarity with people who won't let "those people take our city down." pic.twitter.com/akBsDaVJZw
— Rich Smith (@richsssmith) May 31, 2020
By Sunday around 4:00 p.m., "hundreds" of volunteers cleaned up much of the graffiti and boarded up many of the broken windows.
Later in the afternoon, Durkan held another press conference with Gov. Jay Inslee and Chief Best. She was joined by founder executive director of Not This Time!, Andre Taylor, who'd organized one of Saturday's protests. Seattle Community College president Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange and Pastor Carey Anderson of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church also spoke.
After again praising the protestors who earnestly challenged the city and the country to "do better to address racial inequality," Durkan thanked small business owners who "tried to stop looters," again decried the "people who came with backpacks full of weapons" who she says were intent to cause trouble, and again promised to investigate reports of excessive use of force by police.
Inslee more or less echoed her points, saying "we cannot and we will not allow the folks who wanted to create destruction to suppress or obscure the legitimate protest that was going on." He then patted Washington on the back for passing I-940, which made it easier to prosecute cops who kill.
Dr. Lange said she was at first hesitant to speak when asked by the politicians, but ultimately felt compelled to based on her experience at the protests yesterday. She said she saw "groups of mostly white men with huge backpacks clearly not there for the message of hope and healing," and argued that "violence and meaningless property destruction is not the way to move forward, or dismantle the structural racism that continues to allow these things to happen," referring to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and so many others.
Taylor offered his support to the Mayor, and offered a message to "the demographic who Trump calls thugs" but who he calls family, to "let them know you have someone on your side fighting for you among these powerful people in these powerful positions," he said. "I'm here, and when I'm here you are here as well."
Durkan added that her office is currently evaluating whether to extend the 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew, which was imposed yesterday 15 minutes before police started enforcing it.
In the meantime, Durkan said the National Guard, which Inslee activated Saturday, will "help do crowd control if necessary" today. She described the protestors marching Saturday as "not the ones marching now," and argued that the curfew allows officers to more easily distinguish between law-abiding citizens and those "who have made the decision to defy the law." Stranger reporters in the field Saturday and Sunday noted that many Saturday protesters were, in fact, the ones marching Sunday.
Though no one was arrested for breaking curfew yesterday, Durkan said cops may use "different measures" on crowds today.
Later Sunday night, as protests began to reach the burbs, the crowd marched to Westlake Park, where they were met with a phalanx of cops in riot gear posted up with the National Guard. Protesters wanted the officers to kneel as a sign of solidarity with them, with Floyd, and with the nation's mounting black dead. Officers apparently refused or didn't respond. After issuing several orders to disperse, and after organizers asked everyone to go home and return tomorrow, around 11:00 p.m. cops pushed the group east up Pine St. and then south up Boren. Demonstrators dispersed after climbing both hills, like anybody else would.