The Seattle Police Department issued several requests for the crowd protesting against police brutality on Capitol Hill to back up "five feet" from the "bicycle fencing" barrier. The crowd demanded the cops back up from their line instead. The police did not oblige, and began dispersing the crowd with pepper spray and blast balls. The cop on the megaphone threatened to continue to disperse the crowd with "chemical agents" as people fled into the park and the surrounding neighborhood and the National Guard moved in to reinforce the bicycle fencing.
SPD has not returned a request for comment about whether they deployed CS gas, which the Mayor restricted for use only by SWAT on Friday. The chemical weapon they deployed sure looked like tear gas, and it caused some pretty intense lacrimation. (Update: The department told Seattle Times reporter Lewis Kamb that no tear gas was deployed. Some people on the ground have been posting photos of OC gas grenades allegedly thrown by police. According to the Times, OC gas, which is pepper spray, "can have similar effects" as tear gas.)
Here's the moment:
Here's what we saw:
The #SeattleProtest against police brutality stretches into its 8th day here at 11th and Pine. Mutual aid tents have multiplied, as have hot dog stands. Thousands of medical workers gathered downtown this morning, and another large crowd is expected at Magnuson Park around 7pm pic.twitter.com/uuiQFxpYla
— Rich Smith (@richsssmith) June 6, 2020
Here's what the cops say:
Just after 7 PM Saturday the scene commander began warning the protesters at 11 Avenue and East Pine Street to stop pushing the barriers placed there. Some unidentified people in the group began throwing bottles, rocks, and incendiary devices at officers who had moved forward to push the barriers back to their location. The group refused to back up and officers deployed pepper spray and blast balls in an attempt to push the crowd back. The protesters moved back a block and officers were able to reset the barriers.
Several officers were injured during the incident and two were taken to Harborview Medical Center to treatment of their wounds.
Around 8:45 pm, police had cleared and established a perimeter around 11th and Pine.
A little after 9 pm, the crowd had pushed back to 11th and Pine and police reformed the original line.
Alicia Macklin said she'd been standing on a pony wall near the Bobby Morris Playfield on Pine since 1:30 p.m. She said she's from Seattle but currently lives in Spokane. She came back to town because she hadn't been seeing much media about the protests on the east side of the mountains.
Just before police started launching blast balls and "chemical agents," Macklin said "nothing was going on, nothing was thrown."
"They decided they didn't like how close we were to the barrier. They wanted us to push back. We said no. Then they started firing and pushing through," she continued. "I got hit in the leg with a flash bang and have a big old thing on my leg. They were tear gassing. It was insane."
Another protester, who said he immigrated from Ethiopia years ago and lives on Capitol Hill, was standing in the middle of the crowd just before the violent dispersal. He said he his eyes were "burned" by gas.
Nevertheless, he returned to the protest after the cops had reformed the original barrier on Pine because he wanted to reassert his "right not be chased, not to be pushed away aggressively."
He said he came out today because the police have "killed so many African Americans and other minorities," and because he feels like a "second-class human," even in Seattle.
"These are just regular cops, they're just bastards as everybody knows," he said, gesturing toward the police line. "But I want to address the system, the main people who let this injustice and murder happen."
By around 11:00 p.m. several local officials had made their way down to the scene, just in time to watch a rapper roll up in a big black van, stand on the hood, and sort of rap along with 2Pac's "They Don't Give a Fuck About Us." After the brief show, a speaker called for justice for Shaun Lee Fuhr.
The list of elected leaders includes Seattle City Council Members Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss, and Andrew Lewis. Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who represents the district, was not there, nor was Alex Pedersen or Debora Juarez. King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay, Washington State House Representative Nicole Macri, and State Senator Joe Nguyen were also there. They posted up on the frontlines and started talking to police and tweeting.
Sen. Nguyen and Council Member Mosqueda said the group asked SPD to move back the barricade.
Mosqueda went live on FB:
And, um, here's Morales's response to a tweet about calls for Mayor Durkan's resignation or removal from office:
An important point @eyesonthestorm. AND, it shouldn't take the fucking City Council standing on the front lines to protect the right to protest against brutality, racism and inequality. #EnoughIsEnough https://t.co/wrF0Vcjt7N
— Tammy J. Morales (@CMTammyMorales) June 7, 2020
Around 11:50 p.m., SPD agreed to move back the their line "in an attempt to diffuse the situation," a cop said over the loudspeaker, urging the crowd to "respect the police line."
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