May Day 2016: Chamber prepares, anti-capitalists, for a change, plan march *off* Capitol Hill — UPDATE

Though May Day 2016 is a “day of rest,” the neighborhood business community and city officials are preparing for possible clashes between police and protesters after last year’s riot on Capitol Hill:

Again, an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 people took to the streets from Judkins Park to downtown in the annual pro-worker and immigration rights march and a Black Lives Matter rally in a peaceful demonstration. And again in 2015, the violence and mayhem of May Day in Seattle was shoved back into Capitol Hill neighborhoods as police blocked the “anti-capitalist” and “anti-police” crowds that gathered at Broadway and Pine later that night from streaming into downtown with strong lines of armor-plated officers who deployed pepper spray, “less lethal” projectiles, and so many flash bangs that the efforts in East Precinct had to be re-supplied.

“This year, May 1st falls on a Sunday, and for the past few years, various organizations and individuals have chosen to participate in coordinated and impromptu protests in downtown Seattle,” a special notice sent to Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce members Monday afternoon reads. “Recently these protests have migrated to Capitol Hill and have led to property damage and aggressive behavior that makes residents, employees, business and property owners concerned for their safety.”

UPDATE (4/29): Two days ahead of the event, the Seattle Police commander in charge of May Day operations said SPD is not planning a strategy to push the “anti-capitalist” protest groups onto Capitol Hill as they have done in years past. Speaking to the media on Friday, Assistant Chief Steve Wilske said that if the march turned violent downtown, he would give a dispersal order there and not try to first push protestors somewhere else.

This year, a Facebook post called for the anti-capitalist march to start downtown in an attempt to keep protestors from getting corralled on Capitol Hill. Wilske said Capitol Hill residents and business owners had a right to be upset when protestors were contained in the neighborhood. “The consideration … was because of the behavior of the crowd, we wanted to keep them where they were,” he said.

Since past protests have started on Capitol Hill, Wilske said SPD has also tried to disperse the crowd there with the thinking that protestors would be closer to their homes or modes of transportation. “They’re not starting on Capitol Hill this year, so I wouldn’t think there would be a specific reason for that,” he said.

Wilske said police may block protestors from marching against traffic to keep drivers from getting trapped in their cars. As the protest dwindles in the evening, Wilske said police will move protestors on the sidewalk to keep traffic moving.

As in years past, Wilske said he told officers to have “no tolerance” for violence directed them or any other person and to have no tolerance for “significant” property damage.IMG_4964

CHS May Day Coverage
Following 2012’s downtown protests that damaged businesses and buildings throughout downtown,  Capitol Hill has become a center to Seattle’s May Day conflicts:

Many charges filed in past May Day protestors have ended up being dismissed. This year, Wilske said SPD would have a King County Prosecutor’s staff member embedded with its prisoner processor crew to help ensure police have fully documented their reasons for making an arrest.

SPD overtime staffing costs have increased significantly in recent years to deal with May Day marches. Overtime could be especially high this year with May Day falling on a Sunday, an SPD spokesperson said. Here are SPD’s overtime costs for past May Day events:

2012 — $115,307
2013 — $192,459
2014 — $305,448
2105 — $410,854

UPDATE 5/2/2016 7 AM: Lower Pike has joined downtown in boarding up. Meanwhile, East Precinct bikes appeared tuned and ready.


Original Report: Chamber director Sierra Hansen tells CHS she plans to be at the city’s downtown operations center as Seattle Police officials monitor the crowds and manage the department’s response. Hansen said she is also coordinating efforts with the Downtown Seattle Association both in working with SPD and also better coordinating with members and area businesses. The @caphillchamber account will be used to keep the community posted as things progress on Sunday, Hansen said.

Expect to again see some businesses like the Starbucks roastery boarded up. Transit officials, meanwhile, say the plan is to keep Capitol Hill Station and the Downtown Transit Tunnel open under normal operations.

m1ac-poster-2016-postfinal-englishAt the center of the day will be the annual labor and immigration rights march from the Central District to downtown — Marcha Y Manifestacion Anual del 1o de Mayo 2016 – 2016 May Day March & Rally — that begins with a 1 PM rally in Judkins Park. Last year, thousands peacefully marched in the hours before clashes between police and demonstrators climbed onto Capitol Hill and up Broadway.

Just before 5 PM on Friday, May 1st, 2015, crowds began to form for the planned “anti-capitalist” march from Seattle Central. By 5:30 PM, the arrests began.

“This is no longer demonstration management, this has turned into a riot,” Capt. Chris Fowler announced across the Seattle Police tactical radio channel. Anti-SPD signs and chants of “all cops are bastards” were met by hundreds of officers in place to respond to the un-permitted march. The department would later say it had assembled its largest May Day contingent yet including units borrowed from neighboring communities like Bellevue and Tukwila. The larger response appeared to be accompanied by even more forceful tactics to control the protest. The heaviest fighting broke out around 7:30 PM after the crowd estimated around 700 protesters marched north on Broadway with hundreds of SPD officers following to attempt to contain the group on foot, on bike, and in a fleet of SUV-style trucks and police cruisers.

Police began moving in on some protesters near Broadway and Howell after a “dispersal order” was issued. The ensuing fighting at the location resulted in many of the reported arrests and the three reported officer injuries. The rapid, high-intensity response also worked — many of the protesters were sent scrambling from the scene where flash bangs echoed and streams of pepper spray were used to disperse the crowd. Several vehicles — including a much-photographed KIRO radio news jeep — were damaged and tagging and broken windows were reported up and down Broadway and the surrounding streets where the clashes were concentrated. On the night, 16 people were arrested — including 4 from Seattle.

In the days following the melee, Mayor Ed Murray met with representatives from the chamber to talk about how to bring an end to the cycle of May Day violence in the neighborhood while continuing the history of Pine and Broadway as a place where freedom of speech is protected and often exercised.  “The neighborhood needs to attempt to take this back,” Murray told the group.

But the planned response in 2016, thus far, looks similar to the approaches used in the past. And the bluster from the anti-capitalist organizers is at full strength:

We ask that you wear black in solidarity with our comrades at the march and around the world. We will also have Puget Sound Street Medics on site to handle minor injuries. Be prepared for violent police repression (pepper spray, flash bang grenades, tear gas, beatings, arrests, etc.).

Their target, however, has changed. “We have decided to hold the event at Westlake for 2016, because Seattle Police will trap us at SCCC, like they did last year,” the Facebook event for the protest reads.

Earlier in the day, Westlake will host the Solidarity Music Festival, sponsored by SAFE in Seattle, the Gender Justice League, the Tenants Union of Washington, and the Backbone Campaign.

As for the other side of the equation in Seattle’s annual displays of May Day violence, police have been asked to take a different approach. Late last year, the Department of Justice-powered monitor appointed to oversee SPD’s use of force reforms found the department failed to adequately investigate mid-level use of force incidents, like those involving pepper spray, tasers, and blast balls.  In one “crowd management” situation, officers who had been relieved from protest duty deployed pepper spray, a hair pull, blast balls, and a takedown without authorization. Upon reviewing the documentation for the incident, the monitor found the officers were not identified or interviewed by superiors.

Capitol Hill’s chamber, in the meantime, is trying to assure members with communication and practical advice:

  • Stay informed about the protest to ensure you are aware of activities that may occur near and around you
  • Call early and call often if you see anything suspicious
  • Know where fire extinguishers and fire exits are located in your business, home and building
  • Watch for suspicious activity and call 911 if you see anything suspicious
  • Remove outdoor fixtures such as flower pots, chairs, table and signs if the protest moves up to Capitol Hill
  • Consider closing your windows if you hear reports of tear gas or flash bombs being used near your work place or home
  • Record and/or save any video from the day in case law enforcement contact you about suspicious or dangerous activities
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21 thoughts on “May Day 2016: Chamber prepares, anti-capitalists, for a change, plan march *off* Capitol Hill — UPDATE

  1. They can start at Westlake or wherever, but let’s not kid ourselves. We all know, sooner or later, they’ll all slither up Capitol Hill with their rocks, bottles, and black AnarchistMan costumes, capes and masks. It’s WAY more fun to break things on Capitol Hill, where all your equally useless friends are.

  2. I can’t believe another year has gone by and we have to deal with this BS again. It is so sad, how these idiots overshadow the peaceful protests earlier in the day, every year. The fact that only 4 of the 16 arrested last year were actually from Seattle, speaks volumes. The city has let this go on unabated for too long and the hoards continue to travel in from out of town to fuck shit up in our neighborhood. Enough is enough and it’s time we stand up for our neighborhood and don’t just accept the SPD herding these brats up the hill. Anyone else want to go out on Sunday and protect our neighborhood from these children?

  3. What’s the point of the anarchist protest? Come November you can peacefully cast your vote against war and Wall Street criminality.

    Oh wait, with hawkish, Wall Street lovin’ Hillary and jingoistic billionaire Trump on the ballot, you won’t have that choice. Never mind.

  4. Zero tolerance. Revoke any permit for the anti-capitalist march. Ban public gatherings of more than 10 people. Round up and arrest. Tear gas, batons, dogs, water cannon.

  5. Whoever wrote “Recently these protests have migrated to Capitol Hill” hasn’t lived in the city long or hasn’t been paying attention. Police have been forcing protestors out of downtown and up to the Hill for more than 15 years. During the same period police have attacked peaceful citizens with pepper spray, tear gas, and grenades at almost every protest. There are hordes of violent, out-of-town troublemakers at every protest – sadly most of them wear police uniforms.

  6. @jseattle please get ready to use accurate language when you report on the protest specifically with how you use the word “violence”. Property damage is NOT violence. The use of chemical and concussion weapons against living beings IS violence. Thanks.

    • Well aware it takes two to tango:
      As for the other side of the equation in Seattle’s annual displays of May Day violence, police have been asked to take a different approach.

    • Shall it be described as disorder and wanton destruction then? Either way, if I own the property being destroyed, thoughts of violence might fill my head.

  7. If you want a revolution, vote for Donald Trump. A Trump Administration will speed up the revolution. Susan Sarandon said so.

  8. I keep waiting for regular citizens to come out and publicly shame the masked rioters and the losing-our-shit police. Both have behaved badly each year. A good crowd of norms yelling “SHAME ON YOU!” while pointing at specific people is just what we need.

  9. I really hope that these idiots stay out of our neighborhood this year, although I don’t wish the damage they cause on another neighborhood.