With reporting and photos by Alex Garland
Unless you count a Patriot Prayer photo op in Plymouth Pillars Park, Capitol Hill was again spared the ravages of a May Day riot as marches and protests fanned out across Seattle Tuesday amid a heavy police presence and a smaller than expected turnout for the city’s annual immigration march.
Police interventions were few, blast bombs went undeployed, and even the Amazon Spheres came through May Day 2018 unscathed — though one man was arrested Tuesday for trying to throw a rock through the glass Bezos balls, Seattle Police said.
A smaller than expected group of marchers stepped off from Judkins Park around 3:30 PM headed for the federal courthouse building downtown via Jackson as part of the annual Seattle May Day immigration rights march. This year’s march targeted federal immigration investigation activities in the state. “We are using the march to publicly expose ICE activity in Washington State and to hold the Department of Licensing accountable for having facilitated ICE harassment against community members by way of sharing information about motorists,” march organizers said. Police estimated the crowd around 700 to 800 as it grew with groups joining in along the route to downtown.
On Capitol Hill with the Starbucks Roastery again boarded up from head to toe and at least one of the neighborhood’s private schools canceling classes, there was little evidence that it was May Day in Seattle save the quiet streets and annoying drone of the TV news copter — and two short sorties by protest groups.
After gathering in Westlake and marching a few circles through downtown Seattle, a small contingent of right wing, white nationalist, and neo-Nazis who said they had come out to stop protesters from vandalizing Seattle businesses, headed up Capitol Hill around 5 PM for a brief march around the neighborhood that included an incongruous stop in the midst of one of Broadway’s LGBTQ friendly rainbow crosswalks and then a rapid descent back off the Hill on Pike where the group stopped in PIllars Park for a photo op. Police said the crowd included around 75 people.
Meanwhile, a smaller group police radio described as “Black Bloc” protesters splintered off from the end of the immigration march and were also headed to Pike before police intervened and turned them up a different route to the Hill. The group’s march on Capitol Hill echoed past years when anarchist and anti-capitalist protests flared into clashes with police and property damage in the neighborhood, but this year, the protesters only wanted a ride to the University District. Media was on hand to record the proceedings as protesters lined up to purchase light rail fare at Capitol Hill Station before catching the next northbound train.
The group was headed out to join the 2018 Bloc the Juvi protest. This year, organizers seeking to halt the new youth jail project on 12th Ave chose an out of the neighborhood target for their party, music, and BBQ protest against the Youth Service Center. This year, the party took place outside the office of project contractor Howard S. Wright on University Way NE in the University District. This year’s event included performances by Raz Simone, Bypolar, and Nikkita Oliver. This year’s May Day protest comes in the midst of a “People’s Moratorium” campaign that is seeking to halt construction of the facility. Earlier in April, nine people were arrested during a protest that included a group entering the construction site and threatening to lock themselves to equipment. We’re not aware of any arrests at Tuesday night’s protest.
Elsewhere, protesters in Seattle also targeted the Wendy’s restaurant chain including its Lake City Way location Tuesday night with actions in solidarity with farmworkers and activists targeting the company for not being part of an industry program to eliminate human rights abuses in the agricultural industry. Meanwhile, the Seattle Fire Marshal is investigating after two house fires overnight in the South Park neighborhood but there is no indication that the incidents are related to May Day.
The relatively peaceful 2018 day of marches and protests continues a trend. Last year’s Seattle May Day was also largely regarded as “peaceful” after 2016’s clashes between Seattle Police and protesters in downtown, Belltown and Pioneer Square. 2015, meanwhile, was a disaster and marked the end of a sad run with 16 reported arrests and numerous injuries including three police officers sent to the hospital in clashes between protesters and SPD concentrated on the streets of Capitol Hill for the third May Day in a row.
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