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After mayor’s speech on deescalation, police making strongest show of force yet at ‘standoff’ at 11th and Pine

(Image: Noah Lubin with permission to CHS)


With reporting by Jake Goldstein-Street and Alex Garland

Early Sunday evening, the city’s mayor and chief of police called the center of Seattle’s protests against police brutality at 11th and Pine a “standoff” — by midnight, it was again a warzone.

The show of aggressive police force included a near 10-minute barrage of flash bang explosions heard across the Hill and the central city, streams of pepper spray, and clouds of gas that sent demonstrators scattering for safety in Cal Anderson and area residents doing what they could to seal off doors and windows.

Earlier Sunday, Mayor Jenny Durkan offered the city’s first explicit explanation for engaging in the weeklong standoff citing “specific information from the FBI about threats to the East Precincts and buildings in Seattle,” Durkan said Chief Carmen Best and her command “concluded that removing the barrier would jeopardize the safety of the public and the community, especially considering there are approximately 500 residents that live in that block.”

During the evening, protesters had slowly claimed more of E Pine and crossed a portion of the Seattle Police Department perimeter set up outside the East Precinct. Sunday morning, large cement blocks and metal fencing was added to the continually shifting layout that also includes a public address system and bright security lights used at night to illuminate the crowd. By 12:11 Monday morning, police reported they were being hit by “bottles, rocks, fireworks, and other projectiles” and that some protesters were shining lasers in their eyes. Seven minutes later, the department said tear gas — temporarily banned for regular deployment in an emergency action by Durkan and Best earlier in the week — was authorized for use. Video from Capitol Hill-based news and media outlet The Stranger from its offices directly above the protest core at 11th and Pine showed the scene.

The outburst followed an order to disperse amid a large crowd of protesters that grew even after a frightening shooting at the scene earlier in the night after an agitated man drove his car into the crowd and shot a man at the protest who attempted to disarm the driver before surrendering to police.

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant was reportedly hit with pepper spray and was seen amongst scores of protesters being treated to remove the painful agent from their eyes.

The ugly incidents came only hours after Mayor Durkan attempted to brush away calls for her resignation or recall in a Sunday evening press conference in which she apologized for the SPD’s response in a week of protests following the killing of George Floyd.

“While the accountability system will review all of the facts, the response seem too quick to escalate,” Durkan said in her apology. “Too quick to deploy of flash bangs, pepper spray and deployment of the National Guard.”

“I know that safety was shattered for many by images, sounds and gas more fitting of a war zone: I am sorry,” Durkan said.

Before the midnight episode and what may have been the most explosive show of police force yet in the week of protests on Capitol Hill, Durkan had promised Sunday night an effort to “deescalate” the police and perimeter situation on E Pine. Durkan said she and Best “agreed to reduce the National Guard presence” and “that the use of riot gear should be curtailed.”

“Our city should not look like a military zone,” Durkan said. “But they also have to respond to the reality on the ground to keep the officers and public safe.

She also asked protesters to help in calming the situation. “The help of those on frontline to maintain the peace is instrumental in ensuring everyone remains safe,” Durkan said. “I ask that demonstration participants who observe unsafe behavior please hold those folks accountable.”

Durkan faces a growing wave of opposition over her handling of the protest. Saturday night, a group of elected officials including Seattle City Council members joined the protest on Capitol Hill and called for Durkan to bring the situation to a peaceful end by removing the police and National Guard forces and barriers.

“Calling on @carmenbest @SeattlePD @MayorJenny to STOP this! Move the police line back to the barricade at least, dont spray, gas, flash/noise bombs,” council member Teresa Mosqueda tweeted about the appearance. 43rd District rep Nicole Macri, King County Council member Girmay Zahilay, State Joe Nguyen, plus fellow city council members Dan Strauss, Lisa Herbold, and Andrew Lewis joined Mosqueda in the show of solidarity with protesters.

Sawant, meanwhile, said she will introduce two bills Monday to ban SPD’s use of chemical weapons and chokeholds. awant has also joined those calling for a Durkan resignation.

“It has been tragically ironic that this growing movement against police violence and brutality has been consistently met with more violence and brutality,” Sawant writes. “The responsibility for this vicious targeting of these overwhelmingly peaceful protests in Seattle lies with Mayor Jenny Durkan.”

Sunday night’s shooting and explosions of flash grenades and tear gas marred a weekend of continued progress for activists and community groups. At a Central District rally organized by Africatown and several community groups, calls for a major reduction in the Seattle Police budget were joined by renewed demands for community use of several neighborhood properties, funding for Black community organizations, and severing “all existing contracts, and all financial ties” between SPD and Seattle Public Schools.

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44 thoughts on “After mayor’s speech on deescalation, police making strongest show of force yet at ‘standoff’ at 11th and Pine” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Serious question: why the hell did they even put up the barricade to begin with? People marched up from downtown with signs expressing their anger, and the get stopped mid march? What is the reasoning for this? I read on some of the scanner tweets the cops were comparing this to them being in the Alamo?

    Do they believe the protestors are as violent as they themselves are… otherwise, WTF?

    • Ya they’re psychos: they drive in from the suburbs to play out a GI Joe fantasy waging war on POC whom they view in broad strokes as criminal and irredeemable. From their point of view, whats needed to solve the unrest is more force, not de-escalation. That’s what cops are talking about when they complain about not being “able to do their job;” they think their “job” is to be violent

    • Both police headquarters and the east precinct were vandalized. Rioters tried to get in to HQ, broke out the windows, and broke out the doors at the jail before being gassed. Liquid accellerants thrown at both police buildings as well. On the day that arson was being committed during the protests, it was reasonable to think that folks would burn the HQ and precinct down. What is the current point of insisting on getting up to the precinct? What is the goal?

      • Could you please direct readers to documentary evidence of the claims here regarding damage to police headquarters and the east precinct? I think I’ve seen photos of spray paint, but not the rest of what you have stated here.

      • the idea you think people want to burn the precinct means the police’s narrative is working. They’re creating fear of your fellow citizens. Or you’re a bad actor.

      • 100%. This (setting fire to police precinct) has happened already in another major city and there are few places as crazy as Seattle and Portland when it comes to the extreme left wing protester and rioter types (e.g. Antifa, Anarchists, etc.)

      • Goal is to protest police brutality and to stop extrajudicial killings of BIPOC by the police. Therefore police stations are a natural point to stage the protests.

        Gonna need to see a link documenting all this damage to the stations. Ive watched hours of footage and have only seen spray paint.

      • … and they want the police force accountable. FOR WHAT? These anarchists want chaos in order to fill their agenda. The police has to use force when they face anarchy. I hope they keep it there and not budge.

      • Yeahhh, those riots happened 9 days ago. And I don’t remember either building getting hit like that, though. I’d love some documentation. We just wanted to walk down the street. That was our goal. What is a “liquid accelerant” anyway? A water bottle? Red Bull? Sounds like the “improvised explosives” the police are scared of. That was a candle, btw. You could tell by the sticker that said “candle”. Not sure how that’s an improvised explosive. I can personally attest the police have LOTS of explosives, and those AIN’T candles!

    • To Come on right now–

      We will all be rioter types when this is over. I take exception to your descriptor “crazy.” These are legit complaints. Too many (no, not all, not most, but too many) cops are out of control and unaccountable to no one. They need to serve and protect black and brown lives, not provoke and snuff them out. We need more social services not military tactics in policing.

      • No, I don’t think we’ll all be rioter types. Don’t think you have any real sense of perspective if that is your belief. But we can certainly agree to disagree on that.

        There are absolutely legit complaints and I’m all for the protesting. I am not, at all, and never will be ok with the rioting. Apologies if “crazy” descriptor upsets you… but I don’t believe that reasonable, sane members of society engage in rioting and looting. Honestly don’t see any way that you could convince me otherwise.

      • Yeah, I dunno where anyone thought the rioting and looting was last night, or anytime in the last 8 days. We wanted to walk up a street. They responded with weapons banned in war.

    • … because they are the police and they CAN do it. Or have total chaos, which is what these anarchists want. If anything, up the police dept funding. The opposite would be total disaster.

    • If you can’t understand the fundamental necessity for law enforcement it’s because you’re deep enough into the privileged police protected demographic that you’re unfamiliar with the cold reality of unregulated crime. It doesn’t matter how good of a person you are or what good things you’ve done or how nicely you treat the less fortunate, there are many people that you never see that will enthusiastically beat you senseless with your own good nature. What prevents this from happening is the tenacity of the police force , either by direct suppression or the fear of it. Go on a ride along with an officer and your whole outlook on the situation will change. When police screw up they should be held accountable but not by an emotionally charged mob or public pressure.

  2. Last night’s display of police brutality was appalling! The Seattle Police Department are exaggerating things and making false claims. If you even just watched the multiple livestreams, you could easily see that the “items shoved in officers faces” was in fact a flower. When someone did throw a water bottle, the protesters chastised that person for their ignorance.

    This happens night after night, police get fed up and get violent. The protesters wanted to be able to march, this level of brutality against that desire is ridiculous. The police unleashed true chemical warfare this morning, smothering the entirety of Cal Anderson in a mushroom cloud of teargas. The protesters who were dispersing were chased for blocks, with teargas being thrown at them the entire time. I was blocks away, outside my own home, and was gassed… my eyes are still sore this morning and my skin, nose, throat and mouth were on fire last night.

    Stop racial profiling
    Stop the unjust killing of African Americans
    End white supremacy
    Turn on your damn body cams
    Uncover your badge number
    Ban teargas
    Protect the PEOPLE, not their things
    Mayor Jenny needs to resign

  3. Why are the demonstrators in the streets of Capitol Hill? Cal Anderson park is a great venue for the protestors. There is a lot of room and a natural area for a stage for the leaders to speak from. It just seems odd that the demonstrators would prefer to be in the street unless … It seems like there is a lot going wrong on both sides of the barriers but neither side is willing to accept their responsibility.

    • Because the protest wants the confrontation. That’s the only reason I can think of, although maybe there’s something I’m missing. It’s not Iike 11/pine has any special significance for anyone other than being one block from the station.

      • demonstrators are on the streets because being in the park means absolutely nothing to anyone. This is a historically redlined district that was gentrified by white gays and not further gentrified by tech. The SPD is under a federal consent decree for violent policing that disproportionately targeted Black people. They are protesting the police for police actions in Seattle. Capitol Hill is the symbolic ground zero of the racist history against Black people in Seattle, that is why they are there.

      • Annika,
        I am not sure that area of Capitol Hill (11th and Pine) was redlined. Are you suggesting thst it was an historically black neighborhood before, as you say, it was gentrified by white gays?

        And at this point I wish the police would just withdraw, except for a small skeleton force, and just accompany the protesters as they go about their business. If the protesters then burn the police station or otherwise reek havoc (i don’t think they would) they will deflate support for their movement. If they act non-violently without police opposition maybe we can move onto the next phase of this whole thing.

    • I’m well aware of why the protests exist and have no issue with them being on Capitol Hill. I’m just saying that moving 100 feet to the park would be a safer environment without the direct standoff with the police perimeter that seems to be causing all the issues on both sides. Not to mention a much lower risk of cars driving into it. I don’t think having demonstrations at the park in the center of the neighborhood is that much less impactful than an adjacent intersection…

    • Protesting in a park doesn’t inconvenience anyone. The entire point of protests is to inconvenience the masses to get their attention about an injustice. The police need to stand down and let us do what we want in our own streets. The mayor and the entire council needs to resign immediately. They are co-equal branches of city government and are equally responsible for the abuses of their police force. Modern cities don’t need standing armies, they need supportive services. The ridiculous $300 Million+ budget of the police department will pay for a lot of services.

  4. gotta love how these guys have a sniper on the roof, a live shooter appears in a crowd, and um, he just chills out? like if a live a shooter can show up and start shooting at protesters, what’s the police’s job here?

  5. How is it that police have been able to tear gas and shoot flash bangs at protesters for simply refusing to disperse, but a guy drives a car right into the crowd and literally shoots a protester, and no cops are there to step in and actually protect the protesters?

    • Because that’s what (the extremely vocal) minority want…. no security or law enforcement. The desired state is social disorder. This will be just great for lower income citizens.

      Also, as a Capitol Hill resident, please take your siege of the East Precinct somewhere else. It’s a big city. I want my neighborhood back. the poor local businesses near Cal Anderson are really suffering. And your average Cap Hill resident is fed up too.

      • So, if police aren’t there to protect people right now, then what are they there for? Why don’t they just go?

      • That’s what these anarchists want Jon – total chaos. It fits their agenda. And our tax money is keeping them afloat!! Don’t you just hate that?

      • Amen. There are police stations all over the city; pick another one to siege. There were protests all over the city this weekend and none except Cap Hill descended into chaos. I would love for the businesses in my neighborhood to feel secure enough to remove the boards from their windows, now that many can re-open legally.

      • Aw, you poor baby, having to endure a couple of weeks of protests. Try living while black and come back to us to talk about inconveniences and suffering. JFC, the clueless in these comments. I had no idea I lived among so many ignorant people.

        I’m AM your average Capitol Hill resident, seeing as how I’ve lived in the neighborhood since the early 90s, so you can get out of here with that nonsense. I’ve lived here long enough to know the only people who call it “Cap Hill” are the newbie tech bros who ruined this neighborhood.

  6. From this article: “During the evening, protesters had slowly claimed more of E Pine and crossed a portion of the Seattle Police Department perimeter set up outside the East Precinct.”

    And this: “By 12:11 Monday morning, police reported they were being hit by “bottles, rocks, fireworks, and other projectiles” and that some protesters were shining lasers in their eyes.”

    From Mayor Durkan’s press conference: “. “The help of those on frontline to maintain the peace is instrumental in ensuring everyone remains safe,” Durkan said. “I ask that demonstration participants who observe unsafe behavior please hold those folks accountable.”

    So, just hours after the Mayor made a reasonable plea for nonviolence, some of the protestors responded by more violence and provoked the police into again becoming more aggressive. If the protestors had remained peaceful, this would not have happened. So, who exactly is responsible for this escalation? (by the way, the deployment of flash bang explosives lasted way longer than 10 minutes….it was well over one hour, and there must have been at least 100 explosions).

    Also, it’s interesting that Sawant has called for Durkan’s resignation, but not that of Chief Best, who is more directly responsible for what goes down during these protests. Is this because Durkan is a white woman and Best is a black woman?

  7. I’m sorry but they seem to have cameras ALL over the area but we haven’t seen one video of an item thrown at police since last week. I think they are lying about items thrown so they have a reason to attack the protesters.

    • Exactly. Bob above seems to automatically believe the police accounts, but we’ve seen police lie over and over again during these protests (the Lafayette Square police who also claimed projectiles were being thrown despite no video evidence, and the cops who claimed the 75-year-old man simply tripped when we all saw with our own eyes that he was pushed). It’s odd that the police allege projectiles were thrown yet there are no videos of this.

      • Maggie, I do not automatically believe the police accounts of what is happening. But I also don’t automatically believe the accounts of the protestors….they seem to play the roll of “innocent victims,” but not all of them are innocent.

      • Bob, There was a video on Sean Nyberg’s twitter that showed the whole thing happen from above. Showed the car accelerating toward the crowd. I’m trying to find out why the video has been taken down. It was the first video I saw of the event and it was chilling.

  8. Lots of pics and videos but only passing references to the barrier being pushed over or moved which seems to have started the trouble again. Since the cops budget is controlled by the city, I would go occupy the council offices downtown…

  9. … and they want the police force accountable. FOR WHAT? These anarchists want chaos in order to fill their agenda. The police has to use force when they face anarchy. I hope they keep it there and not budge.

  10. Protesting is one thing but rocks/bottles/fireworks etc.thrown at police is assault and will indeed get a response, every time. Acting surprised by that is incredibly naive. ‘Descalation” is absolutely a two way street. And the white savior complex in this town is skyrocketing among the two percent of people who are out in the streets protesting. Like academia, activism produces some degree of accomplishment amidst a large degree of noise that 90% of people in the real world aren’t going to listen to. The cop responsible in George Floyd’s death has been charged with murder. Choke holds are already banned in Seattle policing and if you do it to someone as a civilian its considered use of deadly force by the courts.

  11. Wake up Seattle while you still can. Send these domestic terrorists back home and take back your City. Capitulation to these vagrants is not the way to handle this situation. Start arresting people.

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