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Police say van abandoned at East Precinct after protest property damage held fireworks, improvised weapons

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) said Wednesday that it found fireworks, improvised spike strips, nails, and bear mace in an impounded car parked near the department’s East Precinct during Saturday protests that the SPD declared a riot.

Police say they saw a van following protesters on 12th Ave Saturday afternoon, which was later abandoned in front of the precinct. Concerned that there could be explosives in the vehicle after a witness reported seeing baseball bats and pyrotechnics being distributed from the van, it was impounded and police were granted a search warrant on Tuesday.

SPD’s James Lee said Wednesday that combining nails and fireworks amounts to an improvised explosive device that “will and can be a deadly weapon.”

“Not everyone that comes to these protests is peaceful,” SPD Chief Carmen Best said in a news conference Wednesday. “Peaceful protesters do not show up with a van full of bear spray, stun guns, spike strips, and explosives.”

The investigation into the vehicle is ongoing and Best said no arrest had been made.

Saturday brought the largest demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality that the city has seen in weeks. A march numbering in the thousands from Broadway and Pine marched to the 12th Ave youth jail construction site in a solidarity action with Portland amid ongoing protests there. At that site, construction trailers were set ablaze and other targeted property damage included broken windows and smoke inside a Starbucks on 12th Ave and destruction at other nearby businesses.

SPD declared a riot after saying at least one individual climbed the fence outside the precinct, a landmark of the recent protest movement, and explosions occurred outside the building.

Officers then used blast balls and pepper spray Saturday afternoon in an attempt to break up the group at 12th and Pine.

“Our police department has an obligation to disperse a crowd when there are dangers to the public safety, like explosives, fires, and individuals intent on causing harm,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said Wednesday. “The items seized from this van show exactly what they were planning and we saw the results of it on our street.”

Stand-offs between police and demonstrators continued throughout the evening with dozens of arrests and copious amounts of explosives and less-lethal munitions being deployed by law enforcement. Protesters have argued that police used undue force on demonstrators and attorneys in an ongoing case against the city say it should be held in contempt of court because of the handling of Saturday’s protest.

“The SPD ambushed peaceful protesters with a level of violence that surpasses that seen in early June,” attorneys for Black Lives Matter-Seattle King County wrote in a court filing Monday.

The city responded Wednesday afternoon, writing that the plaintiffs failed to provide convincing evidence that the city did not comply with an injunction prohibiting the indiscriminate use of crowd control weapons, like tear gas and pepper spray. 

The police arrested 47 people during protests on Saturday for charges ranging from assaults on officers to failure to disperse. Fifty-nine officers suffered injuries and one was hospitalized, according to the department. Law enforcement personnel reported being struck with rocks, bottles, and wood during the demonstrations.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office said on Monday that of the 47 arrests, “the majority were not referred to our office for felony consideration.”“We have not received case referrals for arson or felony property destruction,” the prosecutor’s office added. “Those police investigations are ongoing.”


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19 thoughts on “Police say van abandoned at East Precinct after protest property damage held fireworks, improvised weapons

  1. ““The SPD ambushed peaceful protesters with a level of violence that surpasses that seen in early June,” attorneys for Black Lives Matter-Seattle King County wrote…”

    Oh, please. The police allowed the march to go, unmolested, down Broadway, over to the youth detention center where members of the group proceeded to burn four construction trailers. The march then went up 12th where members of the group proceeded to break windows of businesses and start a fire under a residential building. All before getting anywhere near the east precinct; which was where the police declared the riot. But, yeah, it was an “ambush”.

    Here’s the thing – at any point, once the lawlessness started, the true peaceful protesters could have done one of two things: 1) stop the agitators committing criminal acts (or at least kick them from the march) or 2) leave the march yourself. When you continue to march in the company of criminals you make yourself complicit while condoning the actions of those anarchists looking to take over your message.

    • So you expect the protestors to take care of the “bad apples”… isn’t that what they’ve been asking police departments to do for decades? Kinda why they are protesting. So to the police we say “you first”. You clean your house. Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free. Tamir Rice’s killer is still free. Philando Castile’s killer walked free.

      • Yes, I would expect protesters to push out the “bad apples” in the same way I expect the police to do the same. And if they won’t (protesters or police) then there should be consequences. It’s why we’re having serious discussions about how to re-imagine policing; because they won’t self-police the bad actors themselves. They either do it or we change our laws to allow civilian oversight into their records to punish the police that abuse their power. In the same way, if you are protesting and you allow vandals and arsonists to co-opt your message, don’t be surprised or feel “ambushed” that LEOs use crowd control tactics on you.

        We should all strive to lead by example and with dignity. Saying, “we won’t change until you change first,” comes off sounding like something Donald Trump would say. And we know what a class act he is.

      • Well I went to a free speech rally where antifa showed up. They shouted that I was a white supremacist because a handful of people they claimed were white supremacists attended the rally. What makes their claim against me is that I am 100% Hispanic.

    • Or just don’t show up to marches that are called by groups that are *known* to be agitators that advocate violence. The march on Saturday was never meant to be peaceful and it should have been no surprise at all when it wasn’t. And if you didn’t do any due diligence at all before going, it should have been a huge tip off when a van pulled up and the people inside started handing out baseball bats, gas masks and fireworks…

      • Let’s keep in mind that the police report tweet stated a “dozen people set fire and caused damage”.

        The entire protest had hundreds of people. If you were you at a Husky football game and a fight occurred between a dozen people, would you even notice it? Or would you leave due to a few knuckleheads?

        If the protest was truly a mob focused on creating a riot, the damage would have been far more severe.

    • So people should not practice their First Amendment rights because there might be agitators that the police are not willing to deal with?

      Are you for real?

      • Yeah – if you want to protest go do it – but take responsibility for those you *choose* to ally with. It’s not like joining a group of anarchists that are known to be violent was the only option anyone had on that day. There was no “might be agitators” about Saturday – it was known agitators – if you didn’t look into who organized that particular protest before you decided to stand with them don’t blame the police when you get caught up in the crowd control. Looting, burning and vandalism are NOT first amendment rights.

        There have been plenty of protests in and around Seattle that have had zero acts of violence and correspondingly zero police actions. If you have the poor judgement to join those that include groups like black bloc or PNW Youth Liberation Front or to not leave when violence starts I have absolutely no sympathy for you when you cry about being pepper sprayed.

      • If you’re at a protest and people start lighting stuff on fire, smashing storefronts, and throwing stuff at police, it might be a good cue to head for the exits. Or at least if you decide to stay, I wouldn’t act so surprised if you end up dealing with crowd dispersal tactics like pepper spray. This isn’t rocket science.

      • If you’re at a protest and people start lighting stuff on fire, smashing storefronts, and throwing stuff at police, it might be a good cue to head for the exits. Or at least if you decide to stay, I wouldn’t act so surprised if you end up dealing with crowd dispersal tactics like pepper spray. This isn’t rocket science.

        This is exactly what a good chunk of the agitators (note: not all) hope to achieve. By hijacking peaceful protests, they delegitimize the peaceful protests. You are telling people to forgo their first amendment rights because of some bad apples.

        If every protest in the history of our Country, dating back to the Revolutionary war, followed your advice to not protest when bad people might join your protest, we might still be a slave holding, British colony where only white land owning men can vote.

        Should people also give up their freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of religion as well because some people use speech for bad purposes, use journalism to spread lies and some religions are downright horrific?

        Again, are both of you for real?

      • I think your understanding of the First Amendment is flawed. the First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging “the rights of the people PEACEABLY to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” U.S. Const. am. 1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment. Even if only some members of the crowd are throwing rocks, burning things, etc., it is no longer a “peaceable” assembly of people. In this situation, it is impractical for the police to wade through the crowd to identify and arrest those committing crimes. Consequently, the police can legally order the entire crowd to disperse (though people should be provided with a reasonable opportunity to leave the area). https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/protesters-rights/. Any other rule would allow people to throw rocks and burn things with impunity, using the other members of the crowd as a sort of human shield to enable them to hurt people and property without accountability. Simply put, the First Amendment says nothing like this. Indeed, it is well established that the First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct an assembly at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or other immediate threat to public safety or order. See https://www.loc.gov/law/help/peaceful-assembly/us.php#_ftn13 (citing Jones v. Parmley, 465 F.3d 46, 56–57 (2d Cir. 2006)).

      • I think your understanding of the First Amendment is flawed. the First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging “the rights of the people PEACEABLY to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” U.S. Const. am. 1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment. Even if only some members of the crowd are throwing rocks, burning things, etc., it is no longer a “peaceable” assembly of people. In this situation, it is impractical for the police to wade through the crowd to identify and arrest those committing crimes. Consequently, the police can legally order the entire crowd to disperse (though people should be provided with a reasonable opportunity to leave the area). https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/protesters-rights/. Any other rule would allow people to throw rocks and burn things with impunity. Simply put, the First Amendment says nothing like this. In fact, it is well established that the First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct an assembly at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or other immediate threat to public safety or order. See https://www.loc.gov/law/help/peaceful-assembly/us.php#_ftn13 (citing Jones v. Parmley, 465 F.3d 46, 56–57 (2d Cir. 2006)).

      • I never said people should give up their right to protest. I said peaceful protesters should leave the march that had, clearly, turned into a riot. The true peaceful protesters could have then gone and reformed the peaceful march in another part of Capitol Hill; leaving the vandals and arsonists to their criminality. Your right to protest doesn’t mean you are forced to do it in the company of criminals. A person can remove themselves from a riot and protest peacefully someplace else. The Broadway, Pike/Pine corridor aren’t the only places where you can make your voice heard.

        However, if say you are a peaceful protester, and you decide to keep yourself in a situation that has clearly turned into a riot, then don’t be surprised when the cops tell you to disperse. And if you decide to still remain, know that you will likely have crowd control tactics used on you. There shouldn’t be any surprise or feeling of being “ambushed” at that point. It should be, as you call yourself, fairly obvious.

      • Funny how people expect strangers at a protest to “police” each other but cops are somehow given the pass of not being responsible for their bad apples. Up is down! True is false! SMH

      • OK well then the protesters need to grab the agitators and drag them up to the front to be arrested so the peaceful protest can continue, as has happened elsewhere. Or help identify these people to police after the fact. Or not assault media or people recording so a record exists to find people who broke the law and to aid in prosecution. Really any number of things could be done that aren’t happening today.

        I agree, these violent people are ruining the right to peacefully protest for everyone. But I’m not sure exactly what you’re expecting the police to do. Not do anything when fires are being set, property is being destroyed, and fireworks and projectiles are being thrown at them? Are *you* for real?

      • Even if only some members of the crowd are throwing rocks, burning things, etc., it is no longer a “peaceable” assembly of people.

        So with your logic, all it takes is one idiot to show up and break a window during a peaceful protest, which is not very uncommon as we’ve seen, to make it no longer a peaceful protest and therefore illegal in your eyes?

        That gives that window breaker a lot of power, in fact the power to rescind the Constitutional right to peacefully assemble for a large amount of people.

        Any other rule would allow people to throw rocks and burn things with impunity, using the other members of the crowd as a sort of human shield to enable them to hurt people and property without accountability.

        I think I see the problem here: you’ve gone down a slippery slope where you’re conflating peaceful protesting with criminals committing criminal acts. It helps to understand that the two are fundamentally different.

        If the police are also not able to discern between criminals and people exercising their Constitutional rights, they’re not making a good case for themselves either.

    • And if they do show up with a van full of weapons, start fires and set off explosives, how do YOU know they are NOT cops? Consider long history of “Police Provocateurs” – undercover cops or their finks who provoke violence to justify repression, set up suckers for arrest, and smear the general movement. Even before 2020 I was begging Black Bloc kids to realize they HAD to be heavily infiltrated and this would be result. I get you to reconsider — take direction ONLY from BLM and the wider Black, Latinx and Asian communities -NOT from the loudest and most violent asshole among you (who is probably a cop or Bugaloo Boy.)l

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