Masks, plywood, and a workers’ rights caravan: May Day 2020 in Seattle

Seattle’s tradition of a May Day celebration of worker and indigenous rights will continue despite COVID-19 restrictions — but there will be no marching.

Immigrant rights activists will gather at the annual rally and march start point Friday outside 20th Ave S’s St. Mary’s Church for a “Caravan to Olympia” hoped to “bring the plight of the undocumented to light,” organizers at El Comité and the May 1st Action Coalition announced: Continue reading

CHS Pics | Seattle May Day 2019 marches for immigrants and workers — with stops at The Chateau, new youth jail… and the Broadway Whole Foods

With reporting and pictures by Alex Garland

With a third straight year of a mostly calm and peaceful day of awareness and protest, May Day in Seattle has evolved into an annual march for immigrants and workers mixed with a tour of the latest progressive hotspots around the Central District, Capitol Hill, and downtown like the The Chateau apartments, the county’s youth jail, and, yes, the new Amazon Whole Foods at Broadway and Madison.

2019’s May Day March for the Rights of Immigrants and Workers again crossed Capitol Hill and again brought out a massive and heavily equipped police presence, boarded up windows at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and a small, mostly insignificant party of trolling “counter protesters to the neighborhood’s streets. But the years of clashes between protesters beyond the march and police that frequently ended up pushed back up Capitol Hill appear to be — for now — a thing of the past. Continue reading

Seattle May Day 2019 brings 20th annual march for immigrants and workers to Capitol Hill — and expectations for another ‘riot’-free year — UPDATE

Seattle’s 20th annual May Day March for the Rights of Immigrants and Workers will again cross Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon and — for a second straight year — it appears that any planned protests separate from the annual workers rights march won’t be taking place on Broadway.

“This year we march once again to reclaim our struggles as immigrants, workers, and without borders,” organizers from El Comite write about the 20th year of the massive march. The crowds will begin gathering at noon on Dearborn before setting out on a trek across the city to downtown:

We are here because of the insecurity, crime, and corruption unleashed in our countries by bad governments with the support and intervention of the U.S. We are here because of political repression and exploitation of workers and the dispossession of our natural resources and territories. We are here refusing to be victims of the few who benefit from this system and the impoverishment, displacement and death that they wreak upon on our peoples.

Walk with me for justice,
Walk with me for immigrant rights,
Walk with me for labor rights,
Walk with me because this is our struggle!

A quick perusal of the latest edition of our latest this week in CHS history post will catch you up on the recent history of May Day chaos and violence that has broken out on Capitol Hill over the years, sparked by clashes between police and groups from beyond the workers and immigrants rights movements. Damage, injuries, and arrests were typically limited but ugly moments including vandalism against small businesses and the use of dangerous “flash bang” grenades by police left many in the neighborhood unsympathetic to any of the sides in the clashes. Continue reading

Just another calm, quiet May Day on Capitol Hill

2018’s immigration rights march

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. Continue reading

With planned protests off Capitol Hill, 2018 May Day in Seattle will center on March against ICE, Bloc the Juvi — UPDATE

May Day protests around the Capitol Hill area have centered on 12th Ave’s youth jail in recent years

Will these characters show up again in 2018?

El Comite’s annual march — annually peaceful, annually colorful

It’s been a long time since May Day turned into a “riot” on Capitol Hill but given the neighborhood’s place as a gathering point for protest, SPD tactics in the past that resulted in a push of large crowds out of downtown and up the Hill, and the new focus on 12th Ave’s youth jail, the neighborhood remains on watch every time May 1st rolls around.

This year — the first May Day under former federal prosecutor Jenny Durkan’s mayoral watch, expect another day of heavy police presence and television helicopters.

The foundation to the day — and the first amendment activities most everyone can get behind — remains the annual Marcha Y Manifestacion Anual del 1o de Mayo organized by immigrant labor rights organization El Comité. In 2016, the route changed to include Capitol Hill. In 2018, the march that will again be joined by thousands has more significance than ever — calling out U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity in Washington:

El Comité and the May 1st Action Coalition are calling on all workers and all social justice advocates to come out on Tuesday, May 1st 2018 (International Workers’ Day) for the 19th Annual May Day March for Immigrant and Workers Rights. 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. The March in Seattle on May 1st is among several coordinated events happening in communities across the State of Washington, including Yakima, and Tacoma.

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CHS Pics | May Day labor and immigration march takes new route on Capitol Hill

May Day El Comite - 7 of 24

May Day El Comite - 13 of 24

Images by Alex Garland for CHS

It has become a familiar refrain for Seattle’s mainstream media to hold up the city’s annual May Day labor and immigration rights march as a peaceful counterpoint to the violence and mayhem that accompanies the May Day night protests. We cover the 2016 edition of the annual contest pitting Seattle Police and its crowd management tactics vs. agitated protesters here.

The annual march organized by immigrant labor rights organization El Comité shouldn’t be reduced to a convenient editorial prop. The march’s organizers set out to make their voices heard and the groups involved choose their own path through the city. That’s why in 2016 we got more Marcha Y Manifestacion Anual del 1o de Mayo on Capitol Hill than ever.

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Capitol Hill May Day 2016 Open Thread — UPDATE: Clashes in downtown, Belltown, Pioneer Square


Sunday’s Marcha Y Manifestacion Anual del 1o de Mayo 2016 crossed Capitol Hill and was a peaceful affair (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Image: Alex Garland)

(Image: Alex Garland)

Some stores on lower Pike followed the lead of the Starbucks roastery and downtown businesses in boarding up their windows for May Day (Image: @amykatehorn via Twitter)

Some stores on lower Pike followed the lead of the Starbucks roastery and downtown businesses in boarding up their windows for May Day (Image: @amykatehorn via Twitter)

UPDATE 8:25 PM: May Day 2016 played out almost exactly like 2015 — but this time, SPD’s tangle with the protesters was pushed across Belltown, downtown, Pioneer Square, and SoDo. There were at least five arrests and two reported injured officers, according to SPD. Police used a large number of officers, pepper spray and flash bombs, and aggressive use of bikes to leapfrog the crowd, hold lines, and direct the protest as the crowd attempted to rush from Westlake and through downtown.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill — the scene of last year’s May Day standoffs between police and protesters — the night was quiet with the annual anti-capitalist march not being staged at Seattle Central this year as in years past. The protesters had said they didn’t want to be corralled again on Capitol Hill as police did during the 2015 response. But the results in 2016, even as the groups covered many more miles across Seattle, were the same. Police were able to control the demonstrators and channel their routes — this time pushing them north, then briefly west, then on the long walk south to SoDo. Along the way, the crowds of anticapitalists, anarchists, and demonstrators looked even smaller grouped below downtown’s highrises and megaretailers.

After meeting with some of the five injured officers at Harborview Medical Center, Mayor Ed Murray and SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole briefly recapped the evening outside the hospital. “We made it clear that once assaults begin, once property damage begins, we’re going to take action,” said O’Toole.

“Our plan was much better this year than it was last year,” O’Toole said.

The FBI’s Frank Montoya said part of the May Day response included a search in Eastern Washington in which agents recovered “possibly incendiary devices” in possession of a man as part of an investigation about threats against Seattle law enforcement officers. The man was not taken into custody.

Police said they are prepared if protesters reconvene overnight at Seattle Central.

Reports from earlier in the evening are below.

UPDATE 5:00 PM: A smaller than usual but equally enthusiastic crowd of marchers for the annual May Day labor and immigration rights march from the Central District to downtown took a longer route across Capitol Hill this year — but as usual, that part of the May Day activism was peaceful with no reported incidents of vandalism or police clashes.

UPDATE 6:35 PM: Clashes between protesters and police have begun downtown as officers attempted to contain the crowd on 5th Ave after an attempt by the protesters to move east on Pine. There were reports of attacks with sticks and stones by protesters as officers deployed pepper spray. Police were attempting to push the crowd to the north on 5th, according to radio dispatches.

There were reports of property damage and SPD commanders were giving the go-ahead to control and divert the crowd of around 200 protesters as the violence escalated.

“This is no longer a peaceful march,” the SPD incident commander announced via radio as the police response shifted from monitoring the protest to taking control of the crowd.

UPDATE 6:58 PM: For May Day 2016, we have apparently traded places with Belltown. The routes of the protesters are being controlled by SPD and so far the lines have held. The groups have been forced onto and around 2nd Ave in Belltown as SPD continues to separate and remove some protesters from the crowd while leapfrogging the crowds by utilizing a fleet of police vehicles.

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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.”

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Report on SPD use of force in Capitol Hill protest: No officer reprimands but blast-ball use created ‘fear and panic’


(Image: CHS)

Seattle police should re-evaluate the way officers use so-called blast ball grenades to disperse crowds during events like this year’s May Day protest on Capitol Hill, according to a report from the Seattle’s police oversight office. Meanwhile, excessive use of force allegations against officers were found to be without grounds, according to the Office of Professional Accountability report.

Police deployed at least 48 blast balls during its response to this year’s May Day Anti-Capitalist March turned “riot,” which largely took place on Capitol Hill. The report from Seattle’s OPA was unable to determine if officers violated department guidelines, but investigators raised concerns about blast balls that were thrown over the heads of protestors and detonations that happened in close proximity to people who posed no threat.

Because the initial detonation of a blast-ball separates a hard metal fuse device from its rubber base, there is a possibility of the metal fuse acting as shrapnel and causing serious injury to someone in close proximity when it separates. In addition, deployment of blast-balls at the feet of people or into a crowd can cause burns from the second and larger detonation, as well as blunt force trauma from the rubber base as the flash powder inside explodes and the two halves of the base fly apart.

“The evidence from May Day 2015 indicates that, while highly effective in getting people to move, the ball-blasts create fear and panic when detonated,” the report concludes.

The report comes in response to five complaints filed against officers for excessive use of force during the May 1st demonstration. Ultimately, the OPA did not uphold the allegations, but included seven recommendations on how SPD could better handle similar situations.

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25 scenes of May Day 2015 from the CHS Flickr Pool

As Seattle searches its soul a week after yet another May Day night of clashes between protesters and police on Capitol Hill, here are a few more views from the streets via the CHS Flickr Pool. CHS’s report on the actions of protesters and SPD is here and you can find our live reporting of May Day 2015 here. Earlier this week, we reported on charges filed against some of those arrested and criticism of SPD’s heavy-handed response. Following the critical session in front of the Seattle City Council, SPD responded to the criticism with its own timeline of the May Day incidents. The final tallies only tell part of the story: 16 arrested, 10 charged, nine reported police force injuries, windows busted at a QFC, Urban Outfitters, and the Harvard Exit — a night of pepper spray clouds, “blast ball” welts, and incessant helicopter buzz over Capitol Hill.

Last Saturday morning as the few reported broken windows and graffiti tags were still being cleaned up, Mayor Ed Murray met with representatives from the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and talked 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. A week later, it’s not any more clear about how that might happen.

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