A day after the city and the Seattle Police Department put a 30-day ban on using tear gas to disperse crowds, officers instead used pepper spray and flash bangs to push protesters back from a barricade set up at 11th Ave. and Pine St. — actions that were promptly slammed by city council members.
Tensions escalated at about 7:45 p.m., Saturday, as reports from the scene of further anti-racism protests, sparked from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, from local media and protesters on Twitter said officers began grabbing umbrellas and moving on the crowd, giving them orders to disperse. The Seattle Police Department said in statements that some had thrown “makeshift explosives” at them as well as rocks and bottles. The tweeted picture by SPD of one of the explosives looked to be a candle instead.
Gas clouds in the air prompted many protesters on social media to accuse the city of going back on their word to ban tear gas, however the mayor’s office and police department denied any use of it. They instead allegedly used OC cannisters — pepper spray — according to tweets from protesters.
“This is NOT what de-escalation looks like!” Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez tweeted Saturday night, saying she was outraged by officers’ responses.
In a statement, SPD said six officers were injured after the skirmish before 8 p.m.
Less than two hours later, several local officials responded to tweets that protesters and officials could clash again as law enforcement moved closer to the crowd, establishing a “police line.”
Near the front of the line stood Seattle City Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis, Washington State House Representative Nicole Macri, State Senator Joe Nguyen, and King County Girmay Zahilay who livestreamed most of the rest of the night. They all echoed demands several local officials had been repeating all week, for police to de-escalate situations without non-lethal firepower. They also accused officers of escalating situations in the first place.
Mosqueda on Twitter asked city and police leaders to move back the police line, which SPD agreed to just before midnight to diffuse the situation.
On Zahilay’s livestream, the city and state representatives could be heard calling for demilitarization of the Seattle Police Department, and for the city “to have some really hard conversations about what we want out police department to look like,” as Herbold put it.
The protest started early in the day with health care workers marching near Harborview Medical Center, and others protesting near Pike Place Market, Seattle Center and eventually on Capitol Hill, the last of which has been the location of protests all week. While small skirmishes have popped up throughout the week — which some say were due to police escalation — they have remained mostly peaceful in their angst.
Since protests flared last weekend, demands have been made to the mayor by protesters and city officials. Progressive leaders have even banded together and called for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s resignation.
The city also withdrew their motion to terminate federal oversight of the police department at the end of the week after the mayor spoke to protest organizers.