SEATTLE, WA — It started out as a relatively peaceful demonstration in Seattle, as thousands marched to the Westlake Center in a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody.
But it escalated into violence.
These Fil-Am protesters were among those caught in a standoff with police.
“Not even more than 10, five minutes. Upon arriving, we were met with flash cannons. There was pepper spray thrown and about it became very hard to breathe. Even just with the COVID conditions compounded with the chaos of a demonstration that can be anyway… it was hard to even identify people’s faces from like the nose as we were trying to practice social distancing and protocol,” said Michael Alcantara, an organizer with Philippine-U.S. Solidarity Organization Seattle.
“I definitely felt personally that the police kind of instigated a lot of the initial violence that had been utilized, um, for example, they had began to put on gas masks. And they began to just shoot tear gas into the crowd to disperse it. And then they had also through some flashbangs where there were a large group of people to disperse them as well,” said Ronnie Estoque, student and freelance journalist.
Washington governor Jay Inslee activated up to 200 members of the National Guard to protect residents and property in Seattle for the next seven days. This is the first time the National Guard has been called into Seattle since the WTO riots in 1999.
At least 55 people were arrested for various offenses including assault, arson, destruction and looting.
Meanwhile, volunteers came together on Sunday to help clean up the destruction from Saturday’s riot. At least 50 business establishments were damaged.
Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a 5pm to 5am curfew as well as an order prohibiting the use of weapons and a proclamation of civil emergency in Seattle. Tukwila, Renton and Bellevue followed similar curfews after experiencing looters breaking into shopping malls on Sunday. Emergency alerts were sent to cell phones across the region.
Another protest in response to the murder of George Floyd is scheduled to take place in Westlake park on June 14.