Eight arrested in Seattle May Day mayhem

  • By Manuel Valdes and Gene Johnson Associated Press
  • Tuesday, May 1, 2012 9:40pm
  • Local NewsNorthwest

SEATTLE — Black-clad protesters using sticks and bats smashed stores and automobile windows during May Day demonstrations that turned violent in Seattle, and police recovered homemade incendiary devices made from toilet paper rolls and fruit juice boxes.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn made an emergency declaration Tuesday afternoon, allowing police to confiscate any items that could be used as weapons.

Officers made at least eight arrests by the early evening after hundreds of people marched through downtown. Police said they seized the crude incendiary devices after some protesters hurled smoke bombs and other items.

The large crowds disrupted traffic during the evening rush hour, and several buses were rerouted through downtown.

McGinn said dozens of protesters used long sticks, which looked like flagpoles, as weapons. He said his decree would enable police to take those and other items away from people before they were used to cause damage. Following the order, police were seen removing sticks and polls and other objects from protesters’ hands throughout the day.

While much smaller in scale, the mayhem was reminiscent of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle that caused widespread damage to stores and forced the cancellation of some WTO events.

“We appreciate that the vast majority of people out there are peaceful participants,” McGinn said at an afternoon news conference. “What we know from WTO previously is you get a group of people committed to cause damage…My direction to police is I expect them to respond to law breaking swiftly and aggressively.”

McGinn said many of the most violent protesters — those who had caused damage with rocks, hammers and tire irons — tried to hide in the larger crowd early Tuesday afternoon by shedding their all-black clothes.

At the federal appeals court building, an FBI evidence team arrived after protesters shattered glass doors with rocks and threw or shot a smoke bomb toward the lobby. The device hit the only door that didn’t break, spun off into some nearby bushes and started a small blaze that quickly burned itself out.

The entrance to the Niketown store was completely smashed in, with chunks of broken glass littering the sidewalk. Vandals splattered paint across the store and a neighboring business. Police on bicycles moved in and dispersed people, and the entrances were soon closed off with police tape.

Charlone Mayfield, a retired medical industry worker from Seattle, was inside a Verizon cellphone store when she saw the crowd approach. One of the protesters broke off from the group and struck the window as she watched.

“He started hitting the window with his baseball bat…I was here when WTO happened, this is really scary,” Mayfield said.

Traditionally, May Day honors labor and workers’ rights. In Seattle, it drew hundreds of demonstrators for immigration rights and from the Occupy movement, with several groups converging on a park near downtown for rallies and music. Later in the day, several different and smaller Occupy protests marched throughout the city, near Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.

A separate group held an organized march for immigrants’ rights that proceeded to a downtown bank branch and then staged a rally.

“Our march is about the workers and the immigrants,” said Rafael Garcia, 27, who pushed his 1-year-old son in a stroller.

Earlier Tuesday at the American Apparel store next to Niketown, assistant manager Mia Harrison was folding sweaters when she heard the commotion.

“I decided to go out on the sidewalk, and I saw all the people in black masks running to Niketown and our store. They started to throw smoke bombs and canisters,” she said.

The vandals shattered a door and cracked two windows. No one was hurt.

“It’s pretty sad, almost like someone broke into my house,” Harrison said.

Associated Press Doug Esser contributed to this report.

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