SEATTLE — May Day marchers are welcome to protest Thursday, but officers are prepared to respond to assaults or property damage, police said.
“If you’re here to cause problems or hurt people, we’re going to take that very seriously,” Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh said.
McDonagh and incident commander Capt. Chris Fowler, said Wednesday that marchers could stop traffic, but acts of violence will be met with arrests.
May Day has turned violent the past two years in Seattle. Last year police used flash bangs and pepper spray and arrested 18 people from a crowd that pelted them with rocks and bottles. Eight officers were injured.
On May Day 2012, masked marchers dressed in black broke windows and doors on downtown banks and stores and tried to set a fire at a federal building.
Thousands of people are expected to take part in a march for immigrant and worker rights organized by El Comite and the May1st Action Coalition, who have a permit. The march begins at 3 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church and ends with a rally at the downtown Westlake Park.
Social media postings show plans for two anti-capitalist marches, which do not have permits, KING reported. One group will meet at 6 p.m. at Seattle Central Community College and another at 6:30 p.m. at the Youth Detention Center.
Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant said she’ll join the march for immigrant and worker rights to promote her campaign for a $15 minimum wage. She urged marchers to remain peaceful.
“I strongly oppose violence and property damage because this plays into the hands of the police and the political establishment who aim to discredit and undermine our struggles,” Sawant said in a statement.
“I also oppose the provocative statements and actions of the Seattle Police Department in relation to May 1st. The Seattle police are acting in a repressive, anti-democratic manner along with the corporate owned mass media who are attempting to whip up a polarized state of fear,” she said.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told KIRO-FM that Sawant’s comments were unfair.
“I’m interested in making sure protesters can protest. I am interested in also ensuring their safety and the safety of property and acting to arrest individuals who are doing something other than protesting, who are being destructive. I think those are very distinct things,” he said.
Seattle Central Community College is canceling some classes as a precaution. Some businesses are taking in sidewalk tables and chairs to prevent them from being thrown through windows, KOMO reported.
The Downtown Seattle Association said 220 businesses have signed up for an email alert system to track events related to marches and May Day.