Seattle protesters disrupt Black Friday shopping

SEATTLE — More than 200 protesters, some chanting “Black Lives Matter!” tried to disrupt Black Friday shopping and downtown Seattle’s traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Police turned out in force, arresting five people, and a downtown mall closed early.

The tree was lighted on a rainy Friday evening. Shortly before 6 p.m., Seattle police turned shoppers away from the downtown Westlake Center mall, saying it was closed for the night. Mall security confirmed the shopping center had closed. The mall had been scheduled to stay open until 9 p.m.

In a statement, Mayor Ed Murray said while he supports the protesters’ First Amendment rights, “violence against property or police officers will not be tolerated in our city.” Police said arrests included people accused of assaulting officers and damaging an officer’s bicycle.

After the tree lighting, the mayor and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole visited with young carolers who were interrupted by protesters, the mayor’s office said.

Demonstrators were protesting this week’s grand jury decision in Missouri not to indict a police officer who fatally shot a black teenager.

“America goes where their pocketbook goes, so today we’re blocking Black Friday,” one protest organizer, Marissa Johnson, told KING-TV. “We want you to be uncomfortable shopping.”

Protesters at one point staged a “die-in,” lying down on a floor inside the Westlake Center mall. They also protested outside, blocking streets and intersections near Westlake Park and marching through city streets.

Both officers and demonstrators used pepper spray, police said. Some protesters wore gas masks.

Protesters also targeted the nearby Pacific Place shopping center in downtown Seattle.

St. Louis County, Missouri, authorities announced Monday that Officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown.

On Monday night, about 200 demonstrators marched in Seattle, with some of them managing to briefly shut down part of Interstate 5. After hours of marching peacefully, some Seattle protesters also hurled canned food, bottles and rocks, police said. Officers responded with pepper spray and flash-bang grenades. Police said five people were arrested in that protest.

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