By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press
OLYMPIA— Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that while the damage from weekend protests that turned violent must be condemned and those responsible prosecuted, “we will not allow that to obscure the justice of the underlying protest.”
Inslee said that people are justifiably outraged following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and emphasized the constitutional right to protest. But he said that “violence and destruction has no place in this.”
“We just can’t allow violence to hijack peaceful protest,” Inslee said at a news conference.
Demonstrators in Washington and around the country have been protesting the killing of Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. On Monday afternoon large crowds of protesters again gathered in downtown Seattle for speeches and to march through the city’s core. Hundreds gathered outside City Hall and the crowd continued to grow as it made its way to the Capitol Hill neighborhood. At one point, video showed officers taking a knee with protesters in Capitol Hill in a show of solidarity.
North of downtown, near the University Village shopping mall, police barricaded a grocery store’s windows after some people smashed them.
The Washington State Patrol also said it was closing Interstate 5 through downtown as a precaution. Over the weekend some protesters got on the freeway.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the Northwest’s largest city would again have a curfew Monday evening following days of protests that turned violent, with storefronts smashed and items stolen.
At a news conference, Durkan said the curfew would begin at 6 p.m. and last until 5 a.m. Bellevue, Washington, also said it would have a 5 p.m. curfew following vandalism and theft in that city’s downtown Sunday. Other cities in Washington, including Spokane, also issued curfews to try to contain protests.
There were curfews in Seattle on Saturday and Sunday nights as well. Durkan said most of the thousands of protesters were peaceful, but there was an element that engaged in “violence, looting and chaos.”
In a statement, the Washington director of the American Civil Liberties Union condemned the curfew orders, calling them “chilling.”
“They open the door to selective enforcement, potentially magnifying the very harms that protestors and communities have been demanding be addressed for decades,” said Michele Storms, executive director of the ACLU of Washington.
Seattle’s police watchdog, the Office of Professional Accountability, said it was investigating 10 alleged incidences of aggressive behavior by police following the weekend protests following thousands of individual complaints. These include reports of police pepper spraying a young girl and punching a person on the ground who was being arrested, OPA said.
Police Chief Carmen Best said a small number of protests “tore the city up” and caused “millions of dollars in damage.” Durkan said the damage was widespread Saturday, with 90 businesses in the city’s International District alone affected. Authorities said 57 people were arrested Saturday.
Inslee activated the National Guard following vandalism and mass theft in stores and shopping malls in multiple cities over the weekend, including Bellevue, Spokane, Tukwila and Renton.
“The guard are unarmed peacekeepers,” he said. “They are there to help support local communities.”
Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the National Guard, said that about 350 National Guard members are deployed in the state Monday, with about 20 in Spokane and the remainder in the King County metro areas.
Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump told the nation’s governors in a video conference that they “look like fools” for not deploying even more National Guard troops. “Most of you are weak,” he said.
Inslee called the comments by the president the “rants of a very insecure man.”
Monday afternoon, Trump threatened to deploy the United States military to American cities to quell a rise of violent protests, and said he would mobilize “thousands and thousands” of soldiers to keep the peace if governors did not use the National Guard to shut down the protests.
In an emailed statement in response to the president’s comments, Inslee wrote that Trump “has repeatedly proven he is incapable of governing and shown nothing but false bravado throughout the chaos that has accompanied his time in office.”
“He cowers at the feet of authoritarians around the world,” Inslee said. “Now he uses the most supreme power of the presidency in a desperate attempt to hide his timidity and vapidity. I pray no soldier and no civilian is injured or killed by this reckless fit.”