What we witnessed last night, was a well planned and well executed maneuver by the Seattle PD to effectively inhibit the protestors from moving freely throughout the city. For the first time since the protests started a week ago, the police effected the course of the movement. Before Monday night, the police actually acted as an enabler for the protestors, directing traffic and blocking roads to let the protest move, stop, then move again. It is clear that the protest’s success on Black Friday has prompted the city to take stronger measure to ensure that there is no disruptive behavior that could negatively effect business in the downtown area. Before the protest even began, all the large retail stores downtown had a squad of riot police posted outside. In all, the newly armored police squads outnumber protestors by at least 3 to 1.
As the protest began to move from Westlake Center towards 4th and Pine, police moved swiftly on bicycle to block Pine, turning the marchers north on 4th towards Olive Way. Before the marchers even arrived at the intersection of 4th and Olive, riot police lined all intersections essentially funneling the protestors east on Olive Way towards Capitol Hill. At this point it was clear that the police had a plan this time around, evidence of this was just the shear number of police as well as a police convoy of about six cars that followed the crowd. As soon as the protest turned on Olive, squads of police on bicycle moved ahead of the protest in a leap frog fashion setting up road blocks on all avenues along the street, keeping the protest moving in one direction. This continued, only stopping once at 8th ave, then moving on until the crowd reached Boren Ave, which is where the protestors attempted to turn around and make their way back downtown. The riot police on foot and bicycle armed with sticks lined the street blocking the way. The convoy that had been following stopped and a few vans emptied to fill in any gaps in the police blockade. This is where the first stand off happened between the protestors and police. For about ten minutes protestors chanted and stood faced to face with police, prompting one cop to requested that the crowd back up a few feet. After another five minutes, protestors asked the police to let them back downtown. Protestors moved to the sidewalk in hopes that the police would let them through the line, but this ultimately failed. The crowd began to disperse, somewhat dispirited with groups of people walking towards Capitol Hill. The protest had temporarily ended, choked to death by swift police tactics.
After the protest dispersed at Boren ave and Olive Way, I moved back down Olive towards 8th ave. When I arrived at the intersection, the police had grabbed and arrested a male pedestrian, 22 years old according to the SPD reports. A female witness was pleading with police yelling ” Why are you arresting him!?” The intersection was clear, with only one police van with about six officers on bikes in the street. About ten pedestrians watched from crosswalks, with one male witness saying the police grabbed the 22 year old as he walked up the street towards where the protest had been. The female witness later told me that he was arrested for “simply walking down the street,” and that the police had threatened to arrest her if she did not return to the sidewalk. The protest reconvened back at Westlake Park, where they blocked traffic on Pine Street.
For me, the make or break night for the protest was Monday. Being able to follow up the Black Friday protest is a good barometer of the movements strength and momentum. Although the police completely out foxed the protestors, being led by college aged youth, I doubt last night did much to dampen their spirits. However, last night was a learning experience for all those who participated and perhaps a rude awakening. If the movement is going to continue its going to take a higher level of organization and creativity. Being outnumber by police is also not a good sign, but last nights showing by police may embolden those who decided to sit this round out. The police tactics were clearly trying to shield the downtown retail space in efforts to avoid Black Friday “part two” and although they were successful, I doubt at this juncture, it was decisive blow. It will be interesting to see going forward how the protest responds.