2 weeks of Protest in Seattle

Police block 11th Ave on Capitol Hill. Credit- Samuel Britt

Here’s what things have looked like from the streets of Seattle during the largest series of protests and civil unrest since the 1999 WTO protests.

Friday, May 29th, A march leaves the Westlake Center, cutting through downtown Seattle in the first day of widespread protests. Clouds of tear gas and smoke waft through the air.
The first weekend of protest was characterized by violent clashes between police and protesters. Police used rubber bullets, mace and chemical weapons to attempt to dispurse crowds. Protesters responded with violent tactics of their own.
The following week, protesters continued to take to the streets. Monday, June 1st, another group formed in the Westlake Center in Seattle. Isiah gave a rousing speech to the crowd. He told The Watchdog “I’m a victim of police brutality. I’m here to speak for people who can’t speak for themselves.”
Protesters made signs our of cardboard.
The crowd was filled with young people, many of them intimately familiar with the brutality of American Policing. Brothers Jeremy and Amani (left to right) were there to call for a change. “We are literally getting murdered on the street, in America in 2020,” Jeremy told The Watchdog “It’s something that I have had to deal with my entire life, as much as every other black man.”
“Merchandise can be replaced. Black lives can not” -Anonymous
As the crowd gathered, SPD and National Guard forces covered the perimeter of the Westlake Center.
Crowds of armored and armed National Guard stood and chatted. They declined to make a comment.
By Monday night, the mood in Seattle had changed.
The group had marched from the Westlake Center to Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill. After protesters attempted to walk through a police barricade to reach the East Precinct, SPD designed the group a “riot.” Police and National Guard used tear gas, rubber bullets, and mace to disperse the crowd. It is unclear how many protestors were detained, but an SPD bus was brought in to transport detainees away from the area.
The continued use of chemical weapons by Police forces did little to deter protesters. The following week saw crowds gathering at 11th and Pine every night. Protesters demanded access to the precinct and an audience with the Chief of police and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkin. Protesters at the front line held umbrellas, effective for Seattle’s notorious rain, and as a shield from mace and tear gas canisters.
After a short while, businesses and residents on 11th ave, along with organizers from across Seattle, found ways to supply food, water, and medical supplies to sustain the group contesting the east precinct.
Local Group, The Marshall Law Band, provided entertainment; playing curbside concerts just feet from the Police Blockade. At times the drums were drowned out by percussive grenades and the firing of rubber bullets just down the street.
After 11 days of constant siege by protesters and community members, police and national guard withdrew forces from the area surrounding the East Precinct. Within hours organizers were forming the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone. Repurposed police blockades now delineate Seattle and the United States from the self -governed collective, now spanning six city blocks of Capitol Hill. Check out our coverage of the CHAZ here.
Today the CHAZ is complete with PA system and projector for nightly movies, a well supplied medical tent, community garden, and stalls serving hot food and supplying PPE and hand sanitizer (after all we are in a pandemic).
The CHAZ is also being used as a staging area and meeting point for Marches that cross the border into Seattle. This group marched from Cal Anderson Park to Seattle City Hall, which they briefly occupied.
Kshma Sawant and other local politicians, activists and organizers gave speeches and and discussed the future of the movement.

All Photos Courtesy of Samuel Britt, Watchdog Editor In Chief