May Day in Seattle came and went, with nary a window smashed.
The city woke up tense, waiting and ready for a conflagration that never came. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room on Capitol Hill boarded up its broad windows, despite its distance from any scheduled march. Eateries near Westlake Park shuttered their doors in preparation, leaving the Dog in the Park stand the go-to meal for peckish protesters.
Dozens of police officers from several jurisdictions swarmed the streets on bicycles to shepherd marchers along their routes.
The March for Workers and Immigrant Rights, which kicked off at Judkins Park with a rally that morning at 11, proceeded from the park to Seattle Center without incident. Led by indigenous people, the 18th annual march filled the streets with people standing for the worker and immigrant communities as well as environmental protections. The smell of burning sage hung heavy in the air.
Signs of solidarity dotted the city: young children coming out to wave in front of the Giddens School at St. Mary’s Church; huge banners expressing support on Jackson Street; Teamsters and their tractor trailer issuing long, blaring horn blasts to cheers from the crowd.
There was even a chance for a quick show of support for the No New Youth Jail movement. As the crowd flowed by the existing detention center at 12th Avenue and E. Alder Street, people peeled off for a quick photo op in front of the facility and the rows of Seattle Police Department officers who’d formed a protective wall along the property line. A peaceful block party would take place later that evening to protest the youth jail.
The marchers passed along Sixth Avenue that afternoon. Just two blocks away, in Westlake Park, a contingent of people supporting Donald Trump rallied for free speech. They looked ready for battle. Men in camouflage-print clothing, helmets and pads stood on and around the podium in the park, waiting for the rally to begin.
Many of the Trump supporters are veterans of a protest circuit about free speech traveling around the West Coast, they said. Some came up from previous rallies in Portland and the explosive melee between the pro-Trump crowd and anti-fascist group called Antifa in Berkeley, California. Kathryn Townsend, a grandmother dressed in a helmet and pads with magazines duct-taped to her middle to protect her vital organs, attended four such rallies in Olympia, Vancouver, Portland and now Seattle.
Peaceful marchers are “awesome,” whatever side they’re on, Townsend said, but the crew has had clashes with anti-Trump groups that got dangerous.
“It’s a sad day in America when grandmas have to armor up to go to a political rally,” Townsend said.
Over the course of five hours, the pro-Trump forces went on two quick marches, first around Macy’s and then down Fourth Avenue to Jackson Street and back to Westlake. They stuck to the sidewalks and chanted pro-capitalist slogans as they marched the empty streets of downtown Seattle.
Although an anti-Trump contingent came to Westlake, the numbers were low. The result was a few, isolated scuffles and five arrests before police officers forcibly cleared the park. The year prior, police herded anti-capitalist protesters into SoDo using pepper spray and blast balls. Nine people were arrested, and five officers were injured then at the time.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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