A May Day march got underway Wednesday afternoon in Seattle with no signs of the anarchist-fueled violence and destruction that overshadowed last year's marches and rallies. But Seattle Police were working to keep a tight lid to make sure the day would stay peaceful.
The march to bring focus to immigrant and workers rights was make its way to the Federal Building in downtown Seattle during the afternoon rush hour.
Activity in downtown Seattle began ramping up around 11 a.m. when a group of 15-to-20 people at Westlake Park started yelling at police officers. About an hour later, a group called the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army showed up and peacefully protested.
Nearby, at the Wells Fargo building at 3rd Avenue and Madison Street, traffic cones and security tape were put up to protect part of the building that anarchists hit last year. Pacific Northwest Carpenters Union members were handing out leaflets, clriticizing the bank for low wages.
Despite the early calm, at least one person was hopeful it would not stay that way.
“I’m hoping that somebody will spark the flame. I’m not saying anarchy is completely right, but it’s a better way than capitalism right now,” said one protester who arrived at Westlake with a gas mask.
“I think it’s nonsense that they go out and destroy property of businesses and people that are totally innocent,” said Bill Omaits.
More than 500 Seattle Police officers are working on May Day. They have gone through special training on crowd control.
“We have officers out that are going to support the immigration march. We’re going to set the environment so people can safely express their free speech rights and if any individuals decide to commit crimes, then we’ll investigate and, if possible, make arrests,” said Seattle Police Captain Chris Fowler.
Of the three groups expected to converge on downtown Seattle, only El Comite has a legal permit. Their march began at 3 p.m. at Judkins Park and was to follow this route.
- North on 20th Ave. S to South Jackson Street
- West on South Jackson to 12th Ave S
- South on 12th Ave S. to King Street
- West on King Street to 5th Ave. S.
- North on 5th Ave to Jackson Street
- West on Jackson St. to 4th Ave
- North on 4th Ave to Pike Street
- West on Pike St. to 2nd Ave
- South on 2nd Ave to the Henry Jackson Building at 2nd and Madison
At 6 p.m., protesters are expected to march from Seattle Central Community College. Seattle Police say there is no official route map.
The wild card is anarchists. Online, they claim to be preparing for some sort of demonstration. Last year, anarchists made their way into the crowd and vandalized businesses and other buildings.
Police are being ordered to move in at the first sign of trouble – everything from damaging property to harming bystanders. The police captain overseeing the May Day enforcement says use of pepper spray is not out of the question.
Just after 3:30, Seattle Police Tweeted "Don't leave your rock collection lying around 2day. Officers have retrieved rocks & bricks poss. placed @ locs. in E&W Pcts."
Last year, items were thrown at buildings, breaking windows and causing substantial damage.
In Olympia, a few dozen people showed up for a "Festival of Resistance," with food, games, crafts and face painting in Sylvester Park.
There was scheduled to be a “Shut Down the Banks” party in Olympia at 2 p.m. followed by a block party at 4 p.m. It’s not clear where that will be held. A march will start at 6 p.m. at 4th and Water Street.