'Cowardly and grotesque': Second US city descends into ugly chaos

·4-min read

A second United States city has descended into chaos with police declaring a riot following a large demonstration motivated by long-running protests against police brutality as people took to the streets in solidarity with nearby Portland protests.

Seattle police made the declaration on Saturday (local time) after protests in the city’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood and deployed flash bangs and pepper spray to try to clear an area near where weeks earlier people had set up an “occupied protest zone” that stretched for several blocks.

Via Twitter, police said they had made more than two dozen arrests for assaults on officers, obstruction and failure to disperse. They also said they were “investigating a possible explosive damage” to the walls of the city’s East Precinct police station.

Firecrackers go off near members of a police SWAT team during protests in Seattle. Source: Getty Images
Firecrackers go off near members of a police SWAT team during protests in Seattle. Source: Getty Images

Authorities said rocks, bottles, fireworks and mortars were thrown at officers as they attempted to clear the area over the course of several hours stretching into Saturday night. One officer was hospitalised with a leg injury caused by an explosive.

One witness shared a video of a violent confrontation showing police firing pepper spray and barging through a crowd.

“Thugs pepper spraying a nurse in scrubs at the Seattle protests is cowardly and grotesque. These are our essential, front-line workers against COVID-19,” they wrote to Twitter.

The video showed a woman in scrubs being pepper sprayed at close range. Source: Twitter
The video showed a woman in scrubs being pepper sprayed at close range. Source: Twitter

Earlier, protesters in Seattle broke through a fence where a youth detention facility was being built, with some people setting a fire and damaging a portable trailer, authorities said.

Thousands of protesters had initially gathered peacefully near downtown in a show of solidarity with fellow demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, where tensions with federal law enforcement have boiled over during protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The US appears to be coming apart at the seams ahead of the November election as social unrest mounts. Source: Getty
The US appears to be coming apart at the seams ahead of the November election as social unrest mounts. Source: Getty

Initially there was no sign of law enforcement near the Seattle march. Later, Seattle Police said via Twitter that about a dozen people breached the construction site for the King County youth detention facility. Also, police said protesters broke out windows at a King County court facility.

Earlier this week authorities, in response to long-standing demands by community activists, said they would work to eliminate youth detention centres in the county by 2025.

After the fire at the construction site authorities said they had ordered people to leave a different area, in a section of Capitol Hill, near downtown, where the East Precinct is. At least one person broke through a fence line at the precinct, authorities said, and moments later a device exploded that left a 20cm hole in the side of the precinct.

A demonstrator kneels in front of police during protests on Saturday. Source: Getty Images
A demonstrator kneels in front of police during protests on Saturday. Source: Getty Images
Demonstrators use skip bins and shields for protection from police during a protest on Saturday in Seattle. Source: Getty Images
Demonstrators use skip bins and shields for protection from police during a protest on Saturday in Seattle. Source: Getty Images

Earlier this month police cleared the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone after two fatal shootings. A group had occupied several blocks around a park for about two weeks following standoffs and clashes that were part of the nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Prior to Saturday’s protests, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best had announced officers would be armed with pepper spray and other weapons, promising officers would not use tear gas and urging demonstrators to remain peaceful.

“In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence,” Best said.

A Seattle SWAT officer rides on an armored vehicle as police and protesters clash on the weekend. Source:  Getty
A Seattle SWAT officer rides on an armored vehicle as police and protesters clash on the weekend. Source: Getty

Death after shooting in Texas protest

One person has been killed after several shots were fired amid a Black Lives Protest in downtown Austin, Texas.

Footage posted during a Facebook Live on Saturday, US time, showed the moment when several shots rang out as a group of about 100 people marched and chanted "Fists up! Fight back!"

Austin's Police and the city's Emergency Medical Services department confirmed on Twitter that one person was killed during the shooting. There were no other deaths or people shot, according to the EMS department.

With Reuters

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