While traditionally, May Day is considered to be a day honoring workers’ rights with both peaceful protests and celebrations of sorts, the city of Seattle has also seen its share of unsavory human behavior erupt on such occasions. Last year, with tensions still high after the election of President Donald Trump, the city braced for the worst, but instead, only five arrests were made and there were no reports of injuries of property damage. But Seattle can’t expect things to go so well this year.
“It’s just hard to know which way it’s going to go,” says Seattle Police Deputy Chief Chris Fowler. Leading the city’s May Day protests response team over the recent years, Fowler is hoping for a repeat, but is concerned that things could turn ugly similar to the damage and injuries caused in 2012. It was then when a group of about 75 “black bloc” protesters weaved themselves into the peaceful crowds only to wreak chaos. The police were surprised by the attacks which caused extensive damage to local retailers as well as the federal courthouse. At the time, it was reported that the police responded somewhat haphazardly, adding to the chaos with “blast balls” and pepper spray. The Seattle Times states that the department was criticized for not having clear procedures outlined ahead of time.
In years past, groups known for vandalism would take to the streets within the May Day march in a united front, but this year, Fowler says the anarchists are asking smaller independent groups to react with “decentralized” actions. Similar calls for violence were made last year but failed to materialize. However, one can’t plan on that happening again this year. “Obviously, if that occurs it could be a headache,” says Fowler.
Headache or not, Fowler takes his job on protecting the city and its inhabitants seriously, stating that lawbreakers will be arrested. “I expect our tactics will be consistent with how we’ve done this in the past,” Fowler said. “We may have to adjust according to the situation, but I don’t think we’ll be doing anything different this year.”
Downtown Seattle is a whirlwind of activity every afternoon during normal circumstances with many people just wanting to go home after a long day of work. May Day protests just add to the mix. The day’s events will begin with a rally at 2:30 p.m. followed by the march toward downtown at 3:30 p.m. where much of the march’s focus will be on immigration and customs enforcement activity in the state. Seattle’s march is just one of several happening in other cities including Olympia, Yakima, and Tacoma. The march is expected to last into the early evening, causing traffic snarls. Numerous city and county buses will either be re-routed or delayed during the protests. Some streets will experience what is known as “rolling closures.” Meanwhile, Safeco Field is still expecting to see about 15,000 fans enter the stadium to see the Mariners play at 7:10 p.m.
To avoid adding fuel to the fire, local businesses are being asked to bring in any outdoor signage, tables, or chairs. Garbage cans and dumpsters need to be locked up, reports KIRO 7.