(Headline USA) Seattle police declared a riot Saturday following violent demonstrations in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood 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 at least 45 arrests for assault 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.
Due to the ongoing damage and public safety risks associated with this incident, SPD is declaring it a riot.
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) July 25, 2020
Authorities said rocks, bottles, fireworks and mortars were thrown at officers as they attempted to clear the area. One officer was hospitalized with a leg injury caused by an explosive.
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 near downtown in a show of solidarity with fellow demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, where tensions have boiled over during pro-anarchist riots.
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 King County Executive Dow Constantine, in response to demands by far-left community activists, said he would work to eliminate youth detention centers in the county by 2025.
During earlier protests in the same area, after taking over six blocks of the downtown area and declaring it the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, protesters issues a long list of extremist demands, many of which revolved around defunding police, part of a nationwide movement embraced by the Democrats.
After the fire at the construction site, authorities said they had ordered people to leave the former CHAZ zone. At least one person broke through a fence line at the precinct, authorities said, and moments later a device explosive that left an 8-inch hole in the side of the precinct.
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.
At an emergency hearing on Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons.
The temporary restraining order halts the law that the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month after confrontations marked by violence, looting and highway shutdowns. The law intended to de-escalate tensions between police and demonstrators was set to take effect on Sunday.
But the U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, successfully argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.
Adapted from Reporting by the Associated Press