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SPD to probe Capitol Hill gay pride pepper spray incident

Police arrest a demonstrator during an early morning confrontation Sunday on Capitol Hill. (Photo courtesy Capitol Hill Seattle blog)

The Seattle Police Department confirms it has launched an investigation into the handling of a late night conflict with demonstrators on Capitol Hill that led to the deployment of pepper spray and six arrests.

The incident happened early Sunday morning as hundreds of revelers took to the streets for what was billed as a dance party and protest.

Initial police reports said officers were forced to use pepper spray because some in the crowd were threatening property destruction and refused orders to clear the streets. One demonstrator reportedly kicked a police commander in the knee.

But a video released on You Tube seems to contradict the account. While the commander identified as Lt. Greg Calder claimed he was assaulted, the video shows him spraying one of those arrested from the street while the other man stands on the sidewalk some distance from the officer.

The video identifies Calder as a leader of Seattle's 20/20 plan for reforms in the wake of DOJ findings of a pattern of excessive force.

The commander of Capitol Hill's East Precinct is defending Calder's actions, and the response of other officers who moved firmly to control the crowd.

"We have the responsibility to ensure the peace on both sides," Capt. Ron Wilson told the Capitol Hill Seattle blog.

Wilson said police made a number of observations that the situation was about to turn violent, including hearing some in the crowd advocating property destruction as they weaved through the streets.

"So it was at that point, given all that discussion about breaking windows, the masking up, it's time to say, 'OK, we're going to contain this better by moving them out of the street, onto the sidewalk,'" Wilson said.

He also disputed charges officers were "gay bashing," pointing out no steps were taken to end any of the late night revelry.

"We didn't stop the people," Wilson told CHS. "That I think really has to be laid out. We didn't put an end to their march. All we told them to do was to get out of the street. And most everyone complied."

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