In two days, the Seattle Police Department will put five weeks of preparation into action as protesters and peaceful demonstrators take to the streets on May Day.
Leading the department’s efforts Wednesday will be Capt. Chris Fowler, who sat down with KIRO Radio at police headquarters Monday to discuss how officers will respond to those bent on violence and vandalism.
Last year on May 1, a group of anarchists were responsible for broken windows and other destruction along Sixth Avenue in downtown Seattle. Captain Fowler said officers have been given “clear and concise goals” should history repeat itself.
“(Officers) have to know what the expectation is on the street when they go out there and we ask them to do their job,” he said.
Officers will have two main objectives on Wednesday.
“The most important one is to create an atmosphere where people can express their free speech rights and demonstrate and march,” he said. “The second one is to investigate any crimes that occur, specifically crimes against persons or property crimes.”
Captain Fowler said pepper spray is not out of the question for protesters who choose to break the law and added that arrests, while “critically important,” will not be made unless “tactically feasible.”
“Is it safe enough for the officers given the situation they are presented with?” he said. “We have to respond to criminal activity and if possible, and if it is safe for the public, to make that arrest.”
Two main demonstrations have been planned for Wednesday. The 13th Annual May Day March for Workers and Immigrant Rights will depart from St. Mary’s Church at 611 20th Ave. South at 3:30 p.m. The second, less-organized event will depart Seattle Central Community College at 6 p.m.
A post on the Puget Sound Anarchist website tells supporters to “attack with all of the anger and strength amassed over the past year.”
“Let us give May Day new meaning and memories to smile about in the weeks to come,” the post reads.
“There’s been a lot of chatter,” Capt. Fowler said of talk among anarchists and others about plans for May 1. He could not go into further detail, but said there has been nothing of significance.
Chief John Diaz and Deputy Chief Nick Metz have directed all officers, with minor exceptions, to be in uniform on May Day, said Capt. Fowler. He could not disclose exactly how many officers will be working on the streets and behind the scenes.