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Hundreds of people marched peacefully from South Seattle to Westlake in support of immigrant rights and a boost in the minimum wage on Thursday, while police said they were prepared for more aggressive crowds in the evening.
The 14th Annual May Day March for Workers and Immigrant Rights, organized by El Comite, was one of many around the U.S. on May 1, International Workers’ Day. Its origins date back to 1886 when thousands of Americans demanding an eight-hour workday walked off the job. The demonstrations continued for days and came to a head in Chicago, resulting in the Haymarket Massacre.
Seattle Police reported they were investigating property damage done Thursday morning on Capitol Hill. Graffiti was spray-painted on a bank reading, “Kill SPD.” There was also an anarchist symbol painted at a car dealership, and someone wrote “smash this window” on a restaurant window.
Seattle Police will escort marchers, but drivers should expect rolling slowdowns and heavy traffic as the crowd downtown around Westlake Park. Pine Street is expected to be closed for about four hours between 3-7 p.m. Check current traffic conditions.
King County Metro Transit says several routes will be disrupted. It has issued transit alerts for riders using downtown routes. Pine Street buses will travel via Union Street.
According to posts on anarchist websites, demonstrators will gather for a May Day Anti-Capitalist March at 6:30 p.m. at 12th Avenue and Spruce Street, near the King County Juvenile Detention Center. Other posts indicate that a second anti-capitalist march will take place at 6 p.m. at Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill and proceed downtown.
A May Day concert is also scheduled on Capitol Hill from Capitol Hill 5 to 7 p.m. at Seattle Central College.
Police say organizers have not filed for permits for these demonstrations, so it’s not entirely clear where crowds will move. SPD’s Captain Fowler told KIRO Radio protesters will be allowed to march through the streets, with or without a permit, until a crime is committed.
Seattle Police say they’ll have a large number of uniformed officers at Thursday’s rallies to make sure participants are able to safely exercise their First Amendment rights, respond to any unlawful behavior, and to direct traffic.
Captain Fowler said the Seattle Police Department has no intention of preventing anti-capitalist demonstrators from gathering on Capitol Hill, despite the fact that those marches have turned violent in previous years.
On May Day 2013, 17 people were arrested after demonstrations turned violent. Police deployed concussion grenades, pepper spray, and tear gas to disperse crowds of people throwing hammers, rocks, and bottles. Eight officers were injured. Photos from May Day 2013.
On May Day 2012, masked marchers dressed in black broke windows and doors on downtown banks and stores and tried to set a fire at a federal building. Vehicles had tires slashed and storefronts were covered with spray paint. Former Mayor Mike McGinn issued a special order allowing police to confiscate makeshift weapons; about 70 were seized. Photos from May Day 2012.
KIRO Radio and MyNorthwest.com will follow Thursday’s May Day events in Seattle. Check back for updates.
KIRO Radio’s Brandi Kruse and the Associated Press contributed to this report.