How much should it take to be arrested for a Seattle protest?

Apr 30, 2015, 12:39 PM | Updated: May 1, 2015, 1:26 pm

Seattle protesters block traffic and interrupt day-to-day life, but as long as they stick with the ...

Seattle protesters block traffic and interrupt day-to-day life, but as long as they stick with the city's protest policy they don't have to worry about consequences. (AP)


Three May Day demonstrations in downtown Seattle are expected to draw huge crowds and block streets.

The May Day protest, which argues for worker and immigrant rights, will cover about three miles from Judkins Park to the Federal courthouse at 700 Stewart Street.

Seattle police will escort marchers along the route. “Considerable” congestion is expected to occur throughout the afternoon and evening, according to the Seattle Police Department. The rally begins at 2 p.m., and the march is at 3 p.m.

Related: Mayor urges peace during Seattle’s May Day protests

There is also the possibility of several other un-permitted demonstrations throughout the day. An anti-capitalist march is expected to begin at 6 p.m. at Seattle Central Community College and Youth Service Center at 12th and Alder on Capitol Hill.

To start the day, a Black Lives Matter rally begins at 10:30 a.m. at MLK Memorial Park, located at 2200 Martin Luther King Jr Way S.

Seattle protesters block traffic and interrupt day-to-day life, but as long as they stick with the city’s protest policy they don’t have to worry about consequences.

Protesters don’t face charges unless exhibiting physical assault or resistance, damage of property, threats, harassment, or engaging in acts of deception.

“Most often, these cases present a delicate and difficult balance between preserving an individual’s rights under the First Amendment and maintaining the health and safety of our community,” reads an internal memo sent to staff in the Criminal Division of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.

But does that give protesters the right to disrupt people who are not involved?

“There are people being killed all around the world,” David Boze on AM 770 KTTH said. “Should everything come to a stop?”

Seattle Police Captain Chris Fowler told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show the department operates under the philosophy that they’ll make the events safe for the people who want to peacefully protest.

“They can take the street, walk around, get their message out,” Fowler said. “That’s certainly the philosophy we’re working under this year.”

Peaceful protests in Seattle, even if they block traffic, will most likely not result in people being charged. Protests are “part of our city’s culture,” Police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb previously told KIRO Radio. “We’re the Seattle Police Department. It’s our job to serve the people that live here. People want to come to Seattle to protest, we want to facilitate that First Amendment right.”

Cities, even those near Seattle, handle protests much differently. For example, the same group of people that organized a demonstration in front of a Seattle McDonald’s was arrested and charged for a similar demonstration in Bellevue.

The discrepancy with how cities handle protests and demonstrations is felt nationwide. Despite burning and looting, half of the protesters in Baltimore arrested were released without charges.

“And it’s frustrating,” Boze said on Thursday. “[A city] is burning to the ground, is it really that bad to make sure people who are participating are going to stay in jail?”

Protests in Seattle, that interrupt people’s lives, are probably not going to solve the nation’s issues, Boze said.

“How is blocking people from getting home going to help Freddie Gray?” Boze asked. “It’s not.”

Seattle police arrested 10 people on May Day 2014. No major damage was reported. In 2013, 17 people were arrested. Police reported metal pipes were thrown at patrol cars and windows, along with water bottles and other debris. Officers deployed pepper spray and stun grenades that year.

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How much should it take to be arrested for a Seattle protest?