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Mayor Durkan sheds tears over destruction in downtown Seattle

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Sunday, May 31.

“I visited downtown this morning and it wasn’t a downtown that I recognize,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said between tears. “There was much destruction and broken glass.”

46 devastating photos of Downtown destruction, vandalism
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Photos from Saturday night’s riot

The mayor emphasized that the destruction in downtown Seattle Saturday night was not the actions of protesters earlier in the day. In fact, she thanked those protesters for showing up downtown and in Lake City to peacefully demonstrate.

She also thanked the hundreds of volunteers who showed up Sunday morning to clean up the downtown core, bringing their brooms, tools, and plywood, to sweep up glass, board up windows, and scrub away graffiti.

Durkan said the Seattle Police Department will continue to process the scenes downtown and will hold people accountable.

“These were not the acts of allies,” Durkan said. “These were acts of people bent on destruction and chaos.”

Seattle Police Chief Best echoed the sentiments of Durkan.

“I’m angry. I’m angry about the murder of George Floyd. I’m angry at the justice system … I’m angry that people would come into our city and cause the level of destruction that they did.”

The chief said the department did plan for protests, but said the crowd Saturday night was something different. She said she hadn’t seen this type of thing in her 28 years of law enforcement.

“A lot of people came into town to cause destruction and mayhem,” Best said. “It was a unique situation last night.”

Best said she had officers out until at least 2 a.m. chasing people around the city who were throwing rocks and bottles. She compared what she witnessed in Seattle to other scenes around the country and commended her department.

“Not everything was perfect, but under the circumstances,” Best said, “… we didn’t have buildings burn to the ground. We didn’t have major injury.”

Police use of force

Durkan said there were no arrests made for violation of the curfew. The intent was to educate and encourage voluntary compliance. Best said officers were mostly focused on bigger issues.

The mayor said police use of force during the demonstrations will undergo scrutiny and review. She encouraged people who believe they experienced inappropriate use of force to report it as such.

“No one is going to use force and it go unnoticed and unchecked,” Best echoed.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins praised firefighters for keeping the city safe Saturday night, all while answering medic calls and responding to fires in Capitol Hill and West Seattle.

Durkan’s curfew, which Best credited with helping to move people off of downtown streets, is in effect Sunday from 5 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m. People are allowed to go to work, but the mayor reminded residents that the city is still under a stay-at-home order. The assistant chief for SPD asked residents who aren’t doing essential work to shelter in place after 5 p.m.

Best’s statement from late Saturday night:

I want to update you on events of today and tonight.

Currently, we are still addressing a number of groups of offenders who continue to assault officers and loot the downtown core, indiscriminately. The National Guard is assisting in controlling the situation downtown.

At last update we had arrested 27 individuals for a variety of offenses from assault, to arson, to destruction and looting. The priority is protecting life and ending the destruction.

At this moment we know multiple officers and civilians have been injured.

The Seattle Police Department was prepared to facilitate the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd we all are rightfully angry, sad, frustrated, and heartbroken.

Due to the actions of some groups who wanted to take advantage of this situation – what started peacefully around Noon, became violent and destructive around 2:40pm.

At that time, officers began being assaulted with rocks, bottles, and other projectiles. At 2:38pm the first dispersal order was issued as the demonstration became unlawful and then a riot.  Offenders were throwing and using incendiary devices including Molotov cocktails. These devices quickly ignited several city and private vehicles.

As the situation continued to intensify, protestors entered the freeway at Spring St and attacked government buildings. As these groups refused to listen to commands or stop their destruction, SPD officers then had to deploy crowd control measures to end the lawlessness as assaults on officers and property continued. At no time have officers discharged their firearms. There were countless uses of non-lethal and crowd control tools.

Protestors then started looting businesses. SPD asked, in addition to the significant number of planned mutual aid resources that had already been planned, for additional mutual aid, including National Guard resources.

At 5pm, the Mayor declared a citywide curfew from 5pm to 5am. This gave officers additional tools to disperse crowds, but the priority remains addressing violent crime and destruction by offenders already disobeying dispersal orders.

We are planning for the rest of the night and tomorrow. We will continue to respond swiftly to all acts of violence and destruction.

I want to commend all of the officers, from Seattle and our mutual aid partners, for their tireless work today to protect this city.

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