Seattle police detail challenges in stopping protesters from destroying property
President Joe Biden called for unity in the country during his Inauguration Day speech, but that didn’t stop a group of protesters from setting fires in Seattle and leaving a trail of destruction. The protesters said they wanted to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Seattle Police said they had a good idea the group was planning to cause trouble, even before it began.
“It was, by and large, the same crowd we’ve seen in these demonstrations for the better part of the last six plus months now,” said Sgt. Randy Huserik of the Seattle Police Department.
Chopper 7 showed a crowd of more than 100 people dressed in all black. By now it’s a familiar, if dreaded, group in downtown Seattle.
The crowd started gathering around 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Officers monitoring the group knew what was coming sooner or later,” Huserik said.
The group acted as suspected. Some in the crowd smashed up a Starbucks at Pike Pace Market, a major tourist attraction, forcing it to stay closed Thursday.
Tourists who came by were greeted by Starbucks employees to learn about the history and take photos outside.
“Really sad and bummed out. This is one of the things we were looking forward to — we drove 20 hours,” said Emily Gao, a tourist here from Los Angeles.
The group of protesters also smashed windows at a bank, a federal court house, and tried to breach a federal building that has offices for ICE agents. They also set fire to an American flag at 2nd and Spring in downtown Seattle.
They also ripped off plywood that was covering an Amazon Go store at 5th and Marion. They noticed the glass windows behind the plywood, and busted those too. The store had been targeted before.
“They are bound and determined to go out there and cause as much damage as possible. At this point, obviously, regardless of who is occupying the White House,” Huserik said.
Business groups are calling on elected leaders to condemn this violence and for the SPD to do more.
“The groups should be overwhelmed, arrests should be made, and we should prevent these groups from taking these actions,” said Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.
Seattle Police said they can’t do anything until someone starts breaking the law. While responding, their goal is to minimize use of force.
“When we try to withdraw, deescalate, it just seems to embolden them even more,” Huserik said. “Unfortunately with that group, by and large what they’re looking for is a confrontation with the police.”
The Seattle Police Department is also still under federal oversight for excessive use of force. There are also ongoing lawsuits from protesters about police treatment. Investigations and review into the SPD’s crowd dispersal tactics are also ongoing.
“It is a challenge,” Huserik said.
Something else that’s particularly difficult – the group appeared to have no end game, he added.
“It is frustrating to know here we are, at this point almost seven months later, we don’t appear to have made a lot of progress from where we were when we started,” Huserik said.
The SPD did arrest three people Wednesday night.
One had a court appearance on Thursday. Prosecutors said 33-year-old Justin Moore admitted to smashing the windows at the Pike Place Market Original Starbucks.
In court, his attorney said he was trying to stop other protesters. Prosecutors asked for a $5,000 bail but King County District Court Judge Lisa Paglisotti released him without bail on personal recognizance. Court documents show he is from the Los Angeles area in California.
Written by KIRO 7 TV reporter Deedee Sun