Downtown Seattle President: ‘SPD needs to do better’ after tree lighting protest

Nov 27, 2023, 3:08 PM | Updated: Nov 28, 2023, 11:01 am

downtown seattle tree lighting...

People gathering in front of the Westlake Center, including dozens of pro-Palestine supporters. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Seattle, an annual tradition for the last nine years to unofficially mark the holiday season, was disrupted by pro-Palestine protestors Friday night.

“Some results went our way, some not,” Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), told The Gee & Ursula Show on KIRO Newsradio. “But the tree lighting did not go down as planned. Now, our team did their job. The city and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) unfortunately didn’t do theirs for what was a city-permitted event.”

More on the Christmas tree lighting: Ursula and Micki hosted Seattle Tree Lighting Celebration

Dozens of pro-Palestine supporters marched along Pine Street from 5th Avenue toward 4th Avenue at approximately 4:40 p.m., lasting until 5:14 p.m. when the Westlake Christmas tree was finally lit with a fireworks show that shortly followed, according to KIRO 7.

“SPD knew they were on their way downtown. They came downtown and they took over the stage, unplugged the sound, they knocked over tables and chairs and fences and commandeered property,” Scholes said. “And look, we completely respect people’s right to free speech and protest in public areas downtown. That’s what downtowns have always been about, and there’s a lot of conflict and emotion in our community — in our world right now and lots of good reasons to take to the streets.”

“But when you take over a city permitted event and you come onto your property, I think you’ve crossed a line and you are preventing others from exercising their rights to free speech and assembly and to take in a tradition that was planned and organized and paid for,” Scholes continued. “This wasn’t cheap to pay for. Lots of entertainment, staging and lighting to carry this out. SPD needs to do better.”

According to The Associated Press, the Israeli military reported 11 hostages have been released from Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip and returned to Israeli territory. It is the fourth such release under a cease-fire deal with the Hamas military group. Israel is to free 33 Palestinian prisoners later Monday, with the cease-fire set to expire Thursday.

Scholes cited the incident at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City Thursday, where more than 30 people were arrested after pro-Palestinian demonstrators jumped police barricades and glued themselves to the street.

“That would have happened here, but it didn’t,” Scholes said. “And we need a better strategy going forward. This is a big events town. We got a lot of big events coming up with the World Cup, Fan Fest and Winter Classic with the NHL in January. We ought to do a better job of managing these situations. The city didn’t do a good job on Friday night.”

More on local holiday festivities: Where to find the biggest display of Christmas lights in Wash.

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