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What Phoenix Jones and his sidekicks encountered on May Day

When mayhem broke out late May Day, Phoenix Jones and his wife were having dinner at a restaurant.

Jones, having attended earlier events with his sidekicks, had thought the day would end peacefully.

“All of a sudden, the phone trips and there’s a riot going on,” he said.

Jones and his wife, also a self-claimed superhero who goes by Purple Reign, rushed to the car to suit up, then hit the streets. Reign was in full costume, but Jones only had on his bulletproof vest instead of his full signature garb.  

“All they saw was probably a funny May Day costume,” he said.

As mayhem unfolded in Capitol Hill, the two set out to fight crime, says Jones, confiscating sticks and at least one trash can from rioters. Some seemed puzzled by the interference from Jones, who, without his costume, appeared to be an ordinary bystander. 

“They were a little shocked,” he said. “I represented a concerned citizen."

At one point, Jones found himself cornered in an alley, dodging punches.

“About 15 of them were on me … I got punched, and took a few of them out before they all ran away,” said Jones, who says he has earned a black belt in three different disciplines of martial arts. “The second guy was unconscious by the time he went down, I’m pretty sure, because I was running forward at full speed.”

Jones sustained a swollen lip. Reign was not hurt.

Clowned by marchers dressed as clowns

Credit Justin Steyer
A superhero is seen on May Day 2013.

Jones had been on patrol earlier with some 30 of his sidekicks from the Rain City Superheroes Movement—Evocatus, Tomahawk, Captain Karma, to name a few.

Some were in full regalia and some dressed for undercover work. They had with them 20 small covertly-designed cameras.

“We take footage primarily to aid us in our investigation of why we did what we did,” said Jones, whose real name is Benjamin John Francis Fodor.  

Credit Aaron Hushagen
Two superheroes are seen at May Day 2013.

As thousand marched for workers’ right and immigration reform, the only trouble the superheroes encountered came in the form of a silly-string attack by marchers dressed as clowns. When one tried to spray Jones, “I put my hand up and my pepper spray, and I said, ‘You don’t want to be that guy,”’ he said.

Jones said he and his sidekicks accomplished what they set out to do.

“Absolutely, and here’s why. When we were out at the protest, there were thousands and thousands of people on the streets. Not one of us was hurt,” he said. “And that’s what we try to do—keep people safe.”

‘We can’t be under siege every May Day’

Credit Justin Steyer
A police officer is seen talking to Phoenix Jones and a sidekick on May Day 2013.

Of course, Seattle police were also heavily present for the march and rallies. Police say they don’t mind the superheroes as long as they stay out of the way.

“As long as they’re not interfering with what we’re trying to accomplish, they’re free to do whatever they want,” said Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson. “We just ask that if they see something that needs 911 help, they call 911.”

While Jones takes credit for helping keep the peace, he says police deserve kudos for their work as well.

“And I’m not even a cop lover, and I’m giving them a thumbs up,” he said.

The rest of the city, though, needs to shape up, said Jones. 

“Our mayor and our city council really got to step it up,” he said. “We don’t have time for you to bike around the city and legalize marijuana … We can’t be under siege every May Day.”

'Hopefully, he's learned'

Credit Justin Steyer
A superhero who goes by the name Captain Karma is seen being interviewed by KPLU reporter Gabriel Spitzer.

Police, for their part, hope Jones, 24, has become more cautious since he first set out to fight crime in 2009.

“At least he’s gotten better. He used to run head-long into these disturbances, and it used to escalate the problem,” Jamieson said. “Hopefully, he’s learned from that.”

Jones acknowledges the past few years have been a learning process.

“Once I understood what their concerns were, it was a lot easier to work with them,” he said. “They don’t want to shut me down; they just want to know I’m not breaking the law.”

Police say the superhero scene is not new to Seattle, or elsewhere.

“The one difference here is Phoenix. (He) is very good at getting his name out there, and that’s the one kind of novel thing,” said Jamieson. “And then it sort of evolved. He sort of took it upon himself to solve crimes, and I still don’t know how he does that.”

Jamieson added Jones had not solved any crimes to date.

“Maybe his presence has broken up a couple of fights out on the streets or something like that,” he said. “The bottom line is they’re sort of going to be a target, because they show up in costume … People want to be around them, or people want to antagonize.”