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Mayor: Safety trumped vandalism in May Day response

City leaders in Seattle are thankful there were no serious injuries yesterday – only property damage. Mayor Mike McGinn says he regrets the vandalism, but he says officer safety and the safety of bystanders were his highest priorities.

The mayor and his police chief held a show-and-tell news conference today to highlight the variety of weapons they confiscated during the May Day demonstrations.

Besides big sticks, they found sticks with nails, sacks of large stones, sheet-metal with sharpened edges, and McGinn says that left officers vulnerable. If they witnessed a crime, they still couldn’t pursue a suspect into a crowd of people all dressed in black:

“If you are going to send in officers one or two at a time, or a handful at a time, into a group of 50 or 70 people wielding the weapons you see in front of you, that would be an officer rescue situation, and we’re not going to do it that way."

Policed say the anarchist group was moving as a crowd, with only a few of them rushing out to smash windows. Once the vandalism started, Seattle police converged, and they broke up the crowd fairly quickly.

In response, the mayor signed a temporary order allowing any potential weapon to be confiscated – preemptively. Before that, officers had to wait until a stick or pole was used criminally.

Still, a few stores, some offices and banks had to replace their storefront windows and many had to close early, all of which cost them customers and money.

That made The Glass Doctor a popular guy in downtown Seattle’s retail core Wednesday morning – as businesses repaired the damage.

However, later in the day shopping had returned to normal. 

Kate Joncas, CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, says she’s frustrated about the damage and lost customers:

"We knew that there was threatened violence, and what we did didn’t prevent the violence, so we need to sit down and do an analysis of what we did. This is not going to be last time this happens, so we need to figure out what we can do better next time."

Police did meet with landlords and their private security teams in advance.

Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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