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May Day mayday: City Council Raises Alarm Over Seattle Police Response To Protests

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Seattle Police arrest a man in Seattle during a May Day protest.

Seattle police could have been much more effective in how they handled May Day protesters when violence erupted on Capitol Hill Friday night, said the head of the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee.

It was during a debrief before the Public Safety Committee that chair Bruce Harrell laid into incident commander Captain Chris Fowler.

Harrell went so far as to say it seemed like police provoked the riot. He referred to a video, that’s gone viral, of a cop on a bike ramming a protester from behind and knocking him down.

"Why did that occur, because that seemed like from the video I’ve seen the first act of violence, the first act of unfairness?" Harrell asked Fowler. 

Fowler's response that "there was probable cause to arrest that individual” didn't satisfy Harrell or council member Nick Licata.

What exactly had this guy done and why arrest him in a way that might just set everybody off, council members wanted to know.

"We’re still investigating and we’ll get back to you," was Fowler's response.

Harrell and Licata also grilled Fowler about the use of flash bang grenades, which did cause some injuries. They asked Fowler how many were used and how well police were trained. Fowler said he would find out how many were used.

Before the debrief began, during the public comment period, some business owners did praise the police for their response on Capitol Hill last Friday night. But, some protesters were also on hand to criticize what happened.

"They were throwing out flash bangs like tiddly winks," said a man who identified himself as Bubba R.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.