May Day Reflections and Photos by NCC Staff

Disclaimer: Each Staff Member speaks for themselves. These are not necessarily the views of the New City Collegian, we strive to remain neutral as a publication. However, each Staff member had their own unique experience on May Day and we believe that it is important that those are represented and expressed.

The New City Collegian Editor-in-Chief Alexander M. Koch’s article “May Day March Begins At SCCC: Ends With Pepper Spray & Flash Bang Grenades” will continue to be updated as necessary regarding arrestees and news related to the events of May Day. This post will encompass various NCC Staff members reflections, photographs, videos, and after-the-fact interviews.

There are more photos, reflections, interviews, and embedded video to be added over the course of the following days. Please check back for updates.

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Photographs by Dean Wenick.

To view more of Dean’s photos from that day, visit his site here.

A police officer raises his bicycle to use it as a shield during May Day protests in Seattle. Smoke rises in the air from a firework device thrown by a demonstrator. The march was organized without a permit as an anti-capitalist demonstration. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
A police officer raises his bicycle to use it as a shield during May Day protests in Seattle. Smoke rises in the air from a firework device thrown by a demonstrator. The march was organized without a permit as an anti-capitalist demonstration. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
A smoking projectile hits a policeman in the stomach during MayDay protests in Seattle, WA. 1 May, 2013. The anti-capitalist march did not have a permit and resulted in confrontations between protesters and police. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
A smoking projectile hits a policeman in the stomach during MayDay protests in Seattle, WA. 1 May, 2013. The anti-capitalist march did not have a permit and resulted in confrontations between protesters and police. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
A television camera is covered in Silly String sprayed by demonstrators at the anti-capitalism march in Seattle, WA 1 May, 2013. The march ended in a clash between police and demonstrators. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
A television camera is covered in Silly String sprayed by demonstrators at the anti-capitalism march in Seattle, WA 1 May, 2013. The march ended in a clash between police and demonstrators. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
Officer Collier of the Seattle Police Department prepares to clash with protesters. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
Officer Collier of the Seattle Police Department prepares to clash with protesters. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
Protesters dressed as clowns on bicycles lead a May Day march through Seattle, WA. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
Protesters dressed as clowns on bicycles lead a May Day march through Seattle, WA. Photograph by Dean Wenick.
Queer activists lead a May Day march in Seattle, WA.  Photograph by Dean Wenick.
Queer activists lead a May Day march in Seattle, WA. Photograph by Dean Wenick.

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Reflections By Josh Kelety.

It’s always hard to tell who threw the first punch. There were numerous instances like that during the May Day march. There would be a blur of action and then the slow rising roar of the crowd of journalists, marchers and general onlookers would swarm around the policeman and the detained individual. The truth got lost in the chaos as versions of what actually happened circulated the surrounding crowd. Most of these instances weren’t clear-cut. Some poor lanky kid was yanked from his bicycle and brutally thrown to the ground for apparently trying to cross the street in a temporarily blocked off area. He could have been persistent, maybe even aggressive and hostile towards the police. I’ll never know, I could only see their interaction from across the street and couldn’t overhear the exchanged words. It’s hard to say how the violence started, though the tension did seem to increase rapidly once the march was split up and the police could effectively aggravate and disperse the smaller crowds. The police reaction seemed very harsh. But tensions were running high at that time, and especially when a mob is shouting chants along the lines of “cops are killers” I can imagine authority figures feeling threatened and defensive.

A Protester Holds A Road Flare. Photograph by Josh Kelety.
A Protester Holds A Road Flare. Photograph by Josh Kelety.

It’s a fine line that both sides have to walk, a line between playing their various roles and alternatively abusing those roles. Usually both parties are trying their best to not be rash. Most of the march was peaceful, orderly and carried an atmosphere of positive political empowerment. When the first object was thrown at Nike Town boos from all over the crowd erupted in an effort to maintain an air of civility and non-violence. There were undoubtedly some individuals looking for trouble, and cops who were keen on bashing some skulls and taking names. The march did have a tradition to live up to, which it did splendidly, broken windows and all. That may be bad for the public image, and for the bus drivers who had to sit around waiting for the masses of people to disperse, but there are those who would say otherwise.

The 2013 May Day anti-capitalism march was very similar to what I pictured it being like. With the broad banner anti-capitalism, the march encompassed a wide range of people, interests and issues. One woman was there with her child protesting her inability to rent a home due to a previous felony charge, while others displayed signs with anti-war and pro immigration reform slogans. A few Anonymous supporters sported Guy Fawkes masks and anarchists proudly wore their bandanas. Then there were journalists and other onlookers that diligently followed the crowd, waiting for the sparks to fly. There was no single unifying political entity that was the organizing face of the event. The one thing that was shared throughout everyone there was a sense of general frustration and anger. Everyone had their own story, their own take on how they see the world and their own opinion of system we’ve built within it. It was an emotional venting process that opened up a valve for a cacophony of voices to express their rage towards the establishment.

Protesters. Photograph by Josh Kelety.
Protesters. Photograph by Josh Kelety.

The day after the march I’ve overheard several people discussing it and read the various coverage and commentary that local news organizations have released. I’ve heard people criticize the protest for it’s destructive anarchistic nature, that it lacked a clear message and was not the proper way to create change through civil disobedience. But was that ever the point? I will agree that politically winning the hearts and minds of people is best achieved through peaceful protest and a clear message. The trashing of the Capitol Hill’s streets did irritate me a little. In addition the destruction of property and a “fuck you” attitude probably won’t make people vote a certain way or get everyone to buy local. But that’s not what this past May Day was. No meaningful change was supposed to occur in consequence of the event. I’m sure no one participating expected any sort of reform. But for those who regularly feel marginalized, oppressed, constrained and generally unhappy with industrial capitalism, it was their chance to let it all out with others who felt similarly. It was a day of rage. And for those who participated it probably felt pretty damn good.

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Reflections By Joey Wieser.

One of the most beautiful days Seattle has seen in 2013, the spirit of the May Day march yesterday seemed to match that of the weather, warm and uplifting. Dance parties, a roaming jazz band and 400 or so supporters of May Day marched together to celebrate the anarchist holiday. As the evening proceeded, however, the protest went in a much colder direction, ending with at least 5 broken windows, a pepper sprayed crowd, 10 or more flash bang grenades going off, and 18 arrests made by the Seattle Police Department.

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The First Set of Arrests. Photograph by Joey Wieser.

A large speaker on wheels playing upbeat music throughout the crowd of anarchists kicked off the march at Seattle Central Community College at approximately 6:30 PM yesterday. Loud enough for everyone to hear, the music moved the march forward and occasionally sparked pockets of dance parties among supporters of the march. In the middle of the Broadway and Pine Street intersection, protesters stopped for a few minutes to let off smoke flares and chant “Whose streets? OUR streets!” causing traffic to halt in all directions. Almost every car watched with its window rolled down as the march went on by, and the drivers were all cameras and smiles. Route 10, 11, and 49 bus drivers seemed to be enjoying the event as well. With a front row seat to the march, one bus driver on duty appeared amused while he enjoyed a sandwich and some grapes during his unscheduled 15 minute break thanks to the protests.

Broadway & Pine Intersection. Photograph by Joey Wieser.
Broadway & Pine Intersection. Photograph by Joey Wieser.

Halfway through the evening, as the march made its way down Pike Street towards Westlake, many felt the tense pressure in the air as the large group approached NIKETOWN at 6th and Pike. Police were quick to the scene and created a barrier of bicycles keeping the marchers at least 15 feet away from the corporation. Many protesters mocked the police and the multibillion dollar corporation by shouting “Protect NIKETOWN!” During the May Day March last year, NIKETOWN had several of its windows smashed out. This year, its windows remained unscratched. Though a water bottle was propelled at the building in the presence of 30 or so policeman, no observable damage was done to the establishment.

KOMO 4 Newscaster hit with silly string. Photograph by Joey Wieser.
KOMO 4 Newscaster hit with silly string. Photograph by Joey Wieser.

Newscasters David Ham from KIRO 7 and Dan Humbert from KOMO 4 news stations were sprayed with bouts of silly string during live coverage of the march. One crewman from KOMO 4 was upset when silly string was sprayed inside his news van; meanwhile, Humbert smirked, giving the impression that he found the event rather humorous.

Suspected Undercover Cop. Photograph by Joey Wieser.
Suspected Undercover Cop. Photograph by Joey Wieser.

Once the group arrived at Westlake Center, Ian Finkenbinder, a Seattle Central Community College student and anarchist, spotted who he believed to be an undercover police officer taking photos of people against their wishes in the crowd. The man was dressed like a black block anarchist, wearing dark clothing, sunglasses, and a scarf to cover his face. When Ian confronted the man and asked if he was a police officer, he remained silent.

Police surround the area and barricade a 25 foot-radius while the first two arrests are made. Photograph by Joey Wieser.
Police surround the area and barricade a 25 foot-radius while the first two arrests are made. Photograph by Joey Wieser.

The march then took a turn for the worse. As the first arrests were being made in the middle of the street, the protesters ran to the see what was going on. Police officers encircled two detainees with their bicycles, securing a 20 foot radius in the intersection of 4th and Westlake. An arena of angry spectators and anarchists shouted out profanities and offensive names at the 50 or so officers surrounding the area, calling them “f***ing pigs” and “murderers.”

As the squad car backed its way through the unwavering crowd, the Seattle Police Department devised a plan to split up the protesters into two smaller groups to ultimately diminish May Day protesters large numbers. In a matter of minutes, several other arrests were made, and SPD announced over a PA system around 8PM that anyone who remained in the area would also be subject to arrest. Loud booms with puffs of smoke clouded the streets over and over again, leaving many unsure as to whether the blasts were caused by the police or the protesters. As it turns out, flash bang grenades were thrown into the crowd sporadically by police officers to disperse the activists; at the same time, an array of artillery shell fireworks was set off by a few marchers, which caused an illuminating light show of smoke and shock among the crowd.

Following the march, news media and police officers were stationed on every block from Westlake to Capitol Hill. After the march was over, several demonstrators smashed out windows at Bill’s Off Broadway, Walgreen’s, and the front window of a vehicle parked near Cal Anderson Park, as well as heavily littered the streets near Seattle Central Community College.

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Reflections by Alia Marsha.

A small group of people were playing music and dancing when the crowd of protesters stopped on Olive & 5th. The cops tried to push them back with their bikes. A SCCC student held a sign in front of the cops who later blasted pepper-spray right at her. “She was screaming, ‘I can’t see!’” said a witness.

“The bike cops got in between us and cut a fourth of the crowd off and pushed us up the hill,” she explained. “Basically [the cops] just kept trying to throw flash bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd and break us up,”

As the protesters made their way back up the Hill, things got ugly pretty quickly. Garbage cans and newspaper boxes were left scattered on the street. “We were walking up Pine and that’s when the kids started to smashing the Walgreens windows.”
A protester used his long board to break the windows of Walgreens.

Day-after photo of Walgreens broken, boarded up window. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch.
Day-after photo of Walgreens broken, boarded up window. Photograph by Alexander M. Koch.

Officers quickly blocked off Pine and the crowd attempted to go north on Broadway When the crowd got to near the north entrance of SCCC’s Broadway Edison building, the cops barricaded them once again. Realizing they couldn’t go down to any street, they ran to Cal Anderson Park, where they dispersed shortly after.

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Reflections by Nate Leese.

On their way down Pine, sections of protesters would stop and have a dance party, the music much louder downtown as it echoed through the condensed streets. The group seemed unorganized as some would walk down one street while others would stop or go the other way; they had to regroup several times on their way downtown. A man with a Nike bag burns a small American flag on the street before stamping out the flame, one of many contradictions throughout the day.

The first signs of serious disturbance was at Nike Town, a metal bar flew from the crowd and bounced off the back window of a cop car parked in front. One kid began screaming past the bike cops who were gathered on the sidewalk; his voice was breaking and pointing arm steady as he passionately shouted out against the use of slavery in the manufacture of Nike goods, his friend pulled him back into the crowd.

After the “Blast Balls”(BB’s) started to fly the protesters would disperse and then return to the front lines noticeably louder but with less voices as some would break off with fear, smoke or pepper spray clouding their senses. The protesters would fling objects in retaliation once regrouped and the cycle of BB’s and cops dodging objects would continue. After each set of BB’s, SP walked down the protesters cutting off small groups while herding the crowds toward Pine. It was hard to tell who initiated the violence but the BB’s definitely caught the biggest response, as people would run in chaos away from the blast before returning with the group.

I got cut off near Olive and had to run around a few blocks to catch up, on the side streets were protesters coughing and rubbing their eyes already broken off from the majority. One man was facedown screaming uncontrollably as his friends were trying to figure out what they could do to help. I reconnected with the group near Paramount Theatre as the cops cornered off all exits except the uphill Pine street heading to Capitol Hill. Onlookers were behind the cops holding up phones waiting for the next engagement while the remaining media members were dispersed amongst the crowd and up on an open apartment patio taking notes, photos and uploading content. Several more BB’s went off and the crowd began the journey up Pine, attempting to bring down construction fences along the way. The protesters called for support at the front lines using a speaker system but at this point most protesters had enough and began to retreat up the hill.

Once the protesters reached the top they began emptying trashcans into the streets and setting up a roadblock made up of Newspaper boxes, in a final attempt at protest, one hooded protester ran around breaking windows at Bill’s Broadway and Walgreens pharmacy, later on a window at Sun Liquor was also broken.

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