Filed under: Action, Northwest, Police, White Supremacy
A collection of voices looks back at the first week of the George Floyd uprising in Seattle, in which police and National Guard violently clashed with thousands of demonstrators. Originally published on Puget Sound Anarchists.
In September 2020 a quiet call-out for submissions was put out to friends, comrades and accomplices to share personal experiences of the uprising that did in fact occur in Seattle as an organ of the George Floyd Rebellion. While we do not view our own contribution to the struggle against police and white supremacy as overtly exceptional in the broad landscape of insurrection that overtook our senses this summer, we find importance in reading and learning from our experiences for reflection and growth. We offer this collection as an attempt to glimpse the chaotic uprising that encompassed our lives and hope to provide an opportunity for those near and far to gain from it. The insurrection is very much over in Seattle. What lives and breathes now in its skeleton is much more like a giant octopus or squid, each tentacle representing a different arm attacking the city and the police in a variety of ways: through militant direct action in the streets, symbolic protest committed to raising awareness, mutual aid networks providing tools of survival for houseless folks as well as various legal and jail support teams.
There is a local story of a giant squid that lives in the Puget Sound, under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, south of Seattle by just 30 miles. Over the summer, the city had to shut down the West Seattle Bridge due to its imminent collapse, cutting off a large portion of the city from quick and easy access to the core neighborhoods. At the risk of diving into hyper-local politics in an article written for those near and far, the city government is wildly understaffed and physical aspects of the city are literally falling apart. Seattle, an Emerald city on a hill, is losing its shiny veneer. Water can eventually turn metal to rust. Perhaps the mantra of “Be Water” that haunted the city streets for months was more apt than we could have possibly imagined.
There are multiple voices present in this recollection. They are simply separated by italics, to differentiate from when one voice ends and another begins. This passage only covers the beginning of the uprising in Seattle, from the first night of riots (Friday May 29th) up until the opening of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone/Capitol Hill Occupied Protest when the Seattle Police Department abandoned the East Precinct (Monday June 8th). If you would like to contribute to the next series of personal recollections, please send an (anonymous) email to [email protected]
PHASE ONE: THE WORLD OPENS UP
Day One: Friday May 29th
In the 18 years I’ve lived in Seattle, I’ve never seen this city riot. It doesn’t seem to matter how many people the Seattle Police beat up, taser, or shoot – the city never really hits back. So when an FTP demo of 500ish (on the smaller side by Seattle standards) on May 29th transformed over the evening into a miniature window smashing melee that stretched across Downtown and Capitol Hill, I was pretty happy. After watching other cities do serious damage in the wake of George Floyd’s death, I thought to myself “this is the best Seattle can do” and went to bed early the next morning, content and not expecting much else.
At Hing Hay Park there were speeches, people milling about. I was anxious, having avoided crowds for many months prior and having felt defeated for many years by a feeling of stagnation in the streets, produced in part by years of the pigs continuously outnumbering and out maneuvering demonstrations, as well as a large part of the Left in Seattle refusing to outwardly support demonstrations that did not conform to particular kind of institutionalized Non-Violent Direct Action, and admittedly by anarchists and other radicals failing to reach outside of their tiny bubble. This night, it would turn out, would be different, as would each of the days that followed as people learned to feel powerful together again and in new ways.
Shattered window at Amazon go store. Protesters moving through downtown Seattle. pic.twitter.com/RdGBsebjWG
— Chris Ingalls (@CJIngalls) May 30, 2020
As the march left the park, it was a few hundred people, many in black bloc. I don’t remember much of its beginning. Chanting. A few large banners at the front. Sifting through the crowd and excitedly encountering people I hadn’t seen in so long as the demonstration snaked through downtown streets.
Somewhere between the park and the Amazon Go store on 5th and Marion, a familiar debate emerged about leadership that I don’t think I can do justice to here. It more or less fell along the lines of part of the crowd seeking a clearly defined leader of the march, who someone explained needed to be Black, and preferably a woman, whereas others insisted on a more diffuse mode of organization and leadership. The tension between these two groups became more palpable when the march arrived at an Amazon Go grocery store and some people began bashing in windows. Some people screamed, “We’re not here for that!” Others cheered. The news would later paint a classic ‘outside agitator’ narrative that would turn the very real tensions within the crowd into a tool of repression, claiming the ‘agitators’ had all been white and the ‘peace keepers’ had all been Black. This was simply not true.
Fuck the police Seattle for George Floyd . pic.twitter.com/zxt0mpNuOP
— astral trap / daribroko/ S6C (@AstralWytch) May 30, 2020
The march stayed in front of the Amazon Go store for a long time, some threw bottles at the police, others shined laser pointers into the ranks of riot cops who stood statuesque over a line of hippies meditating cross legged in the middle of the street. Around the corner, someone stood on top of a (non-fancy) car and threw an absolutely enormous boulder through the windshield. I don’t think any one person would really stand behind all of the things that took place on that corner (save the boulder for a Tesla!). It was cacophonous, tense, and conflictual on all sides.
Eventually the march split into two groups, with the “more organized” group moving up into the First Hill neighborhood and the rest of the crowd moving south towards the International District. I stayed with the second march as it moved south, stopping every few blocks and just hanging out in an intersection for 30 or 45 minutes. People milled about and yelled at lines of riot cops while others spray painted anti-cop slogans all over the walls in the little free spaces created in the two or three blocks around them. It was clear that people were hearing about the march through social media or their friends, and eventually a lot of teenagers started showing up, hanging out, yelling at cops, spray painting, and really more than anything just chilling in the street.
Finally, after what felt like hours of hanging out, first at this intersection, then at another and then another, the march began to move in earnest, heading east up Jackson St towards the Central District. At this point teenagers in cut-offs and crop tops far outnumbered those in black bloc, and the march was small – maybe 50-100 people, but it moved with intention, sprinting up Jackson and through a park in Yesler Terrace to get to the youth jail, where people quickly began tearing down fences and throwing rocks at the windows of the newly constructed building. It’s hard to express the joy I felt seeing this – the youth jail has been a contested space for so many years, but the physical facade has felt untouchable, with some anti-juvie groups explicitly discouraging direct action at the jail, and shaming people for organizing noise demos there. Even if nothing else had happened this night, this single moment would have convinced me that things were changing, that the city was regaining a capacity to directly attack the institutions that materially carry out the entangled and ongoing projects of white supremacy, capitalism, gentrification, colonization, and hetero-patriarchy.
From that point on the march moved quickly. The cops started tailing harder and people started throwing things and confronting the police lines. People were pissed, pent up, and also just happy to be in the streets with their friends on a summer night. Cops pepper sprayed people. The anger was palpable. At one point while I was washing pepper spray out of someone’s eyes, someone rushed up to us and exclaimed, “Give me something to throw!” I looked at him, wanting to help, but honestly I was a bit busy. Before I could say anything, he took the eyewash directly out of my hands and threw it at the cops. I turned back to the person whose eyes I’d been flushing out, but they were already running back towards the line of police.
These Seattle cops are out of control. The fact the were directed to turn off their body cams tonight is absolutely abhorrent#seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/etTO7XJZ1N
— ? kɾყթԵօ klҽթԵօ ? (@krypto___klepto) May 30, 2020
The march moved on into Capitol Hill, smashing every window out of the Ferrari dealership on Madison and 12th before turning west down Pike St. As we marched, I heard voices shouting from the crowd, “No small businesses, get a bank!” People were angry and at times chaotic, but they knew what they were there for. We had all just watched as George Floyd died saying the same exact last words as Eric Garner had six years earlier. We had all just watched, cooped up in our houses, as the federal government willfully neglected to address a virus that was disproportionately killing black and brown people. We had all just watched as Jeff Bezos made literally billions of dollars in a single day while the rest us of scrambled to figure out how we would pay rent and buy food. The message was clear: white supremacy and capitalism are the enemy, they are inextricably intertwined, and we will exact payment from those who profit while black people die.
Through the Pandemic I kept sharing my surprise that the Ferrari dealership didn't board up.
After being attacked last night, they are quickly fortifying their defenses today with rent-a-fences and wood planks. pic.twitter.com/k94P5WFvUd
— Paul Britton (@paulstorms) May 30, 2020
Moving down Pike, the march between sprinting and walking, closely trailed by a squad of bike-cops, stopping here to graffiti a wall, there to bust out the windows of a bank. Eventually the march came upon another Amazon Go store and people scrambled for rocks, smashed the windows and started handing cantaloupes out to the crowd. Some cracked the cantaloupes open on the sidewalk and scraped the orange fruit out with their hands, others threw the melons back at the still intact windows, laughing as they watched the fruit bounce and splatter on the ground.
Brand new Amazon Go Grocery store attacked. Not much if anything appears to have been stolen.
No @SeattlePD presence. cc @jseattle pic.twitter.com/pSYAiQSD6d
— Paul Britton (@paulstorms) May 30, 2020
Melons in hand and scattered across the street, a sprint started again and the crowd began to thin a bit. I looked at my friend and we decided that this could really just go on forever, and it might be time for us to go. We broke off on a side street and walked home, remarking with amazement at how the crowd seemed so fearless, determined, and ready to fight. We made plans to roll downtown the next day and parted ways, eager to see how the uprising would unfold from here.
Seattle #BLM protest aftermath (thread) pic.twitter.com/JFZA7cTQVF
— Occupy_ICE_NWDC (@occupyICENW) May 30, 2020
Day Two: Saturday May 30th
I’m fairly new to this city, but one thing I’ve noticed is that Seattle is a very segregated city. Working-class people of color are pushed to suburbs north and south of the city. Folks commute to work and socialize. In those first days of the uprising, the youth that had been pushed out, not only took part but added a level of militancy and coordination to the rebellion. That Saturday May 30th, the police were outmatched by youth from throughout Washington. It felt like freedom, because we had taken back the streets, and expropriated some essential goods, while police retreated.
I woke up late the next day and slowly pulled myself out of bed into a pair of fresh clothes. A mass demo had been called for today, May 30th, by community and faith organizations that normally rally in the wake of a police shooting. A little hungover and still sore from the previous night, I thought maybe I would just crawl back into bed and sit this one out. After all, the rallies that these organizations call don’t usually amount to much other than a symbolic nod at the underlying racial and class tensions hidden in the city. But I decided to roll out anyways. It was Saturday and I didn’t have much else going on, so why not?
Walking into downtown, the air was thick with the smell of tear gas and burnt plastic. In the distance, a pillar of solid black smoke curled up into the sky. People were streaming past us en masse, left and right, presumably to get away from the tear gas. We thought maybe we had missed it and the demo was over. But when we got to Westlake, the city square in the center of downtown, the streets were full of people still. We showed up just in time to witness the windows of the Old Navy come crashing down, as a crowd of young people streamed in to grab whatever merchandise they could get their hands on. A block away, a cop car was completely dismembered, and not far from that, another one was burning brightly. Droves of young people, black, brown, Asian, and white, were smashing glass and grabbing whatever they could. A window to a store would come down and while some kids were looting, others were building barricades and throwing whatever they could find back at the police, all while chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
Smoke from #SeattleProtest fire outside @Nordstrom HQ visible from Cap Hill. pic.twitter.com/T7kpHpGNER
— Paul Britton (@paulstorms) May 30, 2020
The rioting and looting went on late into the morning again. Cop cars were burned. Every major store in downtown Seattle was looted. There was a thick layer of graffiti covering almost every square inch of downtown. The city was entirely trashed and there was nothing the police or these neo-liberal faux progressive politicians could do to stop it. I’ve never felt more proud of my city than that day. The best part is we did it all under a heavy rain, in classic Seattle fashion.
this my favorite video from the seattle protest pic.twitter.com/oHh7Mgxdmw
— Uncle Nate (@natejayour) May 31, 2020
When I finally got home that night, completely exhausted and still burning from pepper spray, I have to admit I was slightly in shock from the day’s events. I had never witnessed anything like it. Cruising through social media though informed that the action was far from over, and I was reading that people were getting trapped inside of stores by police, allegedly mid-looting. I hopped in the car with a friend to go cop-watch, an activity I don’t do often but have found that it has legitimately had an impact on whether a not a police officer will arrest, ticket or physically attack a person of color. The news cameras had all left downtown, chased out by rioters or tear gas, and without anybody to watch we were worried the police were going to beat these people, if not worse. We parked in one of the few quiet blocks in the downtown area, and didn’t get more than two blocks from the car when we saw cars backing up into storefronts, people hopping out to load up the trunks of cars. There were crews of ready and experienced people, willing to enact their revenge on a city and system of corruption that has held impoverished people hostage for hundreds of years. We quickly realize we were in over our heads, not only was there nothing we could do after curfew to attempt to hold the cops in check, but we didn’t want to get caught up in some shit and get mistaken for a concerned citizen.
Downtown Seattle Nordstrom gucci and Nike stores etc, completely whipped out.. dam pic.twitter.com/T3cvCJBGTx
— ItBoy ? (@ItsThatItBoyy) May 31, 2020
Once we got in the car, we learned that police had chased a crew of people, presumably more young rioters and looters, suspected of attempting to break into a legal weed shop, into the Central District with a K9 unit. The historical legacy of police using dogs to attack civil rights protesters, and slave catchers using dogs to capture runaway slaves, did not escape us and we proceeded directly to the Central District, despite the curfew. A friend of mine called to tell me he had been walking around in the area, and had had police address him via loudspeaker from the car: “Go to your home immediately. We have employed a K9 unit, there are police on foot looking for looters. Return your home immediately.” We got to the block behind the weed shop and noticed too many cop cars to count, police on foot in every direction. It became immediately clear that attempting to cop watch in this context was no safe activity, and I turned the car around, only to get pulled over less than a block later. The cop informed me that there was a curfew, that I needed to go home, and that I had been pulled over because they were looking for people who had broken into the weed shop down the street. Neither me nor my friend are Black, and upon noticing my best attempt at faked-shock, the pig assured us, “Don’t worry, you don’t match the description of the subjects, you can go home!” The racialized tone was clear.
Day Three: Sunday May 31st
Before the morning could properly pass into midday, droves of “good Samaritans” had flocked into downtown Seattle, and before evening all of the graffiti throughout downtown Seattle had been cleaned under the false banner of “solidarity.” Solidarity to what, racialized capitalism? An image of people scrubbing over a large tag that simply reads “RAGE” painted onto the Washington State Convention Center that hosted the World Trade Organization “talks” in 1999 has been burned into my memory. Large, mostly symbolic protests swarm throughout downtown and Capitol Hill on this day.
The following day, Sunday the 31st of May, Seattle had multiple demonstrations throughout the city. The youth that had brought the coordinated attacks on corporations in the financial district the previous day, took their focused attacks on malls and capitalist box-stores in their own suburban cities throughout Western Washington. After I checked out the march in Seattle for a few hours, I headed to Bellevue, a wealthy suburb. Reports had came in that the mall was being targeted by protests, and I wanted to go observe from a distance.
As I arrived I saw many young folks out in the streets. The police were out in full force as well, protecting the wealthy neighborhood. People were out of their condos and multi-million dollar homes, on their cell phones, calling the police on anybody they thought to be suspicious. While there were plenty of white youth who took part in the looting in Bellevue, it was clear that the police were targeting youth of color in particular. I was chased by riot police and surrounded by a riot van and had guns pointed at me, just for being in the area, after I saw them let white youth walk right past them. The race contradictions here in Washington are definitely magnified. I was eventually transferred to King County Jail, along with other youth who took part in the uprisings throughout the different suburbs that day. The majority of us were Black and Brown.
My strongest memory of this day is from when a massive march was winding its way through Capitol Hill and a police van tried to slowly drive through the march. I stood in front of the van, attempting to block its way and encourage others to resist this obvious police intrusion. A large man grabbed me and pulled me out of the way, yelling at me to not start shit. Here we are, in the beginning of a unique anti-police uprising, and this man was going to physically prevent me from rather symbolically obstructing the police. I couldn’t believe it. I was alone in a crowd.
A face-off with police lined up in front of the East Precinct in Capitol Hill ensued, including a chorus of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” and everybody taking a knee in front of the cops, as well as the first real public appearance of “Boots” & David Lewis, “official protest leaders” who would ultimately expose themselves as police-collaborators and eventually be shamed from further participation. Protests continued throughout the evening, including face-to-face confrontations downtown with the National Guard that were ultimately without incident. Militant direct action and looting pretty much ceased in Seattle, instead spreading to many suburbs in the area including Bellevue and Tukwila.
Day Four: Monday June 1st
This day would mark the beginning of a new ritual, consisting of a large and majority peaceful crowd marching and rallying in front of a police-line at the intersection of Pine St. & 11th Ave, packed in tight together despite social-distancing recommendations, listening to numerous speeches, oscillating between kneeling and standing, only to eventually be brutally attacked by police in response to a single water bottle being thrown, or without provocation at all. While the optics of this material practice are intoxicating, it’s important to remember the politics on the ground at these demonstrations. Peace-police abound, anarchists were believed to be boogeyman-secret-police-outside-agitators-white-boys (no one could agree on a single accusation), and literally any physical action taken against the police at this time was popularly viewed as an action against the movement. I remember our collective ventures into the streets to join these symbolic expressions of street-power as feeling so fleeting. We would leave the house feeling curious, march and stand feeling confused, and head back home feeling utterly dejected and uninspired. There was absolutely no way to know what was to come within a week’s time.
This article from the New York Times does a fairly good job representing the escalation of violence on behalf of the Seattle Police Department.
“Everyday! Everyday! Everyday!”
That’s a new one. I chuckled to myself as I heard the crowd chant it. I was imagining the sinking morale of the Seattle Police Department. A heterogeneous mass of people fed up, declaring their rage. I have only sampled this type of energy while in bloc in FTP marches. In those FTP marches, the chants are utilized to maintain our own morale in the face of an enemy that seems to have all the advantages. But this was different. It wasn’t just a tool to help us, it was a weapon, an attack. Maybe that’s the difference between those previous FTP marches and the siege of a Police Precinct. The other major difference was the composition of the crowd. It wasn’t exclusively made of anarchists dressed in our finest shades of black. This was different. One of the most diverse collection of black folks I have ever seen in Seattle (as a life long resident). Karens and Beckys in training, sipping white claw screaming “fuck the police” and yelling “black lives matter.” Seasoned rebels with gas masks, street medics, and bike scouts. Heterogeneous is an understatement.
Day Five: Tuesday June 2nd
A second day of confronting the police at the East Precinct begins. Masses of umbrellas arrive to the frontline, becoming a symbol of the unfolding uprising, a nod to Hong Kong yet uniquely Seattle in this place that is usually marked by unending months of rain and cold. The stand-off primarily remains just that, standing and not much else in regards to trading blows or projectiles with the police. It isn’t until late in the night when the police shoot and throw crowd-dispersing chemicals and protestors bump back with fireworks.
Most people who were arrested for protesting were thrown in cells together at King County. I met youth from as far as Yakima, to Everette, and Tacoma. We were all arrested in different cities for the most part, but for us arrested in Bellevue, we were Black and Brown, facing felonies. The white comrades being held with us, were also facing other serious charges, so they weren’t released the next day. Many of them were young, 18, or in their early 20s, and this was their first time getting arrested. There was solidarity among us, and we watched mass demonstrations in Capital Hill from the jail windows. We joked and made fun of the guards. The older arrestees talked to the younger folks, about what to expect, about their rights, and to stay in solidarity with each other; to not say anything that would incriminate themselves to anyone, even when talking amongst ourselves casually, because you never know who’s listening. We were held for two days, and it was uncertain when we would even go to court, being that court was canceled due to an alleged bomb threat. When all our names were announced for release that Tuesday, we all celebrated with each other.
Walking out of the county jail we were greeted by members of the Puget Sound Prisoner Support collective. They gave us snacks, and linked us to resources. It was a good feeling to be met by other comrades who had our backs. New friendships were built that weekend between some of us who were arrested and our comrades who supported us from the streets, lasting to this day still. We built and grew our comaraderie through fighting injustice in the streets and in their jail cells. Our comaraderie was built through fighting injustice in the streets and in their jail cells. I think for me, not being my first experience with arrest, these moments just make it more clear that I can’t stop fighting until we have a world without cops or jails.
Many of the umbrellas on that front line are from our couriers coordinating last minute drop offs. After our drop off, the front line mass nearly doubled. Your donations are making a huge difference y’all. Thank you ???https://t.co/kQhEZpAF9P
— Evelyn 周采妮 ?? (@evelyntchow) June 3, 2020
“Everyday! Everyday! Everyday!”
You hear it rise from within the tears gas and over the flash bangs. As the smoke clears people fill in and it gets louder. You recognize Bernie Bots helping the black clad riot ninja. You see an injured accomplice and yell “MEDIC!” and one magically appears at your side, often already tending to the brave soul who took shrapnel to the ankle. All of a sudden you’re at the frontlines antagonizing the cowards in state-funded riot gear. As the chant rattles in your head, your fear loses its fuel. You’re filled with fires of determination. You will maintain.
Day Six: Wednesday June 3rd
After nights of violent police action and a massive presence in the streets, former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver leads another massive march through Seattle to City Hall, where Mayor Jenny Durkan addresses the crowd. Durkan is met with a negative reception, and the spectacle of politics and discourse with power grows another day older. It must be said however that the sheer number of people in the streets protesting the police and white supremacy is indeed impressive. Seattle has been quiet, polite and largely kept to itself, refusing to step outside of accepted norms and boundaries for protests. While this particular protest did not seem interested in stepping outside of those norms, the amount of people participating in such a symbolic protest was indeed unprecedented for recent times. Recent times have no measuring stick here though, it’s clear that we have stepped into a completely different world than the one we inhabited just one week prior.
Well if that isn’t the most ominous looking photo of the day. #seattle #seattleprotest #SeattleProtests https://t.co/BL4oIS6NvW pic.twitter.com/B0jNPSBMD3
— Cortana, but sp00ky ??☠️ (@CortanaV) June 8, 2020
Day Seven: Thursday June 4th
is this… a #seattleprotest ? pic.twitter.com/22I5q0jXWh
— Jules is school'd and spoopy (@kocooked) June 5, 2020
Day Eight: Friday June 5th
Despite everything, I still have to work, I still have rent and bills to pay, and the restaurant I work at is still open. Seemingly as well to spite it all, my co-workers and I are all just absolutely glued to our cell-phones, watching various livestreams of the stand-off in front of the East Precinct as well as marches, demonstrations and riots across the country. The image of the charred-remains of the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis is burned into our minds as we share meme after meme with each other, celebrating attacks against the police and white supremacy. I’m absolutely thrilled to share a workplace with people who I also share the streets with, and it makes these shifts the most fun and purposeful I’ll ever remember in the restaurant-industry. The sense of camaraderie is stronger as we work diligently to get through the night so we can get back into the streets as soon as possible. We share stories of injury, we share outrage at peace-police, and we share drinks as we close out the restaurant and prepare extra food to bring to the frontline. Despite having worked in the same place as each other for years, this is the first time it feels like the three of us are actually working together. We head to Capitol Hill, and head into the stand-off with boxes of food in our hands. We make vague plans to check in with each other before the night carries on too late, and then lose each other in the crowd of people eager to eat what we’ve brought.
Day Nine: Saturday June 6th
Here we go again…stay safe Seattle!!! ✌???❤️? #SeattleProtest #SeattleProtests #BlackLivesMatter #OneLove pic.twitter.com/rdGsW7f0aT
— The Love Bar (@lovebarofficial) June 7, 2020
Day 10: Sunday June 7th
From a flyer handed out at a Martyrs’ Vigil that was installed next to the site of ongoing stand-offs with the police:
“Since the George Floyd rebellions began on May 26th, 2020, following his horrific murder by police, at least a dozen more lives have been taken by state and vigilante violence in the struggle for Black freedom. We wish to honor them by making space to say their names, commemorate their lives, and celebrate our own resistance, by acknowledging the risk we all take when we move into the streets.
We remember the martyred and continue to fight for the living.
Bring candles, flowers, letters.”
A banner hung above the vigil reads:
Mourn the Dead and Fight Like Hell For the Living
Calvin L. Horton
David “Yaya” McAtee
From the Puget Sound Anarchists post “Notes From a Martyr’s Vigil on the 2nd Sunday”:
June 7th, around 8pm, people gather for another consecutive day of rallying around Cal Andersen park in a soft siege of siege of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. Umbrellas have moved to the front of the crowd to face the police line. The fence that had been erected by the city has been removed. The police passive aggressively threaten violence every 15 minutes or so. A vigil is being assembled a little ways away from the line of SPD riot cops and Washington National Guard soldiers at 11th and pine.
A banner goes up for the vigil that lists the names of those killed by cops and vigilantes during this uprising. Candles are placed in front of images of the fallen. Pamphlets and spray paint cans were distributed among the crowd. The whole block becomes a mural like notes in the margins of some book about our collective mourning and rage and rebel joy.
Accompanying the vigil are calls for amnesty for those arrested during this uprising. A banner hanging next to the memorial reads “Amnesty for all! No bad protesters. No good cops.” Slogans demanding that rioters, looters, protesters, live-streamers, all those who are fighting against this anti-black world and its police are set free spread out all over the scene.
Aside from heckling the police, the mood is relatively calm. This calmness is interrupted by screams. A car is barreling down the street with, swerving into people, with seemingly every intention of plowing into the crowd. With decisive action one comrade throws one of the removed police barricades in front of the vehicle and another goes for the driver stopping his vehicle. A loud bang is heard. People scatter. Is it a police blast ball? The comrade who went for the driver is reeling on the ground. “Gun!” people scream. Medics immediately assist the comrade on the ground and apply pressure to his wounded arm. A man emerges from the vehicle brandishing a pistol with two magazines tapped together. Clearly he has prepared to shoot multiple people. In the confusion he tucks his gun into his hoodie and slinks towards the protection of the police line, giving them a thumbs up before they arrest him and pull him behind their phalanx.
If people had listened to the police and not taken apart their barricade and used it for their own devices there could easily have been a casualty. If a comrade didn’t risk his life in an attempt subdue the driver there easily could have been a casualty. We protect us. Not the cops. All over this country cops and reactionaries are running their cars into protests. They’re not only firing on crowds, they also act as an occupational force in black communities and elsewhere enacting violence on target peoples. This reality has been made viscerally clear.
After the wounded comrade is walked to an ambulance away from the police line things begin to calm a little. Confusion is in the air and some arguments ensue about the logic of handing the attackers vehicle over to the police ensue, tempers flare. Some nonsense about the cops needing the vehicle for evidence is spouted as if we can trust the people we’re literally protesting for being so vile and who also have been attacking us every night. All in all though things were calm.
Throughout the night the graffiti spreads from the vigil and pops up all over has it has for the past week. “Fight the cop in your head.” is scrawled on dumpsters that have been dragged into the street on one of the dozen barricades that have gone up.
Eventually the police attacked and used the tear-gas the mayor lied about banning. Much more could be said about that night, but the next morning the vigil remains. The following morning workers hired by the city clean up the voices of black radicals washing away tags like, “Black Girl Commune” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.” They may have removed some of the writing, but soon after people have once again returned to that very intersection, taking risk so that they may continue the struggle for black lives/liberation and against police repression.
Check out this photo of the man who reached in and punched a would be gunman during a Seattle protest. Photo courtesy of @seattletimes pic.twitter.com/9suP7fEMfA
— Pingsteal/PNG Radio (@Pingsteal) June 8, 2020
The most joyous occasion came upon me in the hours after the shooting at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). Everybody’s response was a complete iteration of the fact that we don’t need police to protect us. One of the front-line demonstrators who have been at the demonstrations every day helped to stop that person from driving their car into us. The driver shot him, and street medics began applying a tourniquet before the assailant had even gotten out of the car. Within hours, every street that led to the demonstration outside the precinct was blocked by repurposed police barricades, literal fucking boulders, peoples cars, and lines of people standing with their bikes. The numbers of the demonstration swelled to an even greater attendance. In the face of increasingly violent police repression, as well as reactionary attacks from behind, those of us in the streets showed our dedication to each other to prove that a world without police isn’t just a political statement, it’s a solution to the violence of our lives.
“Everyday! Everyday! Everyday!”
Chuckling to myself again on my way to grab some pizza. I head back to help table next to the vigil/memorial for those martyred since the siege and burning of the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis. About an hour earlier, a shooting occurred twenty feet away from the table. This is pushed from my mind as the chant rises in response to SPD’s warning to not remove the police barricade. They try to assure us it’s for our own protection. The chant defiantly drowns out the pleas from the police to not encroach any further. I hear it again as we disassemble the zine distro. A while later, in response to the order to disperse, the chant rises again, only to be silenced by flash bangs and tear gas. Barricades of the people quickly form and are lost. As I am checking in with my friends, the police line, reinforced with the National Guard, stops progressing. After creating barricades to protect our rear and our flanks. I hear the chant rise again. This time through gritted teeth and hoarse throats. The crowd my have been split but the siege held.
While all this has been happening, there has been a candlelight vigil to George Floyd on 11th. #seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/f2FacKMrio
— Jake Goldstein-Street (@GoldsteinStreet) June 8, 2020
Day 11: Monday June 8th
Another day in the new normal cross-section of Covid-19 and the George Floyd Rebellion, the highly flammable concoction of racialized class violence. Rumors abound that the National Guard, who have bolstered the ranks of SPD for the last week at the orders of Governor Jay Inslee, are finally leaving town. The whirlwind of news, rumors and hot-takes is equally intoxicating as well as simply boring when compared to actually being in the blocks surrounding the East Precinct. Each street leading away from the lines of police barricades are lined with restaurants, previously closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, who have opened their doors to offer up hot food and restrooms to protesters for free. Organic autonomous action seems to parallel at break-neck speed with organized networks to provide resources and mutual aid for everyone who comes out to participate in the ongoing revolt against the police. It’s impossible to find any kind of uniform politic of the protesters challenging the hegemony of police violence.
The Marshall Law Band seems to be the icing on the top, signifying just how joyous and truly chaotic all of this is. You can walk to Pine & 11th and get pepper-sprayed, yell at the cops, watch people in bullet-proof vests do tricks with BMX bikes, and get yelled at for being an “outside agitator” in black bloc, and then walk one block over and find The Marshall Law Band, an ensemble with a rotating cast of musicians playing renditions of classic protest anthems and funky originals. I specifically remember one afternoon when the cops had started throwing flash-bangs and shooting tear gas at the crowd, causing a stampede and total panic, and I saw The Marshall Law Band calmly putting their instruments down and starting to wrap up their chords. I worried they would be targeted by the police, and ran over asking if they needed help getting out of there. One of them didn’t even bother to look up at me, simply shrugging me off with a “Nah, we good.” They carry on in this fashion every night.
There have now been multiple pickups full of police equipment LEAVING the east precinct. Yesterday framed items and boxes were seen leaving. A mobile shredding truck also arrived earlier. #seattleprotest #seattleprotestcomms pic.twitter.com/Y5ALUWDXLo
— matt ?♂️ (@mmitgang) June 8, 2020
Without fail, SPD shooting practice begins, with us as the targets. Tonight is remarkably violent. It is abundantly clear SPD is shooting blunt objects and crowd-dispersing chemical canisters directly at protestors—my friend was hit twice within a couple of minutes in the same area. One protestor was hit directly in the chest with a flash-bang, momentarily killing her. Fast-acting street medics saved her life and ensured she arrived to a hospital. I’ll never forget watching what seemed like all of us rush towards the fallen comrade with our umbrellas extended, as if they would stop all the rubber bullets and teargas coming our way.
Here is another view of when it all started. This protest was peaceful so so many hour, until the police decided that it wasn't. Email city council at [email protected] and demand the article of impeachment be submitted for Mayor Jenny Durkin. Remove her. #seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/lgKaFppSGl
— Defund The Police (@DefundPDs) June 8, 2020
Seattle PD hit a 21 year old female directly in the chest with a stun grenade.
Volunteer medics & protesters rushed to her aid. After being carried away, she was unresponsive, with no pulse.
They revived her. She’s in critical condition. Smh. pic.twitter.com/5QhxbnXcJ3
— Rex Chapman?? (@RexChapman) June 9, 2020
My friend and I had to leave. Their legs had been shot up by police munitions, and I had simply inhaled too much teargas to jump back in the fight. It feels strange to call it a fight now, because people would scream at you to stop provoking the police if you fought back at all after they shot up everyone with all crowd-control tactics on hand. But the rage and frustration, all the emotion, the injuries, it certainly feels like a fight now. Guzzling a bottle of water helped my lungs to stop burning from the teargas, but the cops left me feeling powerless and that feeling wouldn’t wash away. We passed multiple burning dumpsters on our way home, complete with groups of people arguing whether to put the fire out or let it burn. The crosswalk is still charred, months later.
Looking at these photos, if I didn’t know this was Seattle, I would’ve said wow this looks like a war zone. The fact that it IS Seattle & it was done by our police reinforces my belief that we need to defund SPD.
Photos by @lindseywasson #DefundSPD #DefundPolice #Seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/uJsch5n6Kh
— Yan Teague (@yansquared) June 8, 2020
Hours later, the police simply packed up and left, abandoning the East Precinct. Undeterred by uninhibited violence, crowds swelled around the intersection that had previously been occupied by a hyper-militarized police force. In the absence of the police, things calmed down considerably.
11th and Pine is a far different scene than last night. pic.twitter.com/D6e1zIeUbp
— Alex Garland (@AGarlandPhoto) June 9, 2020
Even Fox News came to capture the glamor and glory, and were frankly told right off:
So glad I caught this beautiful nugget from tonight’s #seattleprotest.. Right before I started screen recording he said “fuck republicans, fuck the police, and fuck fox news!” ?? best live stream on IG hands down. #BlackLivesMatter #fuck12 #fuckfoxnews pic.twitter.com/1pd7INdjxt
— Liz (@lizaf15) June 9, 2020
In the absence of the police, people quickly move in to fill the physical void left on the block surrounding the intersection of Pine St & 12th Ave, some setting up camp on the sidewalk directly in front of the police station. Some take up long-arms and other guns in an effort to provide “security” for the protestors. The dynamic of guns among protestors will continue to be an incredibly divisive issue throughout the development of this occupied semi-autonomous zone, but as rumors abound that armed Proud Boys are on their way to attack protestors, people are thankful for the veil of safety.
This intersection in Capitol Hill is transformed. Activists have completely taken over the area, barricaded the roads, and set up medic/ food tents. The East Precinct boarded up. No police present. #seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/nq5vYxeX22
— Casey?Martin (@caseyworks) June 9, 2020
Police scanners reported a group of armed Proud Boys marching from Westlake Park in downtown Seattle towards the East Precinct. Anti-fascists quickly mobilized and roved downtown in multiple patrols, looking for this phantom group of armed nationalists. Upon finding not a single solitary Proud Boy, we realized that the police had plainly realized that protestors were listening to the scanner for the purpose of “gathering intelligence” and took advantage of that vulnerability to spread panic and chaos on the frontline. Simply put, it worked.
Despite rumors and threats of violence, the night passes more calm and quiet than the 10 days and nights of police violence the preceded it.
Day 12: Tuesday June 9th
The sun rises on an abandoned East precinct. Despite the last 11 days being completely without precedent, none of us could have foreseen this. Walking through the intersection in front of the precinct, this block formerly filled with an over-abundance of militarized police forces, one can’t help but feel like the sudden peace and quiet is rather sleepy in contrast. People slowly pass through as if in a trance. We did it, we kicked the cops out. Or did they leave of their own accord? Hence the birth of the CHAZ, the CHOP, or as one friend calls it CHAZ-CHOP-CITY, and thus the end of phase one of the George Floyd Rebellion in Seattle. There are more phases and chapters to this story, they are even still being written and acted out in the streets and our homes.
SPD warning demonstrators not to advance, saying they don’t want situation to “devolve” at the #seattleprotest pic.twitter.com/AZYr77jn2t
— Shauna Sowersby (@Shauna_Sowersby) June 8, 2020
If you wish to contribute to the ongoing reflections of the George Floyd Rebellion in Seattle, Phase 2 will focus on the time frame of the CHAZ, the CHOP, the CHAZ-CHOP-CITY, from June 9th up until when the police swept the whole area, arresting dozens of people in the early morning hours of July 1st. Again, send your reflections to [email protected]