SEATTLE -- A planned day of speeches and marches to commemorate May Day turned violent Tuesday after a group of a hundred or more black-clad, masked people embarked on an unscheduled march through downtown Seattle where they blocked traffic, smashed windows and grappled with police.
Businesses and buildings damaged in the chaos, which began around noon and lasted until after 1 p.m., include the Federal Courthouse, a Wells Fargo bank, a Homestreet Bank office, the American Apparel and Niketown stores and multiple cars.
At an afternoon press conference, Mayor Mike McGinn said a group known as the “Black Block” was responsible for doing extensive damage to the Federal Courthouse, and blocking traffic.
The group dispersed and ran when police arrived, McGinn said.
“A number of the core group of Black Block members returned to Westlake, where we saw some of them live on video changing back into street clothes and blending into the crowd,” said McGinn.
McGinn said he would use the emergency powers of the mayor’s office and issue an order for the limited purpose of giving police authority to confiscate items that can be used as weapons. The order will be in effect through the May Day events.
At least two people were arrested. A 19-year-old was arrested in the 400 block of Pike St. for carrying a fixed-blade knife and a 23-year-old was arrested in the 1300 block of 6th for vandalism.
Bus routes were disrupted and several businesses were sending employees home.
However, peaceful protests remained at Westlake Park, where speeches and concerts were continuing. A group called "Hip Hop Occupy Seattle" called for the crowd to protect each other.
In addition, a large number of students walked out of Seattle Central Community College, gathering for a march down Capitol Hill.
Seattle Police said people or businesses who had their property vandalized should call the SPD non-emergency line at 206 625-5011.
Protesters were being flanked by Seattle Police officers on bicycles. The Seattle Police Department said they plan to put extra officers in place at demonstrations, both in uniform and undercover.
Earlier this week, anarchist signs and websites were found advocating Seattle's protesters to "strike back" or "shut down the city."
Seattle May Day organizers said they have their own security forces. Both Occupy Seattle and El Comite will have a group of "peacekeepers" in the crowds working with police.
The Occupy Movement is also placing "peacekeepers" within their march from Seattle Central Community College to Westlake Park. They too said they ask troublemakers to stay away.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is scheduled to be at the El Comite demonstration at 6:30 p.m. He plans to tell them about his support of immigration reform.