Thousands of people across the US marched on May Day afternoon peacefully and held rallies for Black Lives Matter and for immigrants rights. However, a demonstration in the Capitol Hill residential district of Seattle descended into clashes between police and protesters on Friday night.
Police fired pepper spray and flash bangs to disperse the crowds after reportedly being assaulted with rocks and other objects thrown by black-clad protesters, who also smashed windows, overturned trash bins and damaged cars along the street.
Three officers were injured and admitted to the hospital. Several protesters reported injuries from pepper spray and projectiles fired by police. Sixteen were arrested.
“This is no longer demonstration management; this turned into a riot,” Seattle police Captain Chris Fowler, the May Day incident commander, said in a tweet after the situation turned violent.
The May Day events followed organised, peaceful daytime marches blessed by authorities, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, but gave way to violent confrontations between smaller groups of demonstrators and police as night fell.
In a statement Friday night, Murray said Seattle defends the rights of demonstrators to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, but that “what erupted tonight is a very different story.”
In the day’s largest event, an estimated 1,000 demonstrators found their way from Seattle’s Central Area to the federal courthouse downtown with police clearing a route for them.
Protesters annually assemble on May 1, marking the International Labor Day, as a day to focus attention on labor and immigration issues.
But this year demonstrators in cities across the country also used the occasion to rally against police violence that has become flashpoint after the death Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died from spinal injuries suffered while in police custody earlier this month.