Tradition in Seattle has been that May 1 goes first to marching for workers and immigrant rights. Then the anti-fascists and anarchists take to Westlake Park, followed by a typically raucous march that ends when police break it up. Much of the same still happened this year, but the pro-Trump rally and march was a first.
The pro-Trump rally was expected by Seattle Police to create some problems when mixed with the anti-fascists/anti-Trump crowd. Police Captain Chris Fowler said during a noon press briefing that, even if not permitted, groups would be allowed to demonstrate, as long as it remained peaceful. If there was damage or violence, officers were going to arrest individuals, he said, and try to do so without stopping those demonstrations.
“I don’t know what I was expecting,” said a Trump supporter who identified himself as Mark. “This was the first time I’ve done any of this.”
Tensions were high at the beginning, with pro-Trump and anti-Trump demonstrators often squaring off in up-close, verbal altercations, but without any major skirmishes. At around 5:40 p.m., police arrested a 26-year-old Olympia man for allegedly throwing a rock at Fourth and Pine.
The pro-Trump group left Westlake Park about 20 minutes after that for a march, returning an hour later.
The next time a crowd gathered around a verbal confrontation between opposite protesters, Seattle provided a peaceful out — via marijuana. Rather than argue further, the feuding pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators rolled and smoked joints, then passed around a Pepsi — a nod to the soda company’s botched ad campaign focused on civil protest.
“I think that’s the most beautiful thing ever,” said Mark, who was one of those people that stopped arguing and smoked a joint, “and that’s what America’s about.”
It didn’t last.
Seattle Police issued an order of dispersal around 7:40 p.m., after fighting broke out on one side of Westlake Park. A 30-year-old Olympia man was arrested for having a fixed-blade knife. A 51-year-old Colorado man was arrested for obstruction.
Protesters stayed on the opposite side of Westlake Park on Pine, while others stayed outside the park borders. Police then began clearing the streets, arresting a 27-year-old Seattle man for obstruction, followed by a 19-year-old Seattle man who allegedly stole another demonstrator’s flag. The final two arrests occurred about five minutes apart.
Police used bicycles as shields, pushing protesters further down Fourth Street until Westlake Park was completely clear. Officers maintained a bike barricade for another 30 minutes.
At this point, most of the protesters had dispersed, and the demonstrations had ceased, save for some people marching with a “Fear God” sign.
Police later reported no property damage occurred this May Day, and no officers were injured.