Confiscated weapons stole the show at today’s press conference on police action during yesterday’s May Day protests. Mayor McGinn expressed his satisfaction at law enforcement response. “Their priority was the safety of the public and the safety of officers as well," he said, "and I believe that they accomplished that objective.”
Part of the response was a proclamation of emergency signed by the mayor at about 3 pm yesterday, allowing officers to confiscate items that could potentially be used as weapons. The confiscated items on display included a backpack full of homemade incendiary devices made out of orange juice cartons, as well as dozens of flag poles, some sharpened or with screws on the ends.
“I don’t know why we’re carrying this during a protest unless we’re gonna do some repairs," said community police team Sergeant Paul Gracy, holding up a confiscated hammer.
Many of the weapons clearly doubled as protective devices, such as helmets and homemade shields. One such shield, made out of a cylindrical black traffic cone cut in half and equipped with a rectangular peephole, looked suspiciously like R2D2’s anarchist cousin. The largest object confiscated by Seattle officers, also incidentally used as a shield, was a giant piece of jagged-edged metal siding equipped with wooden handles. The metal was spray painted with various phrases, ranging from “to the barricades once more, friends” to “Poop on the police.”
“These individuals are becoming more and more sophisticated,” said Gracy, speaking both of the weapons created as well as the offending protesters’ tactics of going against crowd flow and changing their clothing.
Of course, less-sophisticated standbys work as well — like the fist-sized rock that was thrown through Mayor McGinn’s dining room window at around 11:30 pm last night. “I’m thinking, apparently these guys didn’t confiscate all the rocks yesterday,” he commented.
Tuesday's events resulted in a total of eight arrests — all suspects between the ages of 20 and 30: one female, six from the region, and two from out of state (California and Vermont). Most were arrested on charges of felony assault, although one is charged with “malicious mischief.”
According to Officer Diaz, the Seattle Police Department will create a taskforce of detectives to survey video footage from the riots and expects to make further arrests in the coming weeks.
While there is no denying the extent of yesterday’s property damage, which has yet to be fully assessed, there were no injuries reported yesterday, despite the presence of what Gracy calls “lethal weapons.”
Confiscation of certain items may have prevented a potential escalation in violence, but it's impossible to know how many of the dozens of flags confiscated were done so unnecessarily. It’s hard to have a peaceful protest without signs and flags, and it’s hard to make a flag or a sign without poles and sticks, many of which have sharpened ends for the purpose of being plunged into the ground — not a neighbor’s eye.