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12 officers injured, 2 protesters arrested in Seattle as multiple businesses vandalized

Some businesses were damaged amid ongoing demonstrations in downtown Seattle on July 19. (Video: Reuters)

As a large, peaceful protest against police brutality and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement marched through downtown Seattle on Sunday afternoon, police said a separate, bat-wielding group showed up and began vandalizing businesses and injuring officers with fireworks.

At least a dozen Seattle police officers were hurt, with one requiring treatment at a hospital, while the violent group of demonstrators also caused “a significant amount of property damage to government buildings and private businesses,” the Seattle Police Department said in a news release. Two protesters were arrested.

The department shared photos of shattered glass and spray paint reading “F--- ICE” covering the front of the Seattle Municipal Court building. Police tweeted that two precincts were vandalized with broken windows and said protesters targeted one precinct by throwing “a device into the lobby that ignited a small fire.” The fire was quickly extinguished.

“These are criminal acts, not peaceful protests,” the department tweeted, advising residents to avoid downtown.

Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), told The Washington Post that the governor’s office would be “monitoring” the events in Seattle.

“We are aware of the developments and are actively monitoring the situation,” Lee said in an email.

As another tense scene plays out between demonstrators and authorities in Seattle, the city council is calling for the police to be defunded by as much as 50 percent as part of the nationwide push against racial injustice and police brutality. Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) has criticized such a cut to the roughly $400 million budget, and she announced last week that $76 million would be cut from the 2021 police budget.

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Around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, a peaceful group of protesters began marching from Westlake Park, police said. The familiar chants of “No justice! No peace!” that have been yelled nationwide since George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody in late May reverberated again in Seattle.

But about three hours after the march started, the department said a second group showed up “carrying baseball bats” and began to break windows and spray-paint buildings while walking down Fifth Avenue.

One video shared to social media showed protesters attempting to smash the windows of an Amazon Go store. Other videos and posts captured busted-out windows and fires being lit inside Starbucks locations.

“Individuals in the group appeared to target Starbucks and Amazon,” Sgt. Lauren Truscott said at a Sunday news conference, according to KIRO.

When the group made its way to the West Precinct, demonstrators tossed rocks and bottles at the officers standing outside, police said, and then began shooting fireworks at police.

“Multiple officers were injured by the fireworks thrown at them,” police said in the news release. “Two of the officers suffered lacerations and abrasion injuries while a third officer sustained burns to his neck area and needed to be treated by the Seattle Fire Department. He was later transported to the hospital.”

The police department said they fired blast balls and pepper spray at the protesters. Although the city council has voted to bar police from using blast balls and other less-than-lethal weapons on protesters, the new rules don’t go into effect until later this month, the Seattle Times reported. The Seattle Police Department has been under federal oversight since 2012 for its history of using excessive force against mostly peaceful protesters.

The march headed up toward Capitol Hill, where demonstrators smashed out the front windows of the East Precinct and tossed a firework into the lobby, sparking a fire which was quickly extinguished. The group dispersed around 6 p.m. local time, according to media reports. Police described the effort to vandalize businesses and the precincts as “very organized.”

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Following a week of heavy tensions between police and protesters in Seattle, CHOP was formed in the summer of 2020. (Video: The Washington Post)