Seattle police set up task force to try to identify May Day vandals

The Seattle Police Department announced Tuesday that it has created a temporary task force to investigate violent acts that occurred downtown on May Day.

The task force, formed from various units within the SPD, is looking over evidence and video to try to identify people who broke windows and damaged vehicles during demonstrations. The police is also asking anyone who was assaulted or had property damage to contact the police.

Subpoenas have been issued to news organizations for video footage of the violence.

There eight arrests from the May Day incidents.

Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz said May 2 that they were satisfied with the city's reaction to violent outbreaks at May Day protests downtown.

"We responded within minutes, with appropriate force, to stop vandalism and violence and there was property damage, and we don't like that there was property damage," McGinn said.

A small group of people dressed in black suddenly emerged from a peaceful demonstration and smashed windows of banks and businesses, threw smoke bombs, spray-painted parked cars and clashed with police Tuesday. They then faded back into the crowd and changed clothing.

No injuries were reported. Police arrested eight demonstrators throughout the day, in what the mayor said was a difficult situation for officers.

At the press conference, McGinn explained why he waited until mid-afternoon Tuesday to sign an emergency order granting police officers the right to confiscate items that could be used as weapons from protesters, including sticks used to hold signs and flags, tire irons, and hammers.

The order could not be enacted, McGinn said, until those items were actually used as weapons. Until then, it would not have been legal to confiscate them.

"We have to wait until there's actual criminal activity; we can't take a pre-emptive strike," Diaz said. 

 Officers seized about 70 items, including sharpened tape-wrapped wooden stakes, metal poles, screw-topped wooden staffs, a shield made from a plastic traffic barrier, a corrugated metal portable barrier with sharp, jagged edges, hammers and a bag full of rocks.

It was disclosed that a rock was thrown Wednesday morning through a dining room window of McGinn's house in Greenwood. 

Holding up a rock at Wednesday's news conference, McGinn said, "It looked a lot like this rock,  actually. No note wrapped around it; I looked for it, too.

"And I'm thinking," McGinn joked, that "apparently these guys (the police) didn't confiscate all the rocks yesterday because some of them made it to Greenwood."

Several retail businesses in downtown Seattle that had some windows broken reopened Wednesday.

Windows were broken at four banks -- HSBC, Wells Fargo, US Bank, Home Street Bank -- and at a few retail stores, including Niketown and American Apparel. A window was also broken at a former  federal courthouse. Multiple parked cars were spray-painted or had their tires slashed or windows broken.

At Morton’s Steakhouse, many of their dinner reservations cancelled. Gene Juarez Salon also lost business.

“We had a full schedule," Gene Juarez Salon manager Susie Burrows said. "We had to cancel appointments and make sure our employees were able to get out safely."

Wednesday afternoon, crews removed plywood from storefront windows, as Seattle City Council President Sally Clark surveyed the damage.

“It’s not money they (the businesses) want to have to spend to board up their windows, but obviously people are bouncing back today,” Clark said.

Clark is disappointed that what was supposed to be a peaceful protest for immigrant workers' rights was taken over by a radical group that she believes sent a counter-intuitive message.

“They think they’re targeting corporations and the system in some way, but what they’re doing is smashing out windows and costing businesses large or small their livelihood and that actually hits working people,” Clark said.

 Photos of some of the seized weapons are in the attached photo gallery.