Seattle students rally as Ferguson protests continue



After a grand jury decided not to indict white Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown, there were several violent protests in Seattle.

Wilson fatally shot the 18-year-old after a confrontation on August 9.

The protests continued Tuesday, but with no indication there would be violence as was seen Monday night.

Students at Roosevelt High School in North Seattle walked out and marched to the University of Washington campus. Seattle Public Schools said those who left school would have an unexcused abscence. Students from Nova high joined in as well.

After Rainier Beach High School dismissed Tuesday afternoon, dozens of students damaged the Saars Marketplace across the street at Rainier Avenue South and South Henderson Street. A customer told KIRO 7 windows were broken.

At noon, a rally led by United Black Clergy began at 23rd and Union. A crowd that included many students began to gather there shortly after 11 a.m.  Seattle Public Schools said 1,000 of 1,600 Garfield High School students have joined the protest that so far appears to be calm.

They joined a crowd of hundreds of community leaders and activists.

For Garfield student Shedrick Johnson, Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a Missouri police officer was deeply personal.

“It could have been either one of us, we could have been shot for no reason,” Johnson said.

Three hundred Roosevelt High School students left class and marched to the University of Washington. Many   Roosevelt students are white from higher income families.

“It was important to us that from our place of privilege we represent the larger group of Americans who do not think this was a just or fair action,” said Roosevelt student Meghan O’Kelley.

Seattle Public Schools said high school students from West Seattle, Rainier Beach and South Lake also participated in demonstrations.

The district said students who left class without parent permission could be given unexcused absences.

In response, Murray activated the City of Seattle’s Emergency Operations Center Tuesday morning.  The EOC will provide coordination among multiple departments to help keep the peace during protests.

The Seattle Department of Transportation said drivers should expect closures during the afternoon march.  It will travel westbound on East Union, northbound to Broadway, westbound to Pine Street, then northbound to 8th Avenue and Stewart Street at the Federal Courthouse.

On Monday, the crowds were not so calm.  Protesters blocked northbound Interstate 5 at University Street about 10:20 p.m. Monday, forcing officers to briefly close the freeway.  Seattle police said the demonstrators threw bottles, rocks, cans of food and lit flares at officers near Seventh Avenue and James Street, shortly before getting onto I-5.

As members of Seattle police and the Washington State Patrol moved onto I-5 to arrest demonstrators, some in a crowd overlooking the freeway shot a large, powerful firework, which exploded at officers’ feet, police said.

Vandals spray painted buildings near Ninth Avenue and Madison Street, where police said protestors continued to throw bottles at them.  Vandals also shattered a bank’s window at Madison and Boylston Avenue, according to police.

Click here to see photos of the protests in Ferguson, and follow this link to see images of the protest in Seattle.

When the crowd ignored several orders to disperse and continued throwing items at officers, police used pepper spray and noise devices to break up the large group.

“Out of nowhere, the cops started pushing us back with their bikes, started pepper spraying us in the face.  I got sprayed.  He got sprayed.  A group of people got sprayed that were right there in front.  We were just protesting.  Simply protesting,” said protester Todd Peralta.

As of 1 a.m., police had arrested five people:  A 51-year-old man for reckless endangerment, a 22-year-old woman for failure to disperse, and two men — 34 and 28 — for obstruction. Officers also arrested another man, who was armed with a handgun, on a weapons violation.

About 20 minutes earlier,  Seattle police reported no injuries and described the gatherings as peaceful. Seattle rapper Macklemore, who had a Billboard chart-topper with his song “Thrift Shop,” joined protesters late Monday.

The crowd moved from Westlake Park to Capitol Hill and onto Seattle’s Central District. On Capitol Hill, some protestors held a black sign that read, “We are Chris Monfort” in capital letters.

Monfort has been charged with the ambush shooting death of Seattle officer Tim Brenton on Halloween night 2009. Brenton’s partner also was hit by a bullet. Jury section in Monfort’s case began just last month, and prosecutors said they’ll seek the death penalty.

A group called “Justice for Mike Brown” planned the rally march at Seattle’s Westlake Park Monday night.  Poster boards that read ‘No more stolen lives’ were being put on display at Westlake just prior to the verdict decision was announced.

Chanting “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot,” Seattle marchers stopped periodically to sit or lie down in city intersections, blocking traffic before moving on early Monday. Dozens of police officers watched the marchers.

While acknowledging that Seattle is “far from perfect,” Mayor Ed Murray told a news briefing that his city “is committed to the goals of racial, social justice.” He and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole urged protesters to make their case peacefully.

Seattle Schools shared a news release about handling student demonstration and protest.

“We know and understand our students are personalizing and experiencing a broad range of emotions around this event and as school leaders we want to help them both express their emotions and think ahead to their futures,” the school district statement said in part.

“It is important that you emphasize to your students that you recognize and value their emotions and want to provide a safe place to share and express how they feel. Also, communicate that you want to help support them in making decisions that will not affect their bright futures.”

Elementary and K-8 schools are out for Thanksgiving break, but high schools are in session.

Authorities in Seattle opened the city’s Emergency Operations Center Monday night. Seattle Central College canceled all evening classes and activities beginning at or later than 5 p.m. in expectation of protest on its campus.

Violence, destruction in Ferguson, Mo.

Protestors blocked a highway, set fire to buildings and numerous cars, including two police vehicles, and looted businesses in the area where Brown was fatally shot.

Smoke billowed from some businesses Tuesday morning and shattered glass covered the sidewalks in front of others, but the streets in Ferguson were mostly clear.  In all 25 buildings were destroyed.

Authorities reported hearing at least 150 gunshots, which for a time prevented fire crews from fighting the flames. There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight, many for burglary and trespassing. Two people were hit.

After learning of the grand jury’s decision, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, could not contain her outrage.  She burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.

“Y’all know y’all wrong,” she yelled at officers outside the Ferguson police department.

The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.

McSpadden and Brown’s father, Michael Brown Senior, released a message requesting peace, not destruction.

“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” they said in part, calling for body cameras on all officers. “We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.”

Disappointment also spilled out across the country, as hundreds of protestors hit the streets in cities including New York and Washington, DC, outside the White House.

An officer in neighboring University City was shot in the arm. St. Louis County Police said his injury may not be related to the protests.