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May Day arrests highlight evolving tactics by Seattle police

KOMO-TV Seattle logo KOMO-TV Seattle 5 days ago Joel Moreno, KOMO News Reporter
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The May Day protests from this past Saturday offer a fresh look at new tactics Seattle police are using to handle destructive demonstrators.

Prosecutors have yet to review the cases for the 14 people arrested during the May Day marches

When everyone is dressed the same it can be hard to pick out the individuals who are damaging property or throwing rocks or bottles. That was the case Saturday when dozens of people dressed head-to-toe in black clothing.

Fourteen people ended up being arrested for crimes that included property destruction, assault and reckless driving.

Seattle police did not discuss details of their new methods but Jim Fuda, the executive director of Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound, said tactics have evolved to better track law breakers who use a crowd as cover.

Fuda said prosecutors need to pursue criminal charges following such arrests to keep the crimes from continuing.

“They are going to continue to take advantage in these peaceful protests for their own message,” Fuda said.

Caption: Fourteen people were arrested during May Day protests in Seattle. (KOMO)

Over the past year, many of the protesters arrested in Seattle for minor offenses have had their cases dropped by city prosecutors, sometimes for a lack of evidence. A spokesperson for the city attorney’s office said police investigators don’t always provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Delivering that evidence is part of the new approach by Seattle police.

“They don't have to provide, at that moment, proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Fuda said. “They just have to have probable cause and then the case gets built from there."

Officers can call upon a civil attorney at each precinct for guidance on what evidence is needed to take a case before a jury.

A spokesperson for the Seattle City Attorney’s office said there is a misconception that protest-related property destruction goes unpunished. City prosecutors have had 10 cases referred by police involving damage to public property. So far one case has been dismissed for a lack of evidence. The other nine remain under review.  Arrests for private property destruction have gone to the county prosecutor as felonies.

The city attorney has no interest in pursuing criminal charges against peaceful protesters. That can include people arrested for failure to disperse or obstruction, who in the past have sometimes seen their cases dropped.

All 14 people arrested this weekend have since been released from jail. These out-of-custody cases are still scheduled to be reviewed, but there is a big backlog caused by the pandemic and any potential criminal charges could be a ways away.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the number of times protest-related damage to private property has resulted in criminal charges being filed by the City Attorney's Office. Of 10 cases referred by investigators, nine remain under review and one was dismissed for a lack of evidence.

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