Anti-capitalist protesters clashed with police — and “superheroes” — during Seattle's May Day march, local media reported. At least nine people were arrested, police said.
“Whose streets? Our streets,” some chanted as they marched through the famously left-leaning city. Others shouted “Anarchy lives” and “The system is failing.” Some marchers handed out fliers that read “Capitalism and the state still rule Seattle.”
Seattle is home to the Rain City Superhero Movement — costumed activists who describe themselves as a crime-fighting brigade — and at one point a fight broke out between some of them and a group of anarchists. Police broke it up.
Security forces, many wearing body armor, flanked the march on bicycles and trailed protesters in patrol cars and on horseback. May Day demonstrations have become a tradition in Seattle, rapidly gaining momentum in recent years.
Local news station KIRO 7 quoted police as saying hundreds of people wearing masks and black clothing and with backpacks marched for hours carrying signs, flags and banners denouncing the police and capitalism.
"I believe in transformative justice and community accountability," one masked anti-capitalist, who marched with a big pink banner that simply read "F--k off," told the Seattle PI newspaper. "These cops that are surrounding us right now are just the later generations of the slave-catchers that caught slaves before; you know, it's just a continuation. It's modern-day slavery, and that's what we're fighting against."
Police shot pepper spray at demonstrators, and officers said bottles were thrown at them. A splinter group of protesters set fire to garbage cans in Capitol Hill, a neighborhood known for its progressive politics.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters marched through Seattle in mostly peaceful rallies to mark May Day — or International Workers’ Day — in support of human rights, immigration reform and higher wages, local media reported. Many carried posters denouncing what they called “poverty wages.”
Separately on Thursday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced plans to set the city’s minimum wage at $15 over the next few years.
Kshama Sawant, a socialist elected to Seattle’s City Council last year, said the move was a direct result of pressure from low-wage workers and social activism. But she said the measure still falls short.
“We are not playing games here,” Sawant said, adding that the wage hike needed to be implemented immediately. “Our work is far from done.”
Local media reported that up to nine protesters were arrested in Thursday's protests, but this year’s march was relatively peaceful compared with those of the past two years, when fierce street battles erupted between protesters and police.
In past marches, some protesters have smashed storefronts in the busy downtown shopping district.