Fires and Pepper Spray in Seattle as Police Protests Widen Across U.S.


SEATTLE — Weeks of violent clashes between federal agents and protesters in Portland, Ore., galvanized thousands of people to march through the streets of American cities on Saturday, injecting new life into protests that had largely waned in recent weeks.

One of the most intense protests was in Seattle, where a day of demonstrations focused on police violence left a trail of broken windows and people flushing pepper spray from their eyes. At least 45 protesters had been arrested as of early evening, and both protesters and police officers suffered injuries.

Carrying signs such as “Feds Go Home” and shouting chants of “No justice, no peace,” some among the crowd of about 5,000 protesters stopped at a youth detention center and lit several construction trailers there on fire. Some smashed windows of nearby businesses, ignited a fire in a coffee shop and blew an eight-inch hole through the wall of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct building, the police said.

“At this point, we declared the event to be a riot, and several orders to disperse were given,” the Seattle police chief, Carmen Best, said at a news conference.

The police responded by firing flash grenades, showering protesters with pepper spray and abruptly rushing into crowds, knocking people to the ground. After a flash grenade left one woman with bloody injuries, police officers shoved people who had stopped to help her.

In Austin, Texas, the police said one man was shot and killed just before 10 p.m. during a protest in the city’s downtown. In a live video from the scene, protesters are seen marching through an intersection when a car blares its horn. Seconds later, five shots ring out, followed shortly after by several more loud bangs.

The man who was killed may have approached a vehicle with a rifle before he was shot and killed, Officer Katrina Ratcliff said. Ms. Ratcliff said the person who shot and killed the man had fired from inside the vehicle. That person was detained and is cooperating with officers, she said. No one else was injured.

“All I know is that someone dying while protesting is horrible,” Mayor Steve Adler of Austin said in a statement. “Our city is shaken and, like so many in our community, I’m heartbroken and stunned.”

In Los Angeles, protesters clashed with officers in front of the federal courthouse downtown. Videos showed people smashing windows and lobbing water bottles at officers after protesters said the police fired projectiles at them.

The federal courthouse in Portland has been the scene of nightly, chaotic demonstrations for weeks, which continued again into Sunday morning, as thousands participated in marches around the city, the 59th consecutive day of protests there. Earlier, a group of nurses in scrubs had joined an organized group of mothers in helmets and fathers in hard hats, all assembled against the fence of a federal courthouse where federal agents — a deployment that has been a key focus of the recent demonstrations — have been assembled.

Shortly after 1 a.m., the Portland police said the protest had become a riot and ordered the crowd to leave. Federal agents fired tear gas and left the courthouse to drive protesters from the streets, continuing to stretch the boundaries of their authority as legal experts questioned how far the agents could stray beyond federal property.

Protesters in several cities said the smoke-filled videos of federal agents firing tear gas and shoving protesters in Portland had brought them to the streets on Saturday.

“Portland is leading,” said Chantelle Hershberger, an organizer with Refuse Fascism who was part of the Los Angeles activists protesting the presence of federal agents in Portland, where city officials have opposed the presence of the federal officers. “They’re showing what it looks like to stay in the streets despite police oppression, despite the federal forces being sent in. This kind of energy is actually what’s needed.”

Bipasha Mukherjee, 52, of Kirkland, Wash., said she has been protesting on the streets since May and said it was worrisome to her to see such aggressive tactics by the police.

“This is not the country I immigrated to,” said Ms. Mukherjee, who arrived from India more than 30 years ago. “It feels like we are rapidly becoming a fascist state and a police state.”

Michaud Savage of Seattle said the protests there were aimed at both local authorities and the deployment of federal officers who have waged a crackdown against a long-running protest in Portland. Mr. Savage said the law enforcement tactics in Portland, which have included the use of tear gas and crowd-control munitions, were dangerous and inappropriate.

“It’s a very hard slide in an extremely violent direction,” Mr. Savage said as he washed his eyes of pepper spray and nursed a wound on his arm from a flash grenade.

But Ms. Best, the Seattle police chief, said a number of demonstrators also used violence. Some were tossing concrete blocks from a rooftop to the street below, she said. The coffee shop that was set afire had occupied apartments above it that had to be evacuated, she said.

“We support everyone’s First Amendment right for free speech and to gather and assemble in such a way,” she said. “But what we saw today was not peaceful. It was not a peaceful demonstration at all, and criminal acts were occurring throughout the city, and many people were at risk.”

Craig Gabriel, an assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon, said at a news conference earlier on Saturday that federal agents had arrested 60 people at protests in Portland and were pursuing charges against 46 of them.

Several federal agents had been injured by fireworks and lasers that protesters shone into their eyes, he said.



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