The Seattle Police Department (SPD) said Wednesday that it found fireworks, improvised spike strips, nails, and bear mace in an impounded car parked near the department’s East Precinct during Saturday protests that the SPD declared a riot.
Police say they saw a van following protesters on 12th Ave Saturday afternoon, which was later abandoned in front of the precinct. Concerned that there could be explosives in the vehicle after a witness reported seeing baseball bats and pyrotechnics being distributed from the van, it was impounded and police were granted a search warrant on Tuesday.
SPD’s James Lee said Wednesday that combining nails and fireworks amounts to an improvised explosive device that “will and can be a deadly weapon.”
“Not everyone that comes to these protests is peaceful,” SPD Chief Carmen Best said in a news conference Wednesday. “Peaceful protesters do not show up with a van full of bear spray, stun guns, spike strips, and explosives.”
The investigation into the vehicle is ongoing and Best said no arrest had been made.
Saturday brought the largest demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality that the city has seen in weeks. A march numbering in the thousands from Broadway and Pine marched to the 12th Ave youth jail construction site in a solidarity action with Portland amid ongoing protests there. At that site, construction trailers were set ablaze and other targeted property damage included broken windows and smoke inside a Starbucks on 12th Ave and destruction at other nearby businesses.
SPD declared a riot after saying at least one individual climbed the fence outside the precinct, a landmark of the recent protest movement, and explosions occurred outside the building.
Officers then used blast balls and pepper spray Saturday afternoon in an attempt to break up the group at 12th and Pine.
“Our police department has an obligation to disperse a crowd when there are dangers to the public safety, like explosives, fires, and individuals intent on causing harm,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said Wednesday. “The items seized from this van show exactly what they were planning and we saw the results of it on our street.”
Stand-offs between police and demonstrators continued throughout the evening with dozens of arrests and copious amounts of explosives and less-lethal munitions being deployed by law enforcement. Protesters have argued that police used undue force on demonstrators and attorneys in an ongoing case against the city say it should be held in contempt of court because of the handling of Saturday’s protest.
“The SPD ambushed peaceful protesters with a level of violence that surpasses that seen in early June,” attorneys for Black Lives Matter-Seattle King County wrote in a court filing Monday.
The city responded Wednesday afternoon, writing that the plaintiffs failed to provide convincing evidence that the city did not comply with an injunction prohibiting the indiscriminate use of crowd control weapons, like tear gas and pepper spray.
The police arrested 47 people during protests on Saturday for charges ranging from assaults on officers to failure to disperse. Fifty-nine officers suffered injuries and one was hospitalized, according to the department. Law enforcement personnel reported being struck with rocks, bottles, and wood during the demonstrations.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office said on Monday that of the 47 arrests, “the majority were not referred to our office for felony consideration.”“We have not received case referrals for arson or felony property destruction,” the prosecutor’s office added. “Those police investigations are ongoing.”