Pics from the July 25 Youth Liberation Front's Protest in Seattle
On Saturday, July 25 the Youth Liberation Front and supporting groups took to Capitol Hill with their brand of protests. Unlike the other highly diverse and peaceful protests and marches I covered in June -- such as the George Floyd Protest, We Want to Live March, March of Silence, and Charlene Myles remembrance -- the YLM's event was neither.
Although the speakers at the rally and the leadership of the march and actions were exclusively African-American, the vast majority of those in attendance were young and white. And while at least one of the speakers at the rally called for "disruption, not destruction," others were more explicit in their calls to affect change "by any means necessary."
In preparation for my coverage of the protest, I spent the morning walking the streets of downtown, checking out the federal buildings and other properties I expected the protesters would target. But in the end, the rally, march, arson, property destruction and hours-long battles with the police would take place exclusively on Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.
I'll post separately on how the group curtailed my ability to take photographs or film the march or the group actions during their highly publicized and public event. But here I'll share a few images that I was able to capture from my coverage.
These images are not necessarily in chronological order, and they cover the events that took place from about 1PM to 6PM on Saturday July 25.
At the rally in front of Seattle Central Community College, hundreds of protesters listen to one of the group's speakers.
Speeches and signage at the rally were primarily directed at the police and federal agents, who had arrived in Seattle uninvited in the days previous.
The first stop on the march was the construction site of the future home of the youth detention facility. The group created a perimeter of cars and bicycles around the site while members entered the property and set portable units on fire and vandalized vehicles and surrounding buildings. I and other photographers were surrounded by group members during the activity and not allowed to take photographs of the actions.
Next on the agenda was a Starbucks cafe. Group members broke into the cafe and lit a fire inside the store, which led to the evacuation of the tenants living in the apartments above. Again, photographers and film crews working for the press were not allowed to capture the actions. A group member also returned to the scene in the aftermath of the vandalism and attempted to stop a film crew and me from capturing these images.
After marching up 12th Avenue and vandalizing the police station that was the epicenter of the June occupation, the group faced off for a series of battles with the Seattle police.
The protesters were highly organized and prepared for engaging with the police. Local press estimated that up to 2,000 were involved. My observations were that several hundred rallied and marched, and as the direct confrontation with the police started, many of the protesters pulled off to the side, leaving a few hundred of the group members to battle the police.
The police were not fucking around. Local press emphasized that they were not carrying tear gas -- only pepper spray and flash-bang grenades. I saw and smelled what felt to me to be tear gas. I don't know, maybe those devices emitted a volume and quality of smoke similar to that of tear gas. Maybe the eye burning and irritation that I experienced from those devices were similar to the burning I've experienced with tear gas.
I'm no expert, but my eyes burned throughout much of the afternoon as they did during the George Floyd Protest in May when police indiscriminately threw tear gas into the crowd. And as you can see from these pictures, there was plenty of smoke.
Protesters meanwhile had their own fireworks and small objects which they threw into the police lines. Local press reported that over 50 police were injured throughout the day. I observed about a half-dozen protesters being treated for injuries.
At one point a protester stood between the groups and called for a cease fire. For about ten minutes, both sides took a breather.
Meanwhile a fellow protester magaphoned their commands to the front line.
For the better part of the afternoon skirmishes, the police had to fight both the protesters, who were facing east, and the late afternoon sun.
The tear gas took its toll on many protesters, and police tossed canisters up the hill on the college property where many press and others were observing the action. Again, police claimed not to have brought tear gas to the protest, but I don't see how that was the case.
By the night's end, police would arrest around 45 protesters.
And in a sign of how normal this has all become to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, street artists and vendors continued to do their business, and spectators enjoyed their smokes, as the battles between the police and protesters raged on.