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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Protests again close I-5; looting, vandalism in Bellevue

A woman helping to clean up downtown walks near graffiti Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Seattle, following a night of unrest and protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
By Lisa Baumann Associated Press

SEATTLE – Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle was closed Sunday afternoon because of George Floyd protest activity, the second day in a row the main north-south freeway on the West Coast was shut down, and there was also widespread looting across Lake Washington in Bellevue.

Bellevue’s mayor declared an emergency Sunday evening because of the violence and said she was enacting a 5:30 p.m. curfew for the downtown area. Gov. Jay Inslee said late Sunday he was sending 200 National Guard troops to Bellevue.

Bellevue Police said dozens of people broke into Bellevue Square, a large shopping mall. Officers entered the facility and chased looters out. Mayor Lynne Robinson said people were stealing merchandise from storefronts and that help was requested from other police agencies. Earlier, the Washington State Patrol said it was sending units to help quell the unrest there.

Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said at an evening news conference that authorities learned earlier that a criminal gang planned activity in the city Sunday afternoon. He said there was widespread looting and assaults, and the criminal element “swelled very quickly.”

“They were there to destroy,” Mylett said. “We welcome peaceful protest … this is something different.”

Mylett said he was disgusted at what happened to Floyd, who was killed when a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck, but that violence overshadows legitimate protests.

Washington State Patrol spokesman Rick Johnson said I-5 was closed for safety reasons, and all Interstate 405 ramps to downtown Bellevue were closed as well because of the mayhem there.

Hundreds of people gathered to rally Sunday in downtown Seattle following unrest Saturday night that saw storefronts smashed and looting. The first part of the Sunday demonstrations was mostly peaceful. However, several people were later arrested, and police deployed incendiary devices to control the crowd.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has again imposed a 5 p.m. curfew for all of Seattle. At a Sunday evening news conference, Durkan said thousands of people have protested peacefully in the city over the weekend. But those who cause mayhem don’t honor concerns about racism and Floyd’s death and “came to, number one, purposely create violence and destruction,“ she said.

Inslee dispatched an additional 200 National Guard troops to Seattle to help maintain order after protests turned chaotic, with looters smashing up storefronts and stealing clothes and other items from downtown shops. Inslee’s order means that up to to 400 National Guard personnel will be available to assist.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said of Sunday’s 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew: “We fully intend to enforce that curfew in the city.”

The mayor of Portland , also imposed a Sunday curfew for 8 p.m. Portland, too, saw widespread mayhem Friday and Saturday. Other Northwest cities with Sunday curfews included Eugene and Salem in Oregon.

Large crowds of protesters gathered again in Portland on Sunday evening.

There were protests and rallies in other Northwest cities on Sunday. In Spokane, hundreds marched through downtown carrying signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and chanting “No justice, no peace.” Later in the evening, police used tear gas to move crowds away from downtown stores after reports of looting.

Police in Seattle arrested at least 27 people Saturday on charges like assault and looting, while Portland police arrested 48 people after downtown storefronts were vandalized and fires were set overnight Saturday.

On Sunday morning, hundreds of people of all ages turned out in downtown Seattle to help clean up the destruction, sweeping up broken glass and cleaning off graffiti. Durkan and Best walked through the area and spoke with business owners.

“I visited downtown this morning. It wasn’t a downtown I recognized,” Durkan said Sunday. “But what I did recognize were the hundreds of volunteers and residents who came because they love Seattle.”

In Boise, Idaho, on Sunday hundreds of people gathered at the Capitol for Floyd protest rally.

In Seattle, Durkan announced her curfew for Saturday and Sunday after rioters torched police vehicles and spilled onto I-5, forcing the freeway’s temporary closure through the central part of the Northwest’s largest city.

Thousands of people gathered in downtown Seattle in the rain to protest the killing of Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. His death has prompted protests across the U.S. and Europe.

A largely peaceful demonstration happened in Seattle on Saturday afternoon, while police later deployed flash bang grenades to disperse people they said had begun throw rocks and bottles at officers. Police also pepper-sprayed demonstrators who got close to police lines, and officers with bicycles pushed people to move back.

News footage showed at least one destroyed police cruiser, other vehicle fires and people breaking into retail stores and other businesses. Video shot by a journalist from the Seattle news website Crosscut showed police arriving as storefronts were being smashed and broken into. As one officer restrained a person being arrested, the video showed the officer putting his knee on the man’s neck and the crowd yells for him to remove it. The video then shows a second officer pulling the knee off the neck and onto the detained man’s back.

Best said officers and others were injured, though she didn’t provide details.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Sunday morning that his city’s curfew would continue, and starts again at 8 p.m. Sunday. In a tweet Sunday morning, Wheeler wrote: “Agitators are not led by a conviction to change systemic racism. They are opportunists, using the cover of legitimate protests to sow fear in our communities. Don’t let them.“