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Seattle police declare demonstrations supporting Portland protests a riot

Seattle police declared a riot Saturday following large demonstrations in the city's Capitol Hill neighbourhood and deployed flash bangs and pepper spray to try to clear an area near where weeks earlier people had set up an "occupied protest zone" that stretched for several blocks.

Initially peaceful gathering near former 'occupied protest zone' led to clashes, arrests

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      Seattle police declared a riot Saturday following large demonstrations in the city's Capitol Hill neighbourhood and deployed flash bangs and pepper spray to try to clear an area near where weeks earlier people had set up an "occupied protest zone" that stretched for several blocks.

      Via Twitter, police said they had made more than two dozen arrests for assault on officers, obstruction and failure to disperse. They also said they were "investigating a possible explosive damage" to the walls of the city's East Precinct police station.

      Authorities said rocks, bottles and mortars were thrown at officers as they attempted to clear the area. One officer was hospitalized with a leg injury caused by an explosive.

      Earlier, protesters in Seattle broke through a fence where a youth detention facility was being built, with some people setting a fire and damaging a portable trailer, authorities said.

      Thousands of protesters had initially gathered peacefully near downtown Seattle on Saturday in a show of solidarity with fellow demonstrators in Portland, Ore.

      A person raises their hands and kneels during a Black Lives Matter protest near the Seattle Police East Precinct headquarters on Saturday. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

      Portland has been roiled by nightly protests for two months following the killing by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. U.S. President Donald Trump said he sent federal agents to Oregon's largest city to halt the unrest, but state and local officials say they are making the situation worse.

      The clashes in Portland have further inflamed the nation's political tensions and triggered a crisis over the limits of federal power as Trump moves to send U.S. officers to other Democratic-led cities he says are violent.

      Initially there was no sign of law enforcement near the Seattle march. Later, Seattle police said via Twitter that about a dozen people breached the construction site for the King County youth detention facility. Also, police said protesters broke out windows at a King County court facility.

      Earlier this week King County Executive Dow Constantine said he would work to eliminate youth detention centres in the county by 2025 in response to long-standing demands by community activists.

      After the fire at the construction site authorities said they had ordered people to leave a different area, in a section of Capitol Hill, near downtown, where the East Precinct is.

      Construction buildings burn near the King County Juvenile Detention Center in Seattle on Saturday. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

      Earlier this month police cleared the "Capitol Hill Occupied Protest" zone after two fatal shootings. A group had occupied several blocks around a park for about two weeks following standoffs and clashes that were part of the nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

      Prior to Saturday's protests, Seattle police Chief Carmen Best had announced officers would be armed with pepper spray and other weapons, promising officers would not use tear gas and urging demonstrators to remain peaceful.

      "In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence," Best said.

      WATCH | Seattle police clear protest zone:

      Seattle police swarmed the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone set up near the city's downtown Wednesday. Police, many dressed in riot gear, herded protesters and tore down demonstrators' tents in the zone after the mayor ordered it cleared. 0:59

      At an emergency hearing on Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block Seattle's new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons.

      The temporary restraining order halts the law that the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month after confrontations that have largely been peaceful but were occasionally marked by violence, looting and highway shutdowns. The law intended to de-escalate tensions between police and demonstrators was set to take effect on Sunday.

      But the U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle's longstanding police consent decree, successfully argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.

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