- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - Seattle police clashed Friday evening with black-clad May Day protesters who hurled wrenches, rocks and bottles at officers and damaged property after an earlier peaceful march in support of immigrants’ and workers’ rights. Three officers were injured.

Police responded with pepper spray and flash-bang grenades and arrested 16 people.

Officers said protesters damaged several dozen vehicles in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Windows were smashed in some businesses.

“This is no longer demonstration management; this has turned into a riot,” Seattle police Capt. Chris Fowler said. He commanded the police May Day response.

Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole praised her officers’ conduct. She and Mayor Ed Murray visited the injured officers at a Seattle hospital. They were not seriously hurt.

“When the march became violent … we made a decision to stop it right then and there,” the chief said.

A large police contingent, including many bicycle officers, shadowed the evening crowd as it set out on what was billed as an anti-capitalist protest. The march did not have a permit, so police had to react quickly as protesters changed direction. Using flash bangs and a movable barricade of bicycles, officers eventually forced them back to the same plaza where they started. The protest crowd dwindled by late Friday night.

“The city of Seattle prepared extensively to protect the rights of peaceful protesters to express their anger at racism and injustice,” the mayor said in a statement late Friday. “What erupted tonight is a very different story. Tonight we saw assaults on police officers and senseless property damage, which cannot be tolerated. Those who are violent will be arrested.”

Hundreds earlier joined in peaceful May Day marches in Seattle, Tacoma and Yakima, Washington, in support of workers’ rights, an end to police brutality, wage equity and other causes. The Seattle Times estimated the crowd at the earlier Seattle march at about 1,000 demonstrators.

Last year, 10 people were arrested in Seattle on May Day after participants in an anti-capitalist march meandered through downtown, vandalizing cars, confronting police officers and sparking minor street fires. In 2013, police arrested 18 people from a crowd that pelted them with rocks and bottles. Storefronts in downtown Seattle have also been smashed in previous protests.

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