Assistant Chief McDonagh (left) and Captain Chris Fowler (right).
At 3:30 p.m. today, Seattle Police held a press conference on yesterday's May Day riots. Two officers—Assistant Chief of the Special Operations Bureau Paul McDonagh and Captain Chris Fowler—headed the discussion, which provided little more than a defense of their force, a firmly held belief that the police did everything right, and multiple promises that the police department is all about the first amendment rights of the citizens it serves.
"We chose to let them march," McDonagh explained, but "once it moves into criminal activity, we will start taking action." And the actions of some of the protesters, McDonagh believes, "forced" the officers to go hands-on. When asked if they used the proper amount of force, Captain Fowler quickly responded that they used "the minimum force necessary to stop criminal activity."
Which included blast balls—balls of rubber that explode, creating a loud bang and a flash of light. (Captain Fowler assured reporters that these are different from flashbang grenades, which are used only in very specific tactical situations.) They also used "tactical-level OC spray" (which is pepper spray).
One of these not-quite-a-flashbang blast balls exploded near a woman and her baby. Assistant Chief McDonagh defended that use of force: "It's unfortunate that someone brought a child to that event. They had a number of chances to disperse and they chose to stay," and later added that the balls are necessary to "focus the crowd on listening to instructions and move them."
Assistant Police Chief McDonagh and Captain Fowler were very proud of their officers' performance the previous night. Their bike police, who were on the "front lines of the riot receiving the most assaults... met and exceeded expectations," Captain Fowler explained.
Fowler added that he was happy to see the Rain City Superheroes there to "distract the clowns," referring to the group of self-proclaimed anarchists who showed up to the riot dressed for the circus.
Reporters repeatedly asked if there was more that police could do to stop these protests from happening before they start. Couldn't you make it illegal for people to wear masks? Couldn't you move trash cans so there would be less to throw at you? But the officers insisted that they had no intention of stopping people from protesting: "We support first amendment speech," McDonagh concluded, and whenever people protest, some people may to turn to "criminal activity."