As they’ve done in previous years, Seattle police lobbed blast ball grenades at protesters and journalists during this year’s May Day demonstrations, leaving one citizen journalist with a one-inch gash in his face.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said police had no choice but to toss the explosives into the crowd because protesters were damaging property and attacking officers.
“The demonstrators put some innocent people in jeopardy. So we had to take action,” O’Toole said during a press conference.
Even if that meant injuring innocent people.
A video recorded by Mike BlueHair of Film the Police Portland shows that police were using the explosives to disperse a crowd who were exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble and document police activity.
Most were either holding signs or cameras. A few were waving flags. One man can be seen holding both arms in the air as the devices explode around him.
And another man can be seen lying on the ground with a bleeding gash on his face as medics attempt to help him and officers march on by, continuing their barrage.
That man is Sam Levine, a software developer who also photographs and records protests in his free time.
According to KOMO News:
“I saw a bright flash of light. My ears started ringing. And then the entire left side of my face went numb,” Levine said.
“It’s likely that it sort of went into my cheek. Hit my teeth and then bounced back. And so, the teeth helped cushion the blow and prevented it from going all the way into my teeth,” he added.
A piece of shrapnel bounced up, hit Levine’s face, and left a one-inch gash in his left cheek, he said. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors stitched up the gash.
“Saying I was very lucky because it avoided any glands in relation to saliva,” he added.
Levine, who is considering filing a lawsuit, posted a video of the incident on Twitter, which you can see below.
— Sam Levine (@samlevine) May 2, 2016
Seattle police are already being sued by two other men from a similar incident last year, according to the Stranger.
Two medics, including one veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, are suing the Seattle Police Department alleging excessive force and suppression of their First Amendment rights on May Day.
“The weapons and tactics were designed to injure and terrorize citizens and dissuade them from engaging in political speech,” the lawsuit, filed in federal court yesterday, claims. “Although for years May Day events have featured a large number of peaceful protestors and a small number of property damage incidents, the defendants planned, authorized, implemented, and/or ratified policies subjecting to violence everyone protesting and exercising their constitutional rights.”
The suit names Assistant Chief Steve Wilske and Captain Chris Fowler, as well as unnamed individual officers who threw blast balls or fired rubber bullet-style weapons, as defendants.
One of the medics is Aaron Donny-Clark, a 32-year-old Army veteran who served sixteen months in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He is a registered emergency medical technician (EMT).
During their press conference, police made no mention of how many citizens were injured during their attempts to disperse the crowd, but were sure to point out that five officers were injured and nine protesters were arrested.
Mike BlueHair’s video is posted below.