OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday that while the damage from weekend protests that turned violent must be condemned and those responsible prosecuted, “we will not allow that to obscure the justice of the underlying protest.”
Inslee said that people are justifiably outraged following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and emphasized the constitutional right to protest. But he said that “violence and destruction has no place in this.”
“We just can’t allow violence to hijack peaceful protest,” Inslee said at a news conference.
Demonstrators in Washington and around the country have been protesting the killing of Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. On Monday afternoon large crowds of protesters again gathered in downtown Seattle for speeches and to march through the city’s core.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the Northwest’s largest city would again have a curfew Monday evening following days of protests that turned violent, with storefronts smashed and items stolen.
At a news conference, Durkan said the curfew would begin at 6 p.m. and last until 5 a.m. Bellevue, Washington, also said it would have a 5 p.m. curfew following vandalism and theft in that city’s downtown Sunday.
There were curfews in Seattle on Saturday and Sunday nights as well. Durkan said most of the thousands of protesters were peaceful, but there was an element that engaged in “violence, looting and chaos.”
Police Chief Carmen Best said a small number of protests “tore the city up” and caused “millions of dollars in damage.”
Durkan said the damage was widespread Saturday, with 90 businesses in the city’s International District alone affected. Authorities said 57 people were arrested Saturday.
Inslee activated the National Guard following vandalism and mass theft in stores and shopping malls in multiple cities over the weekend, including Bellevue, Spokane, Tukwila and Renton.
“The guard are unarmed peacekeepers,” he said. “They are there to help support local communities.”
Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the National Guard, said that about 350 National Guard members are deployed in the state Monday, with about 20 in Spokane and the remainder in the King County metro areas.
Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump told the nation’s governors in a video conference that they “look like fools” for not deploying even more National Guard troops. “Most of you are weak,” he said.
Inslee called the comments by the president the “rants of a very insecure man.”
Monday afternoon, Trump threatened to deploy the United States military to American cities to quell a rise of violent protests, and said he would mobilize “thousands and thousands” of soldiers to keep the peace if governors did not use the National Guard to shut down the protests.
In an emailed statement in response to the president’s comments, Inslee wrote that Trump “has repeatedly proven he is incapable of governing and shown nothing but false bravado throughout the chaos that has accompanied his time in office.”
“He cowers at the feet of authoritarians around the world,” Inslee said. “Now he uses the most supreme power of the presidency in a desperate attempt to hide his timidity and vapidity. I pray no soldier and no civilian is injured or killed by this reckless fit.”