By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
SEATTLE — Property and business owners in the Chinatown-International District (ID) are still assessing the damage from recent sprees of vandalism, destruction, and looting.
Broken glass windows and doors are now boarded up. A surge of volunteers over the weekend donated time and materials to help cover up the damage, and artists lent their talents to paint the boards.
In a news conference on June 1, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said “young white men” are mostly responsible for the chaos— overshadowing the message of peaceful demonstrators protesting the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. SPD Chief Carmen Best said a small number of protests “tore the city up” and caused “millions of dollars in damage.”
Seattle imposed temporary curfews “to preserve the safety of our residents by keeping our streets safe and accessible for essential workers and first responders and preventing the further spread of COVID-19.” Cities like Bellevue, Renton, and Tukwila followed suit.
Video captured by an eyewitness on the night of May 29 showed a group of what appeared to be young people smashing windows along Jackson Street in the ID, with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) nowhere in sight.
An inquiry to SPD about the lack of police presence in the ID on May 29 went unanswered. An SPD blotter entry on May 30 stated that seven people were booked into the King County Jail for charges ranging from property damage, resisting arrest, and assault on an officer, in response to a demonstration at Hing Hay Park.
Durkan said at least 90 businesses in the ID alone were affected. The businesses and properties damaged include Bank of America, Chengdu Memory, Chu Minh Tofu, Dim Sum King, Dr. Sing Lam’s office, Donnie Chin International Children’s Park, Fortuna Cafe 2.0, Hue Ky Mi Gia, Jade Garden, Joyce’s Flowers, Lexor Store, Liberty Tattoo, Phở Bắc Sup Shop, Seattle Chiropractic Center, Seattle Vision Clinic, Universal Tours, Inc., Viet-Wah, and Washington Federal.
“It breaks my heart to see all the windows boarded up,” Durkan said during a visit on May 31 to Hing Hay Park with SPD.
One man shouted, “There’s a photo of a 9-year-old kid that got maced in the face. And I ask, where is the accountability for that?”
To which Durkan responded, “Thank you for that question. I’ve talked to the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) and the complaint about that particular incident. It’s being investigated so we’ll see what happens there. But I can tell you myself… the police did not instigate what happened.”
Minutes later, Durkan entered the Hing Hay Coworks building for a closed door meeting with the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area and Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority.
Some community members criticized Durkan’s May 31 appearance as a publicity stunt, while others were thankful for it.
On June 1, OPA said it has received approximately 12,000 individual complaints concerning the SPD’s response to the weekend demonstrations — including the young girl getting pepper sprayed.
“We are currently reviewing and processing these complaints. These investigations will be civilian-led and as transparent as possible given the law and police collective bargaining agreements,” an OPA statement said.
Other complaints include punching a person on the ground who was being arrested, officers placing a knee on the neck area of two people who had been arrested, covering up badge numbers, punching a person on the ground who was being arrested, and officers breaking windows of a Target store. “We respectfully caution the public about reaching findings without having all the evidence,” stated OPA.
SPD is seeking the public’s help in submitting photos or videos to help detectives identify those who have caused injuries and damaged property. You can upload them at seattlepd.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/demonstrations.
To submit videos and photos related to any concerns regarding officer conduct, visit the Office of Police Accountability website at seattle.gov/opa/complaints/file-a-complaint.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.