SPD defends decision to block protesters from marching to pro-Trump rally in Seattle

On Monday Seattle Police responded to questions about why they blocked the peaceful protest from marching to a pro-Trump rally held downtown on Sunday afternoon. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Two rallies held in Seattle on Sunday to respond to the Charlottesville violence ended without any major injuries or destruction, according to Seattle Police.

On Monday SPD responded to questions about why they blocked the peaceful protest from marching to a pro-Trump rally.

The rallies where held less than mile apart.

The pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer had gathered at Westlake Park. Just blocks away, a group of counter protesters were gathered at Denny Park.

“We wanted to be visible to those at Westlake,” said Emma Wilkinson who was marching with the counter protesters.

But, as the group of hundreds began their march from Denny Park to Westlake they were stopped by Seattle Police.

“We had a small group within the larger march, clearly in my experience there for violence,” said Assistant Chief Steve Wilske, who leads the patrol bureau at the Seattle Police Department.

Some of those protesters violently clashed with police. Pepper spray and flash bangs were used to keep demonstrators back. Officers arrested three people and confiscated weapons like axe handles, two by fours and balloons filled with an unknown liquid.

“If I would have put those groups together, I didn’t have the confidence that I could prevent those people bent on confrontation from getting together,” said Wilske. “I feel very confident that we would have had people seriously hurt had we allowed those groups to get together and fight.”

Seattle Police said they brought in officers from other agencies to keep the city safe on a day when tensions were much higher than anyone expected.

“Public safety has to come first. You can’t have free speech rights that trump public safety then you start getting people killed,” said Wilske.

Seattle Police said the decision to separate the groups was not a change in demonstration policy, but a decision made based on an escalating situation.

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