SEATTLE -- With anti-capitalist protesters expected to hit Seattle streets again this year on May Day Thursday, several small businesses are preparing for the worst too.
"We really try hard to be supportive of free speech, but we are tired of watching our backs," says Angela Pfiel, owner of The Feed Bag on Capitol Hill.
Pfiel is hanging signs in the glass store front of her pet food shop, urging protesters not to pick on the little guys. One sign reads “Locally owned, 20 years on Cap Hill.” Her message is for big business hating protesters to back off.
"What great point are you making when you are putting your foot in somebody's window," said Pfiel.
The window next door at Sun Liquor was one of many on Capitol Hill to be smashed out last year. Seventeen arrests were made on May Day 2013 when protests turned violent in the downtown core. Seattle Police officers were forced to use pepper spray and blast balls to disperse the unruly crowd that refused to leave the streets.
As Seattle police put last minute preparations in place for what could be a wild May Day this year, business owners hope they are no feeling left out.
City Council member Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety Committee, tried to put their minds at ease Wednesday.
“We are here to protect you,” he said. “Just bear with us and let’s get through this together."
Police prepared to respond to assaults, property damage
While marchers are welcome to protest, officers are prepared to respond to assaults or property damage, police said.
“If you’re here to cause problems or hurt people, we’re going to take that very seriously,” Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh said.
McDonagh and incident commander Capt. Chris Fowler, said Wednesday that marchers could stop traffic, but acts of violence will be met with arrests.
May Day has turned violent the past two years in Seattle. Last year police used flash bangs and pepper spray and arrested 18 people from a crowd that pelted them with rocks and bottles. Eight officers were injured.
On May Day 2012, masked marchers dressed in black broke windows and doors on downtown banks and stores and tried to set a fire at a federal building.
Thousands of people are expected to take part in a march for immigrant and worker rights organized by El Comite and the May1st Action Coalition, who have a permit. The march begins at 3 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church and ends with a rally at the downtown Westlake Park.
Social media postings show plans for two anti-capitalist marches, which do not have permits. One group will meet at 6 p.m. at Seattle Central Community College and another at 6:30 p.m. at the Youth Detention Center.
Councilmember Sawant to join march, urges peaceful protest
Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant said she’ll join the march for immigrant and worker rights to promote her campaign for a $15 minimum wage. She urged marchers to remain peaceful.
“I strongly oppose violence and property damage because this plays into the hands of the police and the political establishment who aim to discredit and undermine our struggles,” Sawant said in a statement.
“I also oppose the provocative statements and actions of the Seattle Police Department in relation to May 1st. The Seattle police are acting in a repressive, anti-democratic manner along with the corporate owned mass media who are attempting to whip up a polarized state of fear,” she said.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told KIRO-FM that Sawant’s comments were unfair.
“I’m interested in making sure protesters can protest. I am interested in also ensuring their safety and the safety of property and acting to arrest individuals who are doing something other than protesting, who are being destructive. I think those are very distinct things,” he said.