SPD Says Some Port Protesters Wanted “Violent Confrontation”

In an unusual move, the Seattle Police Department abruptly called a press conference Thursday afternoon in an apparent attempt to turn the tables on demonstrators who have accused police of heavy-handed tactics and violence at the Port of Seattle protests earlier this week.

On Tuesday, a Rainier Valley minister posted a widely read blog entry, claiming he was “brutally beaten” by officers at the protest. He has since filed a complaint with the department’s internal investigation unit, the Office of Professional Accountability.

Today, Assistant Chief Mike Sanford offered up what he called “a different painting” of the protests.

“It’s important to correct the stories people may tell,” Sanford said at the press conference this afternoon, as a video played behind him, showing protesters in the crowd of at least 500 people hurling bricks and bags of paint at bike officers at the demonstration.

One segment of the video shows a man threatening officers, as well as an officer’s face spattered with paint, which police say was thrown by protesters.

Sanford also said protesters “burglarized” a building at the port and took rebar and road flares, which were later used as weapons against officers.

“It takes a very small number of people to co-opt a demonstration,” Sanford said, adding that he was  “surprised” by the “level of violence” at the protest. “This is not the message Occupy Seattle wants to get out,” he said.[pullquote]”There were people here who wanted a violent confrontation. You don’t bring bricks and paint to a demonstration.” -Assistant Chief Mike Sanford[/pullquote]

Despite protesters’ claims that they were simply holding a peaceful demonstration, Sanford said “There were people here who wanted a violent confrontation. You don’t bring bricks and paint to a demonstration.”

It’s interesting that department officials decided to take claims of officer misconduct at the protests head on. SPD doesn’t typically make a big show of responding to public criticism, but the Department of Justice is scheduled to unveil the results of its 11-month investigation into alleged misconduct in the department tomorrow, so SPD may be trying to soften its image in advance of whatever may come down from the DOJ.