[Ppnews] Months later, five charged in May Day riot
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 29 16:42:40 EST 2012
Months later, five charged in May Day riot
Police ID Ballard man as anarchist who wore Nikes to smash
By LEVI PULKKINEN, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Published 7:44 p.m., Tuesday, November 27, 2012
*Months later, five charged in May Day riot*
*Police ID Ballard man as anarchist who wore Nikes to smash Niketown*
*By LEVI PULKKINEN, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF Published 7:44 p.m., Tuesday,
November 27, 2012 *
Six months after black-clad protestors smashed windows and attacked police
during May Day protests in downtown Seattle, an exhaustive police
investigation appears to have sparked charges against five suspected
The riotous string of protests that saw a federal courthouse attacked,
several shops smashed and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s home vandalized
prompted Seattle police to circulate photos of several masked protestors,
hoping to identify those most responsible for the violence.
Federal authorities continue to pursue a wider investigation into a group
of anarchists believed to have planned some of the violence.
In charges filed earlier in November, King County prosecutors contend
photos and video collected by Seattle police in the wake of the May Day
protests support the charges filed earlier this month against five
Among those charged is 24-year-old Phillip Neel, a Leschi neighborhood
resident suspected of injuring a police officer during the protest, which
authorities claim was turned violent by a small group hoping for
Prosecutors have also identified the protester caught on camera smashing
the downtown Niketown store while wearing a pair of Swooshed shoes as
Ballard resident Kellen M. Linnell.
Neel and Linnell, 27, have been charged with felony property destruction,
as has Jason J. Michaels, a 29-year-old West Seattle man. Matthew A.
Erickson, 26, of Seattle, has been charged with riot, as has Shoreline
resident Meaghnn A. Gonzales, 21.
Charges filed Nov. 20 describe an intensive, long-running police
investigation into the May Day activities. Law enforcement officers were
ultimately able to identify several of the suspects, according to charging
documents, as were members of the public.
Setting the scene in charging papers, Seattle Police Department Det. Wes
Friesen noted a variety of labor movement-oriented events drew thousands
of people downtown on May Day, and that a small, core group of protesters
seemed committed to causing violence.
On May Day, a group of demonstrators, wearing all black, massed at
Westlake Park around 12:20 p.m. Friesen asserted the masked demonstrators
chose their “black bloc” attire so they could conceal their identities
while fighting police or rioting.
According to the detective’s account, the black-clad demonstrators
included “several known anarchist extremists” from Seattle and Portland,
Ore., who previously had destroyed property as a political act.
“Property destruction carried out by black blocs tends to have symbolic
significance,” Friesen said in court documents, noting that common targets
for rioting anarchists have been banks and chain stores.
The 50 or so demonstrators in “black bloc” were scattered through a larger
crowd of nonviolent protestors unaware that some among them planned to
vandalize downtown businesses, Friesen told the court. The group was
walking toward the downtown core when the protest turned violent.
Near the intersection of Pike Street and Third Avenue, a black-clad
demonstrator attacked a videographer for a Seattle television station. The
demonstrator hit the man in the face with a wooden dowel before fleeing.
“Black bloc” demonstrators then surrounded a car, taunting occupants and
climbing atop the vehicle, Friesen told the court. Members of the group
then proceeded to a Wells Fargo bank branch at Fourth Avenue and Seneca
Street, where they caused about $26,000 in damage by breaking windows and
throwing paint bombs.
“Employees in a terrified state activated their bank robbery alarms to
identify the seriousness of the situation and to initiate an emergency
response by the police,” Friesen told the court. “Officers were unable to
respond to this specific incident in a timely and safe manner based on the
According to charging papers, demonstrators had blocked traffic to a
degree that prevented officers from reaching the bank until the vandals
had moved on to the William Kenzo Nakamura U.S. Courthouse in the 1000
block of Sixth Avenue. They damaged several parked cars on their way.
Investigators contend 12 people dressed in black – what investigators
describe as “black bloc” uniform – vandalized the courthouse, causing tens
of thousands of dollars in damage. According to an FBI agent’s report, a
vandal threw an incendiary device similar to a road flare at the
The FBI is currently investigating that vandalism, as well as several
Portland residents suspected to have traveled to Seattle to riot.
The group then looped back on Sixth Avenue to Pike Street, where
demonstrators damaged a Nike retail outlet and an American Apparel store.
Friesen described the scene there as a “massive frenzy of destructive
violence” that included incendiary devices.
Describing the incidents as a “spree of violence and property damage,”
Friesen said police responding to the area forced the demonstrators to
retreat to Westlake Park. They continued to vandalize property on the way,
Friesen continued, while some ditched their black clothing to blend into
the May Day crowd gathered at Westlake.
Protesters then began a second march to a totem pole memorializing John T.
Williams, a Seattle woodcarver killed by a Seattle patrol officer in
August 2010. That march took a particularly anti-police tone, with
marchers chanting “No justice, no peace, (expletive) the police.”
Having been directed by Mayor Mike McGinn to seize all weapons at the
protest, police attempted to do so while allowing the march to proceed. As
the protest wore on, though, one officer was struck in the head with a
glass bottle while others were kicked or manhandled.
While police arrested several people during and immediately after the
protests, many of the demonstrators suspected of vandalism or attacking
police were not immediately apprehended.
Seattle Police Chief John Diaz formed a task force to continue the
investigation. Officers assigned to the group pored over hundreds of hours
of footage in an effort to identify those responsible for the vandalism
and property destruction; photos of several suspects were publicized by
Friesen now contends that effort ultimately led to the identification of
the five defendants charged earlier this month.
Linnell is alleged to have participated in the vandalism of the Nike store
and the Bank of America branch, and to have climbed atop an occupied car
during the protest. Friesen noted Linnell wore a pair of Nike shoes during
the protest, as well as a bright pink headband identifiable on several
According to charging documents, Linnell was identified by a tipster who
saw a photo of him on KOMONews.com. The tipster directed police to
Linnell’s Ballard home, which police searched on June 15 in an effort to
recover clothing worn at the protest. The detective said officers also
seized “incendiary devices,” paint and unspecified weapons.
Detectives contacted Linnell at an Eastside worksite later that day. Asked
about the vandalism, Linnell denied destroying any property while refusing
to cooperate with police when asked to identify the vandals.
“Linnell said even if … he knew who they were, he would not tell, because
it was against his moral and ethical code,” Friesen told the court.
“Linnell stated he would only help if the person had committed a violent
act against another person.”
Gonzales was identified as a suspect after her boyfriend arrived at a
meeting with his community corrections officer wearing paint-spattered
black clothing, Friesen told the court. The Department of Corrections
officer recognized the man’s girlfriend from photos publicized by police.
Investigators searched the man’s Shoreline home and recovered clothing
alleged to have been worn by Gonzales during the protest. Gonzales and her
boyfriend were both arrested.
According to the detective’s statement, Gonzales admitted she was pictured
in the photos publicized by police.
“I remember I was very angry and upset with the way the police were
treating people,” Gonzales told the detective, according to charging
documents. She was unable to explain footage showing her throwing an
object at a police officer, denying that she did so.
Writing the court, Friesen argued Gonzales is suspected of hitting a
police officer in the face with a book. She has not been charged with that
more serious crime, but is instead facing a single riot charge.
Neel is accused of kicking a police officer in the knee during one of the
May Day marches. According to charging documents, Neel was identified
through photos taken during the protest, which purportedly show him
damaging an American Apparel store window.
SWAT officers and May Day Task Force investigators searched Neel’s Leschi
neighborhood home on July 10 after obtaining a warrant.
Officers detained Neel and three other residents while searching the home.
According to charging documents, officers recovered clothing Neel is
alleged to have worn during the protest; Neel declined to speak with
Erickson was caught on video damaging a downtown Bank of America branch
and subsequently identified by police who had other dealings with him,
Friesen told the court. Michaels, who is accused of vandalizing the Nike
store, was also identified by an officer who’d previously had contact with
him; she said Michaels described himself as an anarchist at the time.
Court documents show Friesen completed his 19-page report on the May Day
demonstration in late August. King County prosecutors filed charges
against the five defendants without fanfare on Nov. 20; none of the
defendants have been jailed.
What relationship, if any, the new state charges have to the ongoing
federal investigation into anarchist activity in the Northwest remains
At least two protesters suspected of smashing windows at the Nakamura
Courthouse have previously faced minor charges in federal court. But court
documents and a widely publicized grand jury proceeding indicate federal
prosecutors are preparing to level more serious allegations.
In a statement filed in federal court in early October, an FBI special
agent outlined the allegations against six Portland anarchists suspected
of traveling to Seattle for the May 1 demonstration. An FBI surveillance
team apparently followed the group north from Portland.
Five of the six protestors are suspected of damaging the Nakamura
Courthouse during the May Day demonstrations. They were joined in the
vandalism by seven other anarchists in “black bloc” and several
Writing the court, the FBI agent said the protesters came to Seattle to riot.
“Although many anarchists are law-abiding, there is a history in the
Pacific Northwest of some anarchists participating in property destruction
and other criminal activity in support of their political philosophy,”
said the agent, who is assigned to the FBI Seattle office’s terrorism task
The agent went on to name six Oregon residents suspected in the vandalism.
All are anarchists known to Portland-area law enforcement; the FBI agent
contends text messages and surveillance show they traveled to Seattle for
the protest, and, in one case, described the day as “awesome.”
Inquiries are ongoing before federal grand juries in Seattle and Portland,
though no indictments have been publicly issued.
An FBI surveillance team followed five of the suspects north from Portland
when they drove to Olympia the day before the May 1 riots, the FBI agent
told the court. The surveillance team broke off after the group arrived in
Olympia but text messages recovered by the FBI and rental car receipts
indicate they arrived in Seattle the following morning.
Having identified the Oregon suspects, investigators in Portland searched
a Mississippi Avenue “squat” where several were believed to be living. The
search was conducted as part of an investigation into vandalism of a
Portland KeyBank in which one of the men is accused.
Text messages recovered in that search purportedly show the group planned
to participate in a riot. In subsequent searches, investigators recovered
other clothing they contend links the suspects to the vandalism.
Investigators also seized electronics and CDs, which they’ve now
Writing the court, the special agent asserted several vandals are
suspected of destroying government property, crossing state lines to riot
and conspiring to commit the same crimes.
The charges filed in King County earlier this month are among the most
serious allegations made to date in the May Day demonstration.
All five defendants have been charged with riot. Linnell, Michaels and
Neel have been charged with second-degree malicious mischief, while Neel
has also been charged with fourth-degree assault.
Protester Paul W. Campiche previously pleaded guilty to attempted assault
of a police officer and was sentenced to seven months on home detention.
Robert Ditrani, 24, was initially charged with assault in the May Day
protests, but has since pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and was
sentenced to a suspended jail term.
Charges against two other people involved in the May Day protests – Joshua
Garland and Maria Jannett Morales – were subsequently dismissed with
None of the defendants charged on Nov. 20 has been jailed. Each is
expected to be arraigned in coming weeks.
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