SPD says officer injured, two arrested as police step into clash between private security team and Capitol Hill protesters — UPDATE | #coronavirus | #scams | #covid19

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

(Image: @ENDDSeattle)

An officer was reported injured and two people were arrested after police say there were forced to intervene in a clash between a small group of protesters and private security on the eastern edge of Cal Anderson Park late Wednesday night.

A witness tells CHS the officer was splinted at the scene by members of the security patrol. A Seattle Police Department spokesperson says the injury required the officer to be taken to the hospital but Seattle Fire was not dispatched to the scene, according to 911 records.

The 11th Ave melee was set off after a patrol vehicle from private security firm Iconic Global nearly hit a small group of protesters gathered near a building at 11th and E Olive St, according to video from the scene and the witness account. Police say it was not clear why the security company was responding but that police had to intervene as the scene became heated between the protest group and the heavily armed security team.

UPDATE: A member of the Iconic Global tells CHS the arrival of an unmarked blue Yukon with SWAT officers — and a different vehicle-protester close call with the Yukon also nearly striking people in the area — also contributed to the tense scene.

As the crowd became more agitated over the presence of Iconic Global and the SWAT officers, the security team member said one protester rushed forward with a skateboard and was grabbed by police.

SPD tells CHS they were in the process of taking that protester into custody during the response when another rushed in and the officer was injured.

SPD says two women were arrested and booked into King County jail in the incident.

Iconic Global is one of at least three different security firms CHS has documented now working in the Pike/Pine area with heavily armed guards and a fleet of marked and unmarked vehicles that are often mistaken for police or law enforcement officials.

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Their presence began this spring at buildings boarded during the COVID-19 restrictions as property management companies sought increased security for empty restaurants and storefronts. The guards were typically uniformed and often armed with a handgun. Some became part of the odd city nighttime scenes of COVID-era Pike/Pine as they kicked back on store furniture and watched videos on their phones in darkened showrooms.

UPDATE: The owner of another private security firm working out of the Odd Fellows Building at 10th and E Pine tells CHS that SPD’s fast and heavy response Wednesday night came after he reported threats made against his firm and a business in the building they patrol. Aleksandr Butowicz of Iron and Oak tells CHS that threats were made against his company and the business and that he notified SPD. Butowicz said he was also contacted by Homeland Security about the report. Butowicz says his personnel were not part of the security response that set off the 11th Ave conflict. “Iconic has been really aggressive with their overall handling of folks. We focus on deescalation,” Butowicz said. He reports that Iron and Oak guards aren’t armed with firearms — their weapons fire pepper spray rounds, Butowicz said. “I don’t really believe in firing guns in the most densely populated area of Seattle,” he said.

With CHOP, the presence of the security firms has escalated. CHS reported here on the arrival of Iconic Global along 12th Ave where the private “high threat protection” team became part of the heavy security around a collection of businesses and properties on the edge of the protest zone.

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

The company’s owner Joseph Spiro said the one-year-old Auburn, Washington company is paid by clients in the area but also is providing some support to businesses and buildings in the area pro bono. The company has been providing security to many of the same collection of businesses and property owners involved in the CHOP lawsuit against the city. Earlier, Spiro declined to identify who pays for the services but some small businesses have reportedly been asked to chip in.

UPDATE: Spiro tells CHS that he is still in process of looking into the circumstance around what happened on 11th Ave overnight. “Officers were responding to an incident at one of our businesses that we were hired to protect,” Spiro said.

Spiro tells CHS that his teams have recently switched tactics and have begun following protests and marches because it has become difficult to track the groups as demonstrators currently active on Capitol Hill are less and less likely to allow video streamers or media in their midst. The security teams following the crowds can radio other Iconic Global personnel to alert them when a client property might be threatened. “It’s more efficient than trying to spread across the area,” Spiro said. He said the security personnel will also pick up trash and objects left in the roadway as it follows the crowds.

The new tracking, Spiro acknowledged, has also brought new tensions to the relationship between the security teams and the marchers. “We’re not instigating with them,” Spiro said. “Our presence does make them feel that way.”

Like Iron and Oak, Spiro said there is a “misconception” about how heavily armed his personnel are. While those licensed are likely carrying handguns with live rounds, Spiro said his company has spent heavily on “less lethal” weapons including tasers, pepper balls, and batons.

Spiro said tensions with the protesters has risen. “We’ve increasingly become the target,” he said.

Despite the end of the protest zone, the security forces remain. At the Ferrari and Maserati dealership on 12th at Union, armed guards in military style uniforms stand watch as smaller nightly protests continue in the area. The “direct action” protester involve smaller groups as Black Lives Matter demonstrators have moved their efforts to cross other parts of the city. The recent marches have also involved property damage including a night of targeted vandalism that smashed glass and burned goods at a roster of businesses including Amazon, Starbucks, banks, and a Capitol Hill shop owned by the spouse of a Seattle cop.

We’ve asked businesses involved with the security including Ferrari of Seattle about the ongoing presence but they did not respond. Others have declined to comment.

Butowicz of Iron and Oak said that property manager Redside Partners chose his company because it is not licensed for armed security patrol. “That’s probably the lead of the (sales) pitch,” Butowicz said. “All of them are very familiar with firearms,” Butowicz says of his guards. “They are choosing to work for me unarmed.”

Some business owners, meanwhile, are caught in the middle as property managers bring in the new security forces. “The first day they were back on duty one of them brought a machine gun and stood in our doorway all night,” one owner tells CHS.

That owner said they and others end up paying for the security firm and its “conspiracy theory, militia, apocalyptic mentality” as part of the annual common area maintenance clauses part of most commercial leases.

“The property owners are the ones who hire the security companies,” the business owner said. “They are not hiring this with any kind of equity lens. They are just interested in property.”

At least two more security firms have been seen patrolling and providing guard services elsewhere in the neighborhood bringing a heavily armed mix of security professionals into the streets of Pike/Pine every night.

BECOME A ‘PAY WHAT YOU CAN’ CHS SUBSCRIBER TODAY: Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.

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