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caption: An American flag burns in downtown Seattle on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. Protestors in black bloc say the change in leadership is symbolic and demand an end to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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An American flag burns in downtown Seattle on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. Protestors in black bloc say the change in leadership is symbolic and demand an end to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Credit: Esmy Jimenez/KUOW

Inauguration Day in Seattle closes with protests and police

Inauguration Day in Seattle was marked with a protest Wednesday evening that began at Occidental Park and ended up with three arrests for property damage.

Demonstrators in black bloc said they were there to protest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which they tied back to the movement for racial equity and police reform.

While some Seattleites celebrated President Joe Biden officially taking office, others took to the streets.

About 150 protesters met in Occidental Square Wednesday afternoon. Many avoided talking to the media. But one man who gave his name as AB shared with KUOW that for him the inauguration was largely symbolic.

"Biden is not gonna change the system. Biden has a long history of upholding white supremacy and the two-party system clearly isn’t working for the people," he said.

The group moved through the downtown area blocking traffic and set fire to an American flag at an intersection. People broke windows at an Amazon Go store, and the federal courthouse at 6th Avenue and Spring Street.

As protesters attempted to vandalize the federal courthouse, police vans appeared with several dozen more officers on bikes. The group dispersed but reassembled and also vandalized the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market.

President Biden has shared an ambitious immigration bill that would set "Dreamers" or DACA recipients on a pathway to citizenship. It would also provide similar options for farmworkers and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status who fled their home countries due to violence. The proposal would still have to pass Congress, but could impact a total 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

In Washington state, there’s an estimated 18,000 DACA recipients with the majority living in Seattle and King County.

Late Wednesday night, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske signed a memorandum placing a moratorium on deportations for 100 days. That starts Friday, January 22.

In a release, the federal agency shared, "The pause will allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding to the most pressing challenges that the United States faces, including immediate operational challenges at the southwest border in the midst of the most serious global public health crisis in a century."