Police Find Van Full of Spike Strips, Stun Guns, and Improvised Explosives at Riot


There aren’t a whole lot of innocent applications for bear mace —  and all of them involve bears.

Spike strips, meanwhile, have a peaceful use if you’re a law enforcement officer and trying to stop a car.

Fireworks and nails have peaceful applications, of course. However, when they’re found in combination with the first two, the tendency is to believe that their application probably doesn’t involve a pyrotechnic celebration after you fix up the deck.

All of which is to say that while the “mostly peaceful” protests in the Pacific Northwest have gotten plenty of digital media inches, almost no attention has been paid to a van during a riot in Seattle last Saturday in which authorities found all of these things.

According to a police news release on Wednesday, a search warrant carried out on a van seen in the vicinity of a July 25 riot in Support of the Black Lives Matter movement, where trailers were torched, cars were vandalized and a Starbucks was trashed.

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In the last instance, a fire was set in the coffee shop, which was below residential units. So much for that whole argument about the more aggressive element of the protesters only damaging property, not putting innocent lives in danger.

The demonstration, as The Seattle Times reported, was organized by the Youth Liberation Front in solidarity with similarly placid rioting in Portland, Oregon. The damage was mostly confined to the Capitol Hill district, best known as the home of the so-called CHAZ/CHOP lawless autonomous zone, where protesters occupied blocks for weeks with little interference from Seattle authorities.

The van, police said, was spotted behind some of the rioters just before some of the destruction happened.

“At approximately 4:25 PM officers observed a van following the protestors as they marched northbound on 12th Avenue. The van then stopped outside of the East Precinct,” the news release stated.

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“The van was abandoned in the street, facing northbound, in the southbound lane. At about the same time explosions occurred outside the precinct. Individuals in the crowd threw explosives at officers. One explosion occurred along the north wall of the precinct (on Pine Street), which blew a hole in the wall of the building.”

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told reporters during a Wednesday news briefing that the same van had been spotted earlier in the day by a witness.

At that time, the van had its rear doors open and gas masks, pyrotechnic devices, baseball bats, gas masks, improvised shields and other items not typically seen at peaceful protests were visible to the witness, according to police.

The van was impounded once police determined it wasn’t rigged to explode.

“Detectives applied for and obtained a search warrant and search the van,” the news release stated. “Detectives located firework pyrotechnics, bear mace, improvised spike strips and nails. In addition, detectives also located gas masks, shin guards/helmets and other body armor, homemade shields and other items.  These are just a few of the items found during the search.”

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No one has been arrested in connection with the van,

More of the items found during the search were displayed by police:

During Wednesday’s press briefing, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan — while emphasizing the usual bromide that most of the protesting had been peaceful — said that some protesters were “well-organized with this kind of destructive power.”

“We have been in an unprecedented time in our city,” Durkan said at the news conference. “And one of the unprecedented things we’re experiencing is the historic civil rights reckoning, not just in Seattle but in this country. … Peaceful protests are good for America and good for our city. They push us to be better. They are a core tenet of who we are as a country.”

However, she noted that “arson, destruction and violence have occurred and they undermine the push and need and voice for systemic change.”

Durkan also pivoted to President Donald Trump, saying that through violence, protesters were “sowing those divisions that the president wants” and “playing right into his hands.”

The kind of people who are going to bring bear mace to a protest don’t care about making Mayor Durkan’s political point, however.

Bear mace, Seattle Police Sgt. James Lee noted, “lasts much longer than the … type of pepper spray that police use and is much stronger. It is not safe for use on humans.”

Seattle had recently banned its officers from using any kind of pepper spray, although that legislation was enjoined from being put into effect the day before the protest in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

There’s a certain kind of naïveté in believing, as liberal politicians like Durkan seem to, that these protest movements are tigers they can ride atop and direct to their own political ends. She seems to truly believe that scolding those who would fill a van with improvised implements of destruction, telling them that they’re “playing right into [Trump’s] hands,” is going to get them to fall in line.

This was the exactly what she said about CHAZ/CHOP, something she called “like a block party” which she hoped would blossom into a “summer of love.” With the right rhetoric, she seemed to figure, a violence-prone element of the far left — one that doesn’t respect private property or the rule of law — could somehow be coerced into becoming happy warriors for the progressive cause.

Police Chief Best, as has been her wont, was again the voice of reason, telling reporters at the media briefing this was “evidence that not everyone who comes to these protests are peaceful. Peaceful protesters do not show up in a van full of … explosives.”

Nor do they take over entire neighborhoods and turn them into lawless “autonomous zones” or “occupied protests.” Mayor Durkan didn’t learn her lesson with CHAZ/CHOP, though, and she certainly doesn’t seem to have internalized it here, either.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture