Seattle Superheroes Grapple With Anarchist Clowns and Fend off Vicious Silly String Attack

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May 2 2013 1:08 PM

Seattle Superheroes Grapple With Anarchist Clowns and Fend off Vicious Silly String Attack

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 12.38.12 PM
"Crime fighter"

Screenshot from Seattle's KCPQ-TV

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Yesterday I wrote about the self-appointed Seattle “superheroes” who like to dress up in homemade costumes and prowl the city’s streets, keeping their eyes open for crime, and for tourists who want to take their pictures. During last year’s May Day riots, the caped crusaders attempted to stop a group of black-clad anarchists from vandalizing a federal courthouse but ended up just escalating the conflict. As this year’s May Day approached, despite assurances that the police really did have things under control, the superheroes promised they’d be on the scene once again, to lend assistance or get in the way, as the case may be.

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Well, May Day has come and gone, and, once again, anarchists rioted on Seattle’s streets. Though the day began peacefully, by evening police were using “flash bangs” and pepper spray to repel protesters who tossed rocks and bottles and brandished lit fireworks. By the time the riots dispersed around 9 p.m., there had been “17 arrests, eight injured police officers and several damaged Capitol Hill storefronts,” according to a Seattlepi.com article. “We’re a bigger and better city than this,” pleaded Mayor Mike McGinn. “I look at this and I am disappointed that this is the picture the world sees of us.”

And what role did “Phoenix Jones” and the Rain City Superhero Movement play in the day’s events? Early in the day, tweeted Seattlepi.com reporter Casey McNerthney, an impromptu superhero press conference was interrupted when a tourist-laden “Ride the Ducks” amphibious vehicle rolled by, loudly blaring “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Judging by a report from Seattle’s KCPQ Fox-13 TV, Jones and his cohort spent much of the afternoon pointing out pedestrians as potential anarchists, answering impertinent questions from onlookers (“Why do you feel it necessary to be here, and not just let the police take care of it?”), and arranging to meet the other superheroes at Starbucks.

Around 4 p.m., the Seattle Police Department tweeted news of a “Brief disturbance earlier at 5th and Jackson between superheroes and clowns”—anarchists dressed as clowns, that is. (Just like they did in the Haymarket!) Around 7 p.m., the SPD’s official blog reports, “protestors began spraying the costumed Rain City Superheroes with silly string.”

All is well in Rain City.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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