Did you tune in to Tuesday’s almost-riot show?
Not the one on Seattle news websites, on the radio or even on TV. I’m talking about the stuff that streamed raw and unscripted under the #seamayday hashtag on Twitter. As soon as I heard people in masks were smashing their way through the heart of Seattle, I was angry — and hooked. Judging by the number of spam accounts that joined the feed, drawn in by the level of activity, so were a lot of you.
If you’re here, you’ve heard: About 75 anarchists vandalized businesses and property downtown in the lead-up to the larger May Day protests Tuesday, drowning out the event’s intended messages and putting the whole city on a we-remember-WTO high alert.
On most channels, it was big news. On Twitter, it was big drama, unfolding with a mix of rage and laughter and a savvy set of characters who either took the stage or were shoved out onto it.
The vandalism didn’t escalate to all-out violence, as the city feared and a couple camera-ready voyeurs might have secretly hoped. But there was more than enough heat to make me wonder: Will the Oatmeal draw a cartoon about this? Maybe one of the ones he’ll have to apologize for later?
When the show was over, two things were clear: We really, really don’t like when people make our city look bad for reasons we can’t understand. And after umpteen panics over protests, snowstorms, and dangerous fugitives the last couple years, I think it’s safe to say we’ve gotten pretty good at this collaborative, real-time news thing. Or at least, at keeping it interesting.
Here are some highlights.
On Twitter, whoever says something best gets retweeted most. When people heard what was happening, felt a reaction and looked for a rallying cry to express it, many of them found this tweet from KING 5 reporter Kim Holcomb — and sent it soaring.
People wearing masks while destroying my city: YOUR MESSAGE IS BEING DROWNED BY YOUR IDIOCY
Judging by her subsequent posts, Holcomb had no idea she’d captured the frustration of a reasonable city that was reasonably ticked off. More and less aggressive cries followed, dubbing the vandals losers and cowards and projecting sincere disappointment that Seattle was going to be a bad national headline that day.
If anyone was defending the vandals, they didn’t get mic’d.
It used to be that the media had to keep an eye out for telling details. Now, people help. A man named Chip pointed out to KIRO that a vandal in their footage appeared to have been wearing Nikes while smashing the windows of NikeTown.
Others saw it, shared it and catapulted it to the top of the retweet list, making the image one of the day’s biggest punchlines.
In the nation’s most caffeinated city, I guess even superheroes need their morning buzz. Phoenix Jones, Seattle’s self-proclaimed costumed crime fighter, sipped coffees with sidekicks at the Starbucks overlooking Westlake Plaza Tuesday morning. Photographer Jim Seida got the picture to prove it. “Only in Seattle,” joked many a tweet.
The existence of Seattle’s superheroes is zany enough. Phoenix did his part for law enforcement by documenting some of the vandals’ activities. He denied rumors he’d crossed the line in one of his signature ALL-CAPS TWEETS, and accompanying ALL-CAPS FACEBOOK POST. ‘Cause superheroes are cool like that.
Behind the story
Reporters are outnumbered in the eyewitness age, but not upstaged. Some of the weirdest, most noticed moments came to you live thanks to tweets from your friendly neighborhood journalists, as well as commentary and behind-the-scenes updates that show, in case you weren’t aware, that the days of fly-on-the-wall objectivity are very much over.
Seattle Times breaking news reporter Jennifer Sullivan raised eyebrows with her pic of Seattle police horses decked out in riot gear. The Stranger’s Paul Constant won praise for making it clear that the protests were quiet and peaceful even shortly after they’d been loud and volatile.
SeattlePI.com photojournalist Josh Trujillo got so close to so much of the vandals’ activity that he seemed to show up in most every video — and knew it. And back at the Times newsroom, a staffer joked that the Mariners should be allowed to keep the sticks police were confiscating from protesters, since it’s so clear the Mariners couldn’t do any damage with them.
It’s the last thing you’d expect, but somehow the Seattle Police Department has managed to develop one of the most pithy and interesting social media voices of all the agencies in the city. It’s blunt, plain, and sometimes straight-faced funny. Among the serious updates about a serious situation, a couple of its quips, informative as they were, read like one-liners and traveled accordingly.
We’re not sure what this is but we know what it smells like
And that pretty much sums up this whole mess.