Seattle Police vigilantes assault citizens on May 7, 1970.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/16/2000
  • Essay 2309
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On May 7, 1970, the Seattle Police Department deploys plainclothes officers as "vigilantes" to assault citizens in an effort to quell unrest in the University District.

Earlier on May 7, anti-Vietnam War protesters had attempted to close the University of Washington by blocking the entrance gates. These persons were cleared from the campus and Seattle Police returned to their headquarters. After nightfall, protesters began breaking windows and throwing rocks in the University District and uniformed officers returned in cars and buses. One group of uniformed officers broke into the Lander Hall dormitory on NE Campus Parkway, claiming that they were chasing rioters. Witnesses reported that civilian "vigilantes" were beating "anyone with long hair" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

The presence of the men in civilian clothes, some carrying sticks and one with a sidearm was reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, but Acting Police Chief Frank Moore condemned them as members of Help Eliminate Lawless Protesting (HELP), a civilian group headed by R. W. Zylstra. Zylstra claimed that although members of his group were present, none were armed with sticks and only acted as "observers" and in an "intelligence" capacity.

On May 19, Acting Chief Moore admitted that a platoon of the Tactical Squad was present in the University District that night. They had been changing clothes at the police station when the call came in to go back on duty. Moore stated that he had "reason to believe some of these [tactical squad] people took some physical actions that they at least over-reacted." On June 3, 1970, after the tactic became public, Seattle Police Major Ray Carroll was demoted and transferred for his "overreaction" in commanding the officers.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), pp. 285-286; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 8, 1970, p. 1, D; Ibid., May 20, 1970, p. 5.

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