Rev. John Helmiere says he told police that he came to the Port of Seattle protest because "I'm a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe another world is possible." That response, he says, came just after a cop threw him down and repeatedly punched him in the face.
He says that he was repeatedly shouting "keep the peace" to other protestors when officers advanced on the crowd and he soon found himself being thrown to the ground and punched repeatedly before being taken to jail.
I stood before an entrance to Pier 18 of the Seattle Port in my clergy garb bellowing, "Keep the Peace! Keep the Peace!" An officer pulled me down from behind and threw me to the asphalt. Between my cries of pain and shouts of "I'm a man of peace!" he pressed a knee to my spine and immobilized my arms behind my back, crushing me against the ground. With the right side of my face pressed to the street, he repeatedly punched the left side of my face for long enough that I had time to pray that the crunching sounds I heard were not damaging my brain. I was cuffed and pulled off the ground by a different officer who seemed genuinely appalled when he saw my face and clerical collar. He asked who I was and why I was here, to which I replied, "I'm a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe another world is possible." He led me shaking to a police van where began a 12-hour journey of incarcerated misery.
The protest, which had started as a call for a West Coast-wide port shutdown by Occupy Oakland protesters, had lost some steam when union port workers rejected the call to strike.
Regardless, the turnout at the protest was large (estimates of about 500), and demonstrators managed to grab headlines around the country.
The Seattle Police Department's version of events is that the protestors threw paint, rebar, bricks and all kinds of other nasties at them, forcing the officers to pepper spray people, use flash-bang grenades, and ultimately arrest a dozen protestors.
Rev. Helmiere doesn't mention throwing any paint, bricks or rebar, and it's hard to imagine that a man of the cloth would do so.
I have a message in to the priest to find out what, if anything, he was actually charged with and what he plans on dong about it. I'll update when I hear from him.
Meanwhile, here's a video of Helmiere explaining why he came to the protest, filmed not long before he was punched.