An African-American Seattle man who happened to be walking by a pro-Palestinian protest said that he is still confused as to why a security guard would have pepper sprayed him instead of a white man who was harassing demonstrators and yelling racial slurs.
Freelance photographer Alex Garland, who photographed and videotaped the incident, told The Stranger that a white shirtless man had been trying to start fights with activists at a pro-Palestinian rally on Saturday.
Garland said he heard the man shout “towelhead” and something he thinks sounded like “sand n*gger.”
As 26-year-old Raymond Wilford was walking to a friend’s house, the shirtless man apparently confused him for a protester.
“I was trying to avoid him because I heard him say a bunch of racial stuff,” Wilford told The Stranger.
In photos taken by Garland, the two men can be seen squaring off in a fighting stance, but Wilford said he never actually threw a punch.
That’s when a Westlake Center security guard arrived on the scene.
“The security guard was like, ‘Stop,'” Wilford recalled. “The white guy was still yelling and walking towards the security guard. I was like, ‘Why are you pointing your mace at me? He’s the one being aggressive.’ And then he pepper-sprayed me.”
Photos show the security guard walking past the shirtless white man to pepper spray Wilford, who is black.
“The guy that was the aggressor was closer to the security guard,” Garland said, according to MyNorthwest.com. “The other individual, the person of color, was further away but he was the one who got pepper sprayed.”
Video taken by Garland shows protesters pleading with the security guard, saying, “You Maced the wrong guy.” A Seattle police officer arrived on the scene, and the security guard took Wilford away to be detained. Meanwhile, the photos show the shirtless man casually walking away.
The security guard later told Seattle officers that Wilford “took an aggressive step towards him” so he was forced to deploy his pepper spray, a police reported indicated.
Valor Security Services, which employs the security guard, told KING that the guard gave multiple warnings.
“Please know these actions are never done without warning and careful consideration,” Valor spokesperson Scott Born insisted in a statement. “It is always our goal to try to resolve all situations as peacefully as possible.”
Valor declined to tell KING if the guard was still working for the company. The Seattle Police Department was investigating the incident.
For his part, Wilford said that he would like to speak with management at Westlake, and he has not ruled out legal action.
“I’ve been treated like that all my life, so it kinda brushes off,” Wilford explained to The Stranger. “I’m from the South, I’m from New Orleans. I’ve seen the worst of it.”
“People here seem to be more secretive about their not liking black people, or their racism,” he added. “I’m so used to it I don’t know what’s wrong and what’s right half the time.”
Watch the video below from KING, broadcast Aug. 12, 2014.
Watch the video below from Alex Garland, recording Aug. 9. 2014.