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Originally published May 1, 2012 at 9:32 PM | Page modified May 2, 2012 at 4:12 PM

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Businesses in Seattle core hunker down

As the sun began to set on downtown Seattle, parts of downtown looked as if preparations were being made for a major storm.

Seattle Times business reporters

May Day damage to downtown Seattle

Location of buildings and cars damaged by vandals after a noon march from Seattle Central Community College.

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As the sun began to set Tuesday on Seattle, parts of downtown looked as if preparations were being made for a major storm.

Workers along Sixth Avenue between Pike and Pine streets hammered large sheets of wood over display windows at Forever 21, Mario's and other stores in case protests turned violent after dark.

Paul Reder, owner of Tap House Grill, surveyed the boarded-up stores and shook his head in dismay.

Several hours earlier, protesters had shattered windows and spray-painted the anarchists' "A" symbol at the American Apparel store next to his restaurant on Sixth Avenue. Reder thinks his restaurant was spared when one of the protesters set off a homemade smoke bomb and broke up the crowd.

Nearby, Natalie Whitmore snapped photos of the shattered American Apparel windows before workers covered them with wood, just as they had done at the vandalized NikeTown store next door.

"I don't think anyone was prepared for this to happen," said Whitmore, a sales clerk at Banana Republic. Although her store was not damaged, business came to a virtual standstill. "People were coming in and telling us, 'Watch yourself going home,' " she said.

A sign at a Starbucks store on the ground floor of a large office tower at Virginia Street and Eighth Avenue notified visitors the building was on "lockdown." Yellow "caution" tape covered a revolving door at the building's main entrance, despite no apparent damage.

Starbucks closed about a half-dozen stores downtown, including one vandalized at Pacific Place, said spokesman Zack Hutson.

Elsewhere, protesters shattered a door window at Nordstrom's corporate offices on Sixth Avenue. Spokeswoman Tara Darrow disputed some posts on Twitter that said Nordstrom's flagship store had gone on lockdown, though it did temporarily close one entrance at a time based on the protesters' movements.

Later in the afternoon, Pete Nordstrom, the company's president of merchandising, bought a bouquet of flowers at a stand inside the store's main entrance. He said he was disappointed over the city's handling of the protests.

"It's hard for me to understand how in the middle of the day people can run down the streets and cause damage and not be held accountable," he said.

"Obviously, it's disappointing that people would choose that course of action. And it's disappointing that our law enforcement can't prevent needless damage."

Undeterred by the protests, Belltown resident Taylor Preston carried several shopping bags through Pacific Place late Tuesday. With only one day left before her daughter's 27th birthday, she needed to buy some presents.

"When we came out of Macy's, I felt a little uncomfortable, but there were a lot of policemen around," she said. "And we parked far away, because we heard about cars being vandalized."

Downtown Seattle Association spokesman Randy Hurlow said the group supports protesters' right to free speech, and noted that downtown has long accommodated demonstrations.

"But with that right comes the expectations that they abide by our laws and that they follow the city's rules for use of our streets, sidewalks and parks," he added. On Tuesday, "there were several instances in which that line was crossed."

The association pulled 40 "ambassadors" from its Metropolitan Improvement District off the streets around 2 p.m. for safety reasons. Those employees provide hospitality and cleanup services.

Hurlow said he had no immediate estimate of the economic impact of Tuesday's protests.

Several banks were hit by vandalism, including Wells Fargo. Immigrants-rights advocates, who accuse the national bank of profiting from immigrant detention centers, rallied in front of the main downtown branch Tuesday evening.

Wells Fargo closed five downtown branches after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday for the rest of the day as a precaution, said Lara Underhill, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman.

Glass windows at the bank's Fourth and Seneca branch were smashed Tuesday afternoon.

Late Tuesday, Wells Fargo issued this statement: "We're a bank. We accept deposits and make loans. It's unfortunate that groups that are passionate about certain causes are making us out to be something we're not in order to further a political or social agenda."

The bank said it "plays no role in advocating a policy view on immigration or on the operation of private prisons."

Windows were also broken at HomeStreet Bank and HSBC.

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