Private security guards hired to keep people out of a city-owned park in Seattle during off hours, left during their first shift after they were verbally harassed.
Cal Anderson Park has been closed since June 30 and was cleared Tuesday so the city could make repairs to a field house damaged in the protests. During a search of several tents, officers and park staff found a machete, a hatchet, makeshift shields and homemade spike strips.
The city hired the Jaguar Security Firm to station guards at the park to keep people off the property from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., Ricky McGhee, the company's owner, told Fox News. McGhee said he went to the park with two armed security guards and immediately encountered a group, some of whom were armed with "poles and sticks."
"I went there to make sure, as the owner of the company, that nothing serious would go down. I wanted to make sure everything was going to be cool," McGhee said. "As soon as we entered that park, they started verbally attacking us ... calling us all kinds of names like 'sellouts' and [telling us] what they would do to us."
Someone also shined a bright light at McGhee and his employees that made it hard to identify who they were, he said. He disputed media reports that he was chased out of the park.
He said he called police and was instructed to walk to the sidewalk and wait for officers. A video shows three security guards walking toward the street as some people, mostly wearing black, shout at them.
The guards were armed, but not looking for a fight, McGhee said. They were "seasoned" were "not trying to go to jail." Jaguar Security did not return to the park Wednesday.
Seattle Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Rachel Schulkin told Fox News the city is working with Jaguar on a "night-by-night" basis as "we reassess daily the security needs for Cal Anderson Park."
"Jaguar Security opted to leave the park on Tuesday evening as the large crowd of protesters was not responding to requests to disperse, continued to harass the security guards, and out of a desire to not escalate the situation," she said.
McGhee told Fox News he is working with the city to come up with a plan for his employees to safely return.
"These people that are doing that stuff, they're putting themselves in danger," he said. "We could have engaged right when they put those lights in our eyes and they had those weapons in their hands."
Some Seattle residents and business owners have complained about protesters and homeless people occupying and damaging parks and private property amid ongoing demonstrations. Others have said they were verbally and physically threatened by protesters for merely being in a park or filming in a public space.