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Seattle Protests for Civil Rights
caption: Protesters are shown raising their hands in the air while chanting, 'hands up, don't shoot,' toward Seattle police officers on Saturday, May 30, 2020, near the intersection of 5th and Pine Streets in Seattle. Thousands gathered in a protest that turned violent following the police killing of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer who held his knee on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as he repeatedly said, 'I can't breathe,' in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
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Protesters are shown raising their hands in the air while chanting, 'hands up, don't shoot,' toward Seattle police officers on Saturday, May 30, 2020, near the intersection of 5th and Pine Streets in Seattle. Thousands gathered in a protest that turned violent following the police killing of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer who held his knee on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as he repeatedly said, 'I can't breathe,' in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

12,000 complaints filed against Seattle Police after weekend of protests

The Seattle Office of Police Accountability says it is processing roughly 12,000 individual complaints against officers in the wake of the demonstrations held over the weekend.

The protests were part of a nationwide civilian response to the police killings of Black Americans.

Numerous videos of unrest in downtown Seattle have circulated online, including one showing a young child screaming in agony after reportedly being pepper sprayed during a peaceful rally attended by thousands.

Another clip shows two officers apprehending a suspect on the ground, after a group — separate from the protesters — began looting nearby retailers. One of the officers is seen placing his knee upon the person's neck amid the arrest.

In Seattle, a protest for George Floyd, and for Black America

Both incidents are among the thousands of complaints under review the Office of Police Accountability. Each complaint has been assigned a case number. The progress of the investigations can be checked here.

The office says the most frequent allegations include:

  • Pepper spraying a young child
  • Punching two people on the ground who were being arrested
  • Placing a knee on the neck area of two people who had been arrested (The same tactic used by the Minneapolis Police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd)
  • Covering up of badge numbers
  • Failing to record law enforcement activity on body cameras
  • Pepper spraying peaceful demonstrators
  • The use of flashbangs, including an instance in which a significant thumb injury was sustained
  • Failing to secure rifles in police cruiser (two of the guns were stolen and ultimately recovered on Saturday)
  • Officers breaking the windows of a Target store

The Office of Police Accountability insists the investigations of the complaints "will be civilian-led and as transparent as possible given the law and police collective bargaining agreements."

Evan Hreha, who lives downtown, attended the initial demonstration on Saturday. He filmed the aftermath of the incident in which a child was pepper sprayed. He said a scuffle broke out prior to him filming.

"There was a little scuffle over towards the left side on the sidewalk in front of Macy's," he told KUOW. "It's like somebody pushed a sign or something and the cops kind of freaked out. I couldn't see exactly what happened, but then the little girl ran away screaming. So that's when I started recording."

Hreha said bystanders began pointing to an officer named Jared Campbell shortly thereafter, and demanding to see his badge number — the view of which was obstructed by a black piece of tape. Campbell's photo was shared online, alongside accusations he was behind the incident and demands that he be disciplined.

The Office of Police Accountability denies that Campbell is responsible for pepper spraying. However, officials have not yet publicly shared any additional findings.

Andre Taylor is the founder of Not This Time, a community organization focused on police reform and use of force reduction. He organized Saturday's protest in the Westlake neighborhood.

Taylor, whose brother Che Taylor was fatally shot by plainclothes Seattle police officers in 2016, expressed skepticism about how much might become of the complaints.

"These things have happened so often before and people are acting so surprised," he told KUOW.

He said he urges the Office of Police Accountability to be transparent with the public about its findings — especially those related to the child who was pepper sprayed.

"If you got 12,000 reports, something in there has to be true," he said.