Ongoing coverage of protests for racial justice in the Seattle area
Demonstrations and protests for racial justice continue in western Washington. The rallying cry of these protests has been to defund the police. Here's what that means.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 11
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best resigns
8 a.m. -- Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best resigned late Monday, hours after the Seattle City Council took its first major action to cut resources from the city’s police department.
“This was a difficult decision for me,” Best said in an email to Seattle officers, announcing her resignation. “But when it’s time, it’s time.”
Best's last day will be September 2. Deputy Police Chief Adrian Diaz will take over as interim Chief of Police.
MONDAY, AUGUST 10
Federal judge rejects attempt to enforce Seattle crowd weapons ban in lawsuit over protesters' protective gear
7:33 p.m. — A federal judge on Monday denied a motion seeking an outright ban on the Seattle Police Department's use of crowd control weapons.
The motion was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington as part of a lawsuit arguing that protesters are being priced out of their constitutional rights by the increasing need to wear protective gear to ongoing civil rights demonstrations.
The lawsuit contends that the Seattle Police Department's repeated use of munitions against demonstrators is a violation of their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble — an argument that has come up frequently during the course of an ongoing battle to rein in the department's use of "less lethal" crowd control weapons.
But the filing also presented a more novel argument: The City of Seattle had established a "de facto protest tax," because demonstrators "now must purchase cost-prohibitive gear to withstand munitions," contravening their right to equal protection under the law.
"You shouldn't have to be rich to be able to air your grievances via your First Amendment rights," said Talitha Hazelton, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case.
Judge Richard Jones, however, denied Hazelton's motion for a blanket ban on the Seattle Police Department's use of crowd control weapons, writing that the petitioners ultimately "failed to meet their burden to show that the balance of equities tips in their favor." Jones also agreed with the city that the petitioners did not adequately assert their equal protection claim.
Read more here.
Hundreds rally outside Seattle City Hall in support of SPD
8 a.m. -- For months, Black Lives Matter activists have held daily protests in Seattle, demanding that leaders cut 50%, at least, of the Seattle police budget. On Sunday, hundreds gathered to support Seattle's police and offered a counter message, chanting: “SPD! SPD! SPD!”
The rallies come ahead of the City Council's Monday meeting where members are expected to vote on cuts to the department.
The large crowd waved blue lives matter flags and carried Trump 2020 signs. Demonstrators said the Council needs to invest more money into law enforcement – not the other way around.
“If we need money for other things, take it (from) somewhere else, not the police department” said, Donna Morris, a teacher who, like most people I spoke with, does not live in Seattle.
Morris said she doesn’t feel safe visiting the city.
“Right now, as we are, we don't have enough police officers," she said. "We need more in Seattle, not less.”
A group of Black Lives Matter activists were also present, but the events remained peaceful.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 7
Petitioners liken Seattle Police's use of crowd weapons against protesters to war crimes in court filing
12:15 p.m. — A group of protesters and their attorneys compared the Seattle Police Department's use of crowd control weapons against retreating demonstrators on July 25 to war crimes in a federal court filing Friday morning.
The filing was made in response to the City of Seattle's rebuttal to a lawsuit filed on Monday, seeking the enforcement of a suspended city ordinance banning the use of tear gas and other crowd control weapons.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, argues that "because the Seattle Police Department has acted above and outside the law in dispensing its unbridled force ... the government effect is to establish a de facto protest tax: individual protesters subjected to SPD’s unabated and indiscriminate violence now must purchase cost- prohibitive gear to withstand munitions."
City officials, however, refuted these allegations, maintaining that an earlier federal court decision already settled the dispute over banning "less-lethal" crowd control weapons, pending a review by the Department of Justice. U.S. District Judge James Robart last month ruled that such a ban would interfere with the Seattle Police Department's compliance with a federal consent decree, entered in 2012, that has governed its use of force practices.
Read Friday's court filing below:
Petitioners' response to the City of Seattle's rebuttal
THURSDAY, AUGUST 6
Seattle council committee moves forward with cuts to police department
9 a.m. -- The Seattle City Council moving forward with plans to reduce the size of the Seattle Police Department. But it's not the 50% cut many activists have been calling for.
The Seattle City Council Budget Committee approved a proposal Wednesday -- ahead of next weeks full council vote. It puts forth pay cuts for those in the top ranks and shrinks the department by about 100 officers this year.
They also voted in favor of eliminating the SPD's Navigation Team and suggested offering grants to non-profits so they could handle outreach efforts and home camp sweeps instead.
But the cuts only add up to about $3 million and fall short of the 50% budget reduction many activists and groups like Decriminalize Seattle have been calling for.
Some council members say, however, they plan to cut about 40% of the SPD's budget next year through moving some functions like 911 outside of the department.
-- Angela King
Charges filed for suspect in fatal June 20 shooting in the CHOP
8:30 a.m. -- The search is on for a man who now faces charges in the murder of Lorenzo Anderson, the 19 year old who was killed near the CHOP in June.
King County Prosecutors filed premeditated first degree murder charges against Marcel Long, 18, on Wednesday. They believe he has left the state, but once he's found and arrested, his bail will be set at $2 million.
The Seattle Times reports that Long is a resident of Renton. He was identified through surveillance video from the area and a witness at the scene. That witness reportedly fired their gun into the air during the incident in an attempt to distract Long. They went to Seattle police detectives the following day and explained that a fight broke out among a group of people who were playing dice and were not associated with the ongoing protest. That fight let to the shooting, according to court documents.
KING 5 reports that Long was allegedly seen on surveillance video approaching Anderson and pulling out a gun. He is then allegedly seen then chasing Anderson, who ran away, and appears to shoot him.
There was another non-deadly shooting near the CHOP on June 20, but detectives believe Long was not involved.
Demonstration outside Seattle Council meeting
8 a.m. -- While a Seattle City Council committee voted on police budget changes Wednesday, hundreds of people rallied outside City Hall.
Protest organizers repeated their demands for the city to cut the Seattle police budget by at least 50%, and to release people who've been arrested during protests.
Chelsey Richardson says more marches are planned this weekend throughout Seattle.
"I think it's important for us to basically keep up the good fight ... because it's not over," Richardson said.
The Council is expected to take a full vote on the SPD budget sometime next week.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5
'Take to the Streets, Defund the Police march and rally'
12 p.m. --Around 1,000 people marched from the King County Juvenile Detention Center to Seattle City Hall on Wednesday afternoon during the ‘Take to the Streets, Defund the Police march and rally.’
Demonstrators are demanding that the Seattle Police Department be defunded by at least 50% and that those funds be reallocated to social services, programs, housing and education in Black communities.
The march, organized by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, ended at Seattle City Hall with speeches and musical performances.
-- Megan Farmer
TUESDAY, AUGUST 4
Durkan says Council proposal for police layoffs is misguided
4 p.m. --The Seattle City Council’s Budget Committee will vote on changes to this year’s Seattle Police Department budget Wednesday. At a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she’s open to council members’ intentions to develop more non-police responses to 911 calls, but she said those discussions should take place in this fall’s budget deliberations for 2021. “We think the Council is looking in the right places, but in the wrong year,” Durkan said. “They basically admitted that the Chief and I were right, you can’t cut by 50 percent this year. Now they want to reduce the force by 100 officers in 2020.”
That total includes layoffs and attrition. Durkan said the council’s attempts to spare SPD’s newest, most diverse recruits from being laid off are not realistic under labor laws. Chief Best said the council hasn’t consulted her about its proposals, and that council members have exceeded their authority in trying to manage day-to-day operations at SPD. “What’s problematic is these are approaches without any clarity on how they will become reality,” she said. “What is the plan?”
The group Decriminalize Seattle, which is calling for 50 percent cuts to SPD’s budget, will hold a march and rally tomorrow from the youth detention center to City Hall. Council President Lorena Gonzalez says SPD doesn’t have enough remaining funds for the Council to achieve a 50 percent cut in 2020. “We can’t pull water from a dry well,” she said Friday. Council member Teresa Mosqueda has so far proposed approximately 40 percent in cuts to SPD for 2021.
Priced out of protesting
8:30 a.m. -- A group of five people is suing the city of Seattle arguing that they're being priced-out of protesting.
They say that the use of pepper spray and other crowd-control devices by Seattle police mean they have to buy helmets, gas masks, and other expensive gear in order to exercise their right to protest peacefully.
The plaintiffs say they were all victims of an "indiscriminate" police response on Capitol Hill in June.
The city attorney says he is looking into the claims made in the lawsuit.
-- Angela King
Pushback on police chief's letter to City Council
8 a.m. -- Some activists who went to the Snohomish County home of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best over the weekend are pushing back against her claims that they were aggressive.
In a letter to the City Council, Chief Best called on members to denounce the tactic of protesting at official's private homes. She said her neighbors made sure the group wasn't able to "trespass or engage in other illegal behavior" despite repeated efforts.
But some of the demonstrators who said they wanted to talk to the chief about the Black Lives Matter movement told KING 5 that her neighbors blocked the road and even displayed guns. Video clips showing this were posted on Facebook.
The demonstrators left the area after they said they felt unsafe.
On Monday, Councilmember Tammy Morales said she takes exception to the response by the police chief who "celebrated that her neighbors met these young people with guns."
-- Angela King
MONDAY, AUGUST 3
Needing body armor to protest in Seattle violates constitutional rights, lawsuit argues
2:30 p.m. — Several protesters are suing the City of Seattle over the increasing necessity of showing up to protests in protective wear.
Their attorney is also petitioning the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to enforce a city ordinance banning the use of tear gas and other crowd control weapons against demonstrators.
The court filing argues that the city has infringed on its residents’ constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and receive equal protection under the law.
Civil rights demonstrations have been ongoing in Seattle since late May, and so has the Seattle Police Department’s use of chemical irritants and projectiles as measures of crowd control. Civilians have been left with a host of injuries including chemical burns, visual impairments, scrapes, and bruises.
It has become common to see demonstrators, who have come to expect harsh crowd control actions from Seattle Police, sporting protective gear such as helmets and respirators. Umbrellas, repurposed as shields, have also become a centerpiece at local demonstrations.
"We started hearing stories about folks who were spending $400 to $500 on gear to try to be able to protest the streets," said Talitha Hazelton, who is representing clients on the new lawsuit. She cited an anecdotal uptick of demonstrators patronizing local military surplus stores in recent months.
Hazelton’s court filing argues that this cost means the city has neglected to provide equal protection under the law.
She explained: "When we hear this community talking about how it's so cost prohibitive, there's actually a name for that ... called equal protection. You shouldn't have to be rich to be able to air your grievances via your First Amendment rights."
Read more here.
Protesters deterred at Police Chief Carmen Best's private home
8 a.m. -- Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best is calling on the City Council to "stand up for what is right" after a group of protesters showed up at her Snohomish County home Saturday night.
She said despite repeated efforts, the group wasn't able to trespass or cause any damage. In a letter to the City Council, she's urging the council to denounce tactics such as this, arguing that the killing of George Floyd initially sparked the protests, and the message must not get lost in what she calls violence and intimidation.
Best wrote: "A residence of mine in Snohomish County was targeted by a large group of aggressive protestors late last night. My neighbors were concerned by such a large group, but they were successful in ensuring the crowd was not able to trespass or engage in other illegal behavior in the area, despite repeated attempts to do so. Currently, the local sheriff (not SPD resources) is monitoring the situation."
According to the Lynnwood Times, the crowd included about 200 people. Neighbors used about 40 vehicles to block access to the area around Best's home. Protest supporters argue that the street is public and open to protesters, who were blocked by armed neighbors.
Snohomish Sheriff Adam Fortney told the Lynnwood Times: "The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office has been supportive and accommodating to all peaceful protests that have occurred in our jurisdiction. With that said, protestors targeting one individual’s house is a bullying tactic that will certainly require an extra patrol response to ensure every resident in Snohomish County can feel safe in their own home, with their loved ones, no matter what they choose to do to make a living.”
In June, demonstrators gathered outside the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan. They visited the homes of council members Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez in July. An Instagram profile for one group of protesters show them visiting elected officials' homes, often at night. Video posted on the Instragram account do not show activities that include trespassing or damage, which Best references in her letter to the council. Rather, the protesters often speak with the elected officials, such as King County Executive Dow Constantine. They also speak with some council members, such as Alex Pedersen, over Zoom.
The home visits have prompted Council President Lorena González to issue a statement saying, while political pressure is part of our democracy, demonstrations cannot devolved into personal attacks, intimidation, or potential violence.