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Blog: Protests for racial justice in the Seattle area (August 16-20)

caption: The Everyday March group heads toward Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez's home in an effort to have a dialogue about racial justice and police brutality on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, in the Victory Heights neighborhood of Seattle. "It is on us," said organizer Tealshawn Turner. "It is our duty, our obligation, our responsibility to come out here and stand up for the next generation. You have to speak life into these children."
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The Everyday March group heads toward Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez's home in an effort to have a dialogue about racial justice and police brutality on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, in the Victory Heights neighborhood of Seattle. "It is on us," said organizer Tealshawn Turner. "It is our duty, our obligation, our responsibility to come out here and stand up for the next generation. You have to speak life into these children."
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

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Auburn officer charged with murder in 2019 police killing, testing new deadly force legal standards

5:17 p.m. Auburn Police officer Jeffrey Nelson, 41, has been charged with second degree murder and first degree assault in connection with the 2019 shooting death of 26-year-old Jesse Sarey.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind charged under Washington state's Initiative 940, which eliminates a long-held legal standard of not charging officers in deadly force cases unless it can be proven they acted with "malice."

While an independent investigation of the shooting concluded in June, the King County Prosecutor's Office says it didn't reach a final charging decision until this month.

The review, conducted by the Port of Seattle Police Department's Valley Investigations Team, included forensic analysis of audio captured by a microphone Nelson was wearing, and video footage recorded by a dash cam in his cruiser and cameras outside of nearby businesses.

Nelson was not wearing a body-worn camera during the shooting.

"Our experts determined that Mr. Nelson did not follow his training in a number of ways, and those failures needlessly provoked the circumstances that led to Mr. Sarey’s death," Satterberg said in a written statement. "He did not de-escalate the situation. He did not wait for backup."

Nelson is the first police officer to be charged in King County — and likely the state — in a deadly force case since the passing of Washington's Initiative 940 by voters in 2018.

The new legal standard stipulates that the use of deadly force would be considered "reasonable" to prevent death or serious harm to an officer or civilians, in order to avoid prosecution.

Read more here.

—Liz Brazile

The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled, for now, in favor of Seattle news outlets

The Seattle Police Department has a subpoena to get unpublished protest footage from local TV stations and the Seattle Times, but the high court put that on hold today.

SPD gained the subpoena through a King County Court order, to force the news outlets to share footage from May 30th. That night, thousands of people in Seattle protested the killing of George Floyd. Some people caused damage to police vehicles and stole guns from police cars, which is why SPD says it wants to see the footage.

Two guns are still outstanding, which police say is a public safety concern.

But the case is now in the hands of the state supreme court, which just put a temporary hold on any video being released. The high court still needs to make a final decision on the issue, which it says it will do at the earliest opportunity.

KUOW is not a party in the case, but its news leaders have come out against the subpoena.

-Paige Browning

Former Council President weighs in on the missing Black voice on the Seattle City Council

1 p.m. -- More than a week after Police Chief Carmen Best announced her retirement from the Seattle Police Department, former Council President Bruce Harrell is speaking out, calling Best's resignation a "tremendous loss."

Speaking with KUOW's Angela King, Harrell also addressed concerns surrounding a larger issue in Seattle -- the lack of a Black voices in leadership, especially on as the City Council.

“My experiences growing up in Seattle, in the Central District in the ’60s and the ’70s, certainly brought a certain perspective, a certain angst, and a certain tenacity that I think needs to be articulated in certain meetings and forums," he said. "However, I would also say that there are many candidates ... who have unique experiences as people of color, as women, and I don’t want to minimize what they bring to the table. But I would say there is something very unique about the African American experience in this country, as we all know, and I think that perspective is needed. If it’s not as a seat as an elected, then certainly as a seat at the table during discussions, during policy debates, etcetera."

Harrell points out that Seattle has grown whiter in recent years with Black and brown people moving out of the city, often to places like Federal Way and Renton. That has led to more Black leaders seeking positions outside of Seattle, landing roles on school boards, councils, the state Legislature, and elsewhere.

“It is Seattle’s loss, because one thing that has made Seattle unique has been this diversity," Harrell said. "I think the city needs to realize that. We need viable, good, solid candidates to go forward and make themselves known.”

Read more details here.

-Dyer Oxley


Seattle police union president responds to City Council

8:40 a.m. -- Calling it "political pandering," "hypocrisy," and "ironic," Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan recently criticized the Seattle City Council and their efforts to defund the police department.

Solan responded while speaking with KING 5, after the City Council cut funding from SPD last week, and before a protest was declared a riot outside the SPOG headquarters last weekend.

"It's classic political pandering," Solan said. "Three months ago the president of the Seattle City Council is on record applauding the Seattle Police Department for being the model, progressive agency that leads the nation on training, de-escalation, and constitutional policing ... I find it ironic now that we are having talks about, and looking at their vote to defund us."

--Dyer Oxley

Recall effort for Councilmember Sawant related to recent protest actions

8:25 a.m. -- A formal effort is underway to recall Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

A voter in the Capitol Hill neighborhood filed a complaint with the King County Superior Court Tuesday alleging Sawant abused her power and misused city resources when she opened City Hall to demonstrators in June, when she led a march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s house, among other allegations.

A judge still has to decide if a formal recall petition can move forward. The judge would have to determine if one of the allegations merits a recall. If it is approved, the organizer will have 180 days to gather 10,800 signatures (25% of the most recent voter turnout in District 3). If that is successful, the recall issue can go to the ballot in February.

If the petition goes before a judge, Sawant, who could potentially be represented by a city attorney, could dispute some or all of the allegations contained in the recall complaint.

The organizer, Ernest Lou, argues that Sawant has lost touch with her district -- District 3. In his paperwork for the recall, Lou also makes allegations that Sawant has faced in the past, such as allowing Socialist Alternative (a political organization) to control her office, and using her office equipment to promote ballot initiatives and for electioneering. But he also accuses the council member of creating "a criminal toxic environment around the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP) Zone and Capitol Hill endangering residents and businesses and devaluing our businesses and real estate values."

The recall targeting Sawant marks the second recall petition threat lobbed at a sitting council member this week. Tim McConnell, of West Seattle, has launched an online petition to recall Councilmember Lisa Herbold. But as of Tuesday, no formal paperwork had been filed through the King County Elections Office to remove Herbold.

On Monday, McConnell said even if the recall effort is symbolic, it represents a growing distrust between the council and its constituents.

“Just to know that there other people who feel like I do is kind of reassuring and maybe we can have a voice now,” he said.

--Angela King

SPD officer speaks out after being injured

8 a.m. -- A Seattle police officer who was injured in Sunday's protest says he supports the recent demonstrations against police brutality. But he adds that there's an increasingly violent element and he says they are seeking out confrontations with police.

"As soon as they encountered us, it got pretty scary because they started launching and throwing fireworks at us," Officer Adam Fowler told KING 5. "And these aren't tiny fireworks, they're not firecrackers, these are commercial grade mortars."

Fowler was hit in the face during the protest Sunday and says he thought he was going to lose his left eye. Fowler still has bruising and swelling around that eye but he is recovering and hoping to be back on duty on Friday if he can get cleared by the doctor.

Five other officers were reported as injured during the incident, and 18 people were arrested.

--Kim Shepard


Washington for Black Lives launches "Return to Zero" campaign

Noon -- Washington for Black Lives has launched a new campaign that takes aim at donations to elected officials from police unions.

The campaign, Return To Zero, has an online tool to search for elected officials -- from council members to state officials -- which indicates if they have received donations from police unions and includes an option to send an email that official, demanding the return of the donation.

The website does not indicate when the donations were made, or which police organizations were involved.

According to its website: "Across Washington State, many of our elected officials who claim to support Black Lives and racial justice have received hefty campaign contributions from police unions. We object to a Washington where our council members, legislators, and commissioners refuse to make real changes in policing because they are captured by the interests of unaccountable police unions."

Washington for Black Lives is a coalition of organizations from around the state and is sponsored by Washington Census Alliance Progreso.

--Dyer Oxley

Seattle City Council bans questioning of minors before they have legal counsel

8 a.m. -- The Seattle City Council has approved a measure that bans police from questioning minors, who have been read their Miranda rights, and before they get legal counsel.

It also bars officers from asking permission to search them or their possessions if they haven't talked to an attorney.

The Seattle Times reports that Mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to sign the bill. The King County Council is voting on a similar bill Tuesday.

--Angela King


Pepper spray and blast balls at protest at SPOG headquarters

8 a.m. -- It all began with an anti-police union march that started in the International District Sunday night. It ended with reports of pepper spray and blast balls.

At least 18 people were arrested overnight in what Seattle police declared a riot.

According to the SPD's blog, the anti-police union march took a turn when demonstrators -- and a group of cars following them -- reached the Seattle Police Officer Guild building on 4th Avenue South near SODO.

Police acknowledge they used pepper spray and blast balls on the crowd after they say people started setting off explosives and throwing rocks and bottles at them. Police say the protesters refused to disperse.

SPD says three of its officers were hurt. Police also report that someone in the crowd set off a large explosive and tried to break a police car window.

No word on how many in the crowd were injured. Protesters were eventually pushed back into the International District and the crowd cleared just before 11:30 p.m.

--Angela King, Kim Shepard


Black community leaders hold meeting in wake of Chief Best's resignation

Black community leaders hold meeting in wake of Chief Best's resignation

After a momentous week in Seattle politics and policing, several Black community leaders and organizers held a news conference today to respond to all that’s happening and discuss the path forward.

Noon -- After a momentous week in Seattle politics and policing, several Black community leaders and organizers held a meting to respond to all that is happening, and discuss the path forward.

The main message from the meeting was that organizers don't want the Black Lives Matter movement in Seattle to be distracted by the recent resignation of Police Chief Carmen Best.

King County Equity Now organizers say that defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50% remains their main goal. They also said that while they respect the accomplishments of Chief Best, changing policing in Seattle is a job too big for one person.

Read more details here

--Eilis O'Neill


Mixed reactions to resignation of Chief Best

8 a.m. -- The departure of Seattle Police Chief Best is either welcomed or regretted, depending on who you ask. Some point to the City Council's recent actions as prompting Chief Best's exit. Others argue that SPD's systemic problems were not solved under the chief's leadership.

"Chief Best was absolutely disrespected and treated in a way that no other police chief had ever been treated," said Rev. Harriet Walden, founder of Mothers for Police Accountability. "I've been through eight (police chiefs) since 1990 and there's never been a police chief treated like Carmen Best by the City Council. It was anti-blackness at the top of the apex."

Victoria Beach, chair of Seattle's African American Community Advisory Council, echoed Rev. Walden, saying that Chief Best is "from the community and she could relate to us. She's one of us ... They would not have treated a white man or white woman the way they have treated her. There's no way. No way."

King County Equity Now is one group calling for a 50% defunding of the Seattle Police Department. Part of its statement following Best's exit reads: "Seattle Police Department has a long and storied history of anti-Black racial violence. Unfortunately, but rather predictably, this violence did not relent under Chief Best. That’s because the task of rooting out anti-Black racism from the Seattle Police Department is too large for any one person."

The campaign to recall Mayor Jenny Durkan also weighed in, stating: "Similarly to Chief Best, we also have lofty ideas when it comes to reimagining police, primarily envisioning a department unburdened by her — or Mayor Durkan’s — detrimental involvement."

Read more here.

--Dyer Oxley


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.

Read more details here.

--Jill Jackson


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