Seattle council questions SPD’s use of tear gas, mace during weekend protests
Seattle councilmembers levied criticism against police officers at weekend protests downtown, citing reports of excessive force and inappropriately used dispersal tactics.
“I personally witnessed the unacceptable escalation of violence by the Seattle Police Department,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant said in Monday’s council briefing. “We have had hundreds, if not thousands of accounts from ordinary people of unacceptable conduct from the SPD.”
“Seattle police officers indiscriminately used tear gas, mace, flash bang grenades, and other types of excessive use of force on the peaceful protesters,” she added.
Officers in Seattle are required by law to provide advance a verbal command to disperse before each use of extreme dispersal tactics. They must also ensure that the order is heard by everyone in the area.
Reports from Saturday’s protest appear to indicate that no such warnings were issued to people in attendance.
“In my conversations with people after the event, people confirmed for me that they were not receiving advance notice or receiving orders to disperse, which are required under city law,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who said she was in attendance at Saturday’s peaceful rally at Westlake.
“In that situation, where people were standing on the street not causing harm, not assaulting officers, not harming property, in those videos that we saw, there was no dispersal warning,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda described, citing “multiple reports that audible warnings were not given to a diverse crowd, including children, elderly, and people with disabilities.”
Those reports included footage of a small child who was allegedly maced by police, and video of an officer kneeling on the neck of a protester.
Councilmember Mosqueda compiled a number of other videos posted by protesters on social media where officers appeared to be using excessive force, and has already sent them to the city’s civilian-run Office of Police Accountability (OPA).
The OPA has not yet made any determinations, but plans to review video footage and interview eye-witnesses in the days ahead to get a full accounting of the weekend’s events.
“Suffice it to say there is a lot of video evidence that confirms our city has work to do as it relates to properly handling interactions with members of the community, particularly at times like this,” Herbold noted.