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Seattle council hears from witnesses on police response to protests

The scene at barricades early on in the night was peaceful, with umbrellas open at the front of the crowd. (Facebook)

Seattle City Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee is meeting Wednesday, to take firsthand witness accounts of the police response to recent protests over the death of George Floyd.

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Commenters spoke to the recent use of tear gas and pepper spray on protesters.

“It’s shameful that we’re using pepper spray during a respiratory pandemic,” a local teachers said.

“I’ve been to many rallies at Westlake, and have never seen this kind of [police] response and violence,” former Senior Communications Officer for Mayor Mike McGinn described.

“There’s damage to people not participating in the protest who live in these homes,” said a local father, who described having to leave his home with his three-month-old son after the street below his apartment was tear-gassed. “Tear gas seeped in and emptied our building.”

The committee — chaired by Councilmember Lisa Herbold — will also soon hear from Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins on the response from their respective departments.

The meeting concludes with “a briefing and discussion of Seattle’s civilian-led police accountability framework.” The Seattle Community Police Commission (SCPC), the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will all present to the committee during that period.

The OPA is currently investigating at least 12,000 complaints filed against police. A large portion of those complaints relate to a single incident, where witnesses claim a young girl was pepper-sprayed by police during Saturday protests downtown. The OPA said Tuesday that it has “made progress in identifying what actually happened,” and that it will be fast-tracking its investigation of that incident.

Other complaints allege officers broke windows at a downtown Target store, hit a homeless man with a flash bang, placed a knee on the neck of a protester, and more.

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“We’re prioritizing this case and hope to complete it in 60 days instead of the standard 180,” the OPA promised.

The SCPC also held its own briefing Wednesday, beginning at 10 a.m. The commission planned to discuss the city’s ongoing federal consent decree, SPD’s management of recent protests, and go over “the next steps as a result of this meeting.”

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