Seattle Mayor Durkan, Chief Best address clash at Saturday protest

Jun 7, 2020, 8:52 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2020, 11:02 am
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, protests...
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

After another weekend culminating in a clash between police and protesters, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best delivered a press conference Sunday detailing the city’s response to the incident.

That includes measures implemented Sunday evening at the 11th and Pine barricade near the East Precinct, where police are wearing less riot gear with a smaller presence.

Protests were peaceful across Seattle and the Puget Sound area on Saturday until an incident on Capitol Hill early in the evening, where police claim projectiles were thrown at them. Police threw flash bangs into the crowd and ordered it disperse.

Durkan acknowledged Sunday that police may have been too quick to resort those measures, and should have instead attempted to de-escalate the situation peacefully.

“Use of force must be rare, it must be necessary, and it must be proportional — we know that was not the case,” Durkan admitted.

The mayor apologized to those who are trying to peacefully exercise their rights to protest. She said police and protesters should have the shared goal of keeping everyone safe. She thanked citizens in the crowd who are also trying to de-escalate.

Durkan said she plans to issue an emergency order on Monday to require officers to turn on body cams during demonstrations. She said she recognizes there are complex privacy issues and she’ll work with the city council, the ACLU, and CPC, among others, to revise guidelines on footage collected. She’ll also work with the City Attorney’s office to protect data collected.

The mayor said she’s heard reports that officers are still covering their badge numbers with mourning bands, despite a directive to move the bands. She said OPA is investigating.

Durkan said she plans to request the National Guard be moved to assist with food distribution as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Protesting and demonstrating are not a crime,” Durkan said.

This press conference came after a protest attended by thousands peacefully marched through South Seattle from Othello Park on Sunday afternoon. Another protest attended by hundreds also moved through Mukilteo on Sunday evening.

Read the mayor’s tweets following her news conference:

“This has been an incredibly painful week for our City and our country. One that is shining a light on hundreds of years of racism and systemic injustice that haunts our past and our present. It is a moment that summons all of us – including me – to do more and to do better.

I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn, and grow, and be held accountable.

Moving forward, we will be making changes – both immediately, and in the long term – that reflect conversations I have had with @BLMSeattleKC, @SeaUrbanLeague, protest organizers, @SeaCPC, faith leaders, and other community organizations.

1. Tomorrow, I will issue an Emergency Order and send it to the @SeattleCouncil requiring that officers turn on their body cameras during public protests. I recognize that public trust and confidence is broken – people want body cams on to provide additional accountability.

2. Chief Best issued a directive to all @SeattlePD officers calling on them to ensure their badge number was visible to the public even while wearing mourning bands. Any reports of black tape over badge numbers is a violation of policy and will be investigated by @SeattleOPA.

3. @CityAttyPeteH has agreed to withdraw the City’s filing to end the sustainment period under the Consent Decree. We will be going back to the courts to examine our use of force and crowd control policies.

4. We’ve asked our civilian independent police accountability partners as well as the DOJ and federal monitor to examine all of the current Seattle Police policies for crowd management. This includes evaluating crowd dispersal tactics, chemicals, and de-escalation techniques.

5. @SeattlePD will update their policies this week to succinctly, and clearly, reflect best practices for the use of force concerns we have heard from the community related to the 2016 Campaign Zero national policy survey.

6. I am calling for an independent prosecutor at the state level who will investigate and prosecute officers who use deadly force. This prosecutor’s office will be in addition to the investigations conducted currently through I-940 and our accountability system in Seattle.

This includes the City’s current ban on chokeholds, firing a weapon at a moving vehicle, and exhausting all other options before using force.

7. We are scaling back the presence of the U.S. National Guard and reassigning some of them to continue assisting the City’s food security efforts related to the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

8. No one will have charges filed against any individual peacefully protesting or for violating the temporary curfew when it was imposed. I am calling on City and county prosecutors to ensure this is the case. Protesting is not a crime, and it will not be treated as such.

9. Finally, I am committed to identifying at least $100 million to invest further in community-based programs that invest in Black youth and adults, including employment programs, Black-owned businesses and programs that provide alternatives to arrest and incarceration.

We don’t need more escalation, we need more solutions.

I don’t have all of the answers, but if we listen to community voices and if we move forward together, I believe Seattle can lead the way to creating lasting change.”

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Seattle Mayor Durkan, Chief Best address clash at Saturday protest