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Rantz: President Trump sending federal law enforcement to Seattle

Police and protesters clash on Capitol Hil in Seattle. (KIRO Radio, Hanna Scott)

The Trump administration is dispatching a team of federal law enforcement officials to help defend Seattle from riots, should the need arise.

The story, first reported by The New York Times, says the intent is to keep the officials on standby for when they are needed. The move comes after two recent violent riots took over parts of the city.

This past Sunday, rioters destroyed countless businesses, including several Starbucks locations, even trying to set one on fire. They lobbed munitions at police officers, possibly laced with BB pellets, injuring officers at the West Precinct. At the East Precinct, rioters broke through the gate surrounding the location, busting windows at the front entrance before throwing a firework into the building.

On Wednesday, around 150 rioters walked through the Capitol Hill neighborhood breaking into storefronts and setting fire to looted items from a clothing store. One business owner, Ian Eisenberg of Uncle Ike’s, said fire and vandalism to his business led to about $50,000 in damage.

Federal law enforcement head to Seattle

The team headed to Seattle is similar to the law enforcement in Portland. According to The New York Times, the tactical team will operate under U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and a source says they will only engage if the situation on the ground becomes untenable.

The move comes as a federal judge cleared the way for the Seattle City Council to ban the use of non-lethal crowd dispersal tools.

In an email to her officers on Thursday, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said she won’t ask them to deal with riots “limited only to your sidearm, baton, and and body as tools.” She blasted the council’s decision – made “with no input from the department” – calling it unreasonable.

Seattle police chief warns council of ban on crowd control tools ahead of weekend

Mayor Jenny Durkan tells the Times she believes federal law enforcement officials “would undermine public safety” in Seattle, though the mayor has limited the SPD’s ability to arrest rioters, putting officers in dangerous positions where they’re playing defense to rioters getting increasingly violent.

This weekend, SPD expects significant demonstrations with fears they will turn into riots.

Inslee reacts

During his Thursday news conference announcing further restrictions in his Safe Start reopening plan, Gov. Inslee was asked if federal officials would assure him or Durkan that they would not send forces here without their concurrence.

“What Mayor Durkan told me was that they told her that they would not do that without speaking to her first. We have asked for that ourselves from Homeland Security,” Inslee said. “We have not received that particular assurance except in a vague fashion.”

“As of the moment, we have had now three assurances that they have not sent forces to Seattle since this morning,” Inslee added.

It’s not large scale yet

The New York Times reports that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf spoke with Durkan. They report:

She said he had assured her that the administration had no plans to deploy a surge of agents to Seattle and would not do so without communicating with the city. She had not been alerted to plans to position the tactical team, but said that the department may be distinguishing between an active deployment and agents who are on standby.

“There is no large-scale deployment of personnel to Seattle at this time. As threats warrant, any large-scale use of law enforcement assets will involve close coordination with local law enforcement,” Alexei Woltornist, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement per the Times. “There are no other cities across the country that have the same threats and lack of local law enforcement support as we are experiencing in Portland.”

Update

Mayor Jenny Durkan has confirmed the presence of federal law enforcement in Seattle, sent by the Trump administration.

No word yet on whether or not she’ll actually move to stop the rioting or if she’ll allow it to continue without police push back or consequence.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook

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