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Mayor Durkan urges protesters not to ‘take bait’ from feds, remain peaceful

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (TVW)

With a number of planned weekend events in Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best, and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins held a briefing Friday morning.

Durkan said the destruction and violence seen in Seattle on Sunday and Wednesday should not continue. She does recognize these actions are coming from a small group of individuals, and that most people have been peacefully protesting.

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“I’m urging everyone in Seattle: Stand together to denounce that kind of activity, that violence, and that destruction,” Durkan said. “It does nothing to further the cause of dismantling systemic racism.”

Seattle officials say they are aware of protests scheduled for Saturday and Sunday both on Capitol Hill and in downtown Seattle.

“I ask everyone who’s protesting this weekend to please do it peacefully,” she said. “Please make sure you raise your voices and challenge government, but do it in a way that is lawful.”

Durkan also addressed the federal government’s confirmation that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has sent a limited number of agents to Seattle on standby to protect federal buildings.

Residents should continue to peacefully demonstrate and make their voices heard despite any potential threats of action from the federal government, Durkan said, warning that further violence and destruction could be used as “fodder” to show that there is a need for federal help.

“It is frightening that you would use federal agents for political purposes,” Durkan said. ” … [Trump] is purposely targeting cities that are run by Democrats, … please, don’t take the bait. Don’t buy into it.”

The mayor sent a letter to the Trump administration and Congress along with many other mayors across the country, demanding that the federal government not send forces into cities against the demand of the local leadership.

On a phone call with Durkan on Thursday, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf confirmed that DHS has no plans – and sees no need – to send federal forces to Seattle.

“He stated clearly that Seattle is not Portland,” Durkan said.

Wolf committed to notifying Chief Best and Durkan should that change. Despite DHS providing confirmation of federal agents on standby to media and contrary to their stated commitment, Durkan and Best say they received no such notification.

“I made it abundantly clear that deployments to Seattle, like what we see in Portland, would undermine safety and break community trust,” Durkan said.

Chief Best echoed the mayor’s call for protesters to make their voices heard this weekend, and continue to push for change without destruction and violence. Best is concerned about the ban on crowd control tools that takes effect this weekend and has asked the city council to reconsider.

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

“My hope is [the ban] does not create more dangerous circumstances,” she said. “… The council legislation gives officers no ability to safely intercede to preserve property.”

She said she is bound to the legislation once it takes effect. Best added that the SPD is not asking to use CS gas, or tear gas, but instead asking for the ability to come with at least as many tools as possible to ensure public safety.

“Like yours, our hearts are looking for a way to heal. … When you hurt, we hurt,” Chief Best said. “… I ask all of you to partner with the Seattle Police Department.”

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