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Seattle City Attorney says no evidence SPD violated court order

Demonstrators use shields while blocking an intersection near the Seattle Police East Precinct during protests on July 26, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The City of Seattle says there is no evidence the Seattle Police Department violated a court order barring the indiscriminate use of crowd control weapons during Saturday’s riot.

Responding to a motion from the ACLU and Black Lives Matter asking the judge to find the city in contempt, the city attorney’s office argues evidence they’ve seen shows officers made a reasonable effort to avoid indiscriminate use of pepper spray, blast balls, and other crowd control weapons, and acted in good faith. That, they say, does not rise to the level necessary to prove contempt.

When Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and several protesters first sued the city of Seattle and SPD last month over the use of crowd control weapons by police in early June protests, Judge Jones issued a temporary restraining order that’s now a preliminary injunction barring SPD from indiscriminate use of tear gas, pepper spray, or other crowd control weapons against anyone engaging in peaceful protests or demonstrations.

However, the judge made clear the order did not block individual officers from using blast balls, flash-bangs, pepper spray, rubber or foam tipped bullets or other projectiles to take “necessary, reasonable, proportional, and targeted action to protect against a specific imminent threat of physical harm to themselves or identifiable others or to respond to specific acts of violence or destruction of property.”

The following motion from the ACLU and BLM claimed officers brazenly violated that order, hitting many peaceful protesters with blast balls, pepper spray, and blunt force objects when police indiscriminately used those weapons against the crowd.

On Tuesday of this week, Judge Jones ordered the city of Seattle to respond to the motion by noon Wednesday, July 29.

City Attorney Pete Holmes argued the evidence does not show that officers intentionally targeted any peaceful protesters, medical, press, or legal observers, let alone retaliate intentionally. Additionally, even if one officer violated the order, they cannot all be held in contempt.


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If the judge disagrees and the court does find the actions to be in contempt with the limited evidence available, the city attorney’s office asks for a 60-day extension to respond to the claim in order to allow enough time for a complete investigation.

The full response is available here. Oral arguments are scheduled for Friday, July 31.

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