Judge expands restrictions on SPD’s use of crowd control weapons during protests
A Seattle judge issued a court order Monday, affording protection to journalists, legal observers, and medics during protests in Seattle, and expanding restrictions on the use of crowd control weapons.
In order to be protected under this order, members of the media must be clearly identified either with a wearable press badge or clothing that indicates the wearer’s role. Legal observers must be wearing a green National Lawyers’ Guild-issued vest or hat, or a blue ACLU-issued vest. Medics must wear clothing that denotes their role, either in the form of a vest, hat, or medical scrubs.
The order clarifies that declaring a gathering a riot or unlawful assembly does not exempt police from adhering to an ongoing injunction, which restricts the scenarios under which they can use crowd control weapons like tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and more. Judge Jones also extended that injunction an additional 90 days, while ruling that police cannot deploy crowd control weapons “indiscriminately into a crowd,” and must instead target them “at the specific imminent threat of physical harm to themselves or others,” or “to respond to specific acts of violence or destruction of property.”
“This order is the most comprehensive in the country, protecting journalists, legal observers, and medics from police abuses during protests,” trial attorney David Perez said in a news release. “We know that Seattle Police attacked professionals doing their jobs during the protests on July 25th, and this Order will protect those charged protecting health, democracy, and our constitutional rights from similar abuses in the future.”
The order was issued by Seattle District Judge Richard Jones as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County.
The City of Seattle agreed to notify all SPD officers and staff members of the new policies outlined in the order within the next 24 hours. The ACLU also agreed to withdraw a request to hold the City in contempt for SPD’s recent use of crowd control weapons in late July.
The ACLU’s lawsuit had originally been fast-tracked for an August 26 trial date. Now that the contempt request has been withdrawn, it will be put on hold pending a ruling from Judge James Robart on city council’s recently-passed ban on crowd control weapons. That ruling is expected sometime around late September.