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SPD Chief Diaz points to ‘sharp difference’ between peaceful protests and riots

SPD Chief Adrian Diaz. (Seattle Channel)

Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz held a press conference Monday, denouncing ongoing instances of property destruction and violence that have seen protesters clash with police in recent months.

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According to Diaz, Seattle has seen upwards of 1,100 protests and demonstrations since May. For many, he noted that police presence was not required, pointing out the “sharp difference” between peaceful protests and violent riots.

“We’ve had a protest of 80,000 people focused on ‘Black Lives Matter’ that were walking the streets expressing their First Amendment rights, so those are the things that we have every single day: peaceful protests,” he said. “The ones that we’re focused on are actually looking for that engagement with police officers. They are going out and spray-painting, and breaking pay-boxes, and breaking windows. Those are the ones we’re trying to pay attention to.”

For instances where demonstrators incite violence or damage property, Diaz vowed to have the Seattle Police Department “work to provide all victims with some measure of justice.”

“If you destroy property, if you attack officers, and if you engage in violence against other members of the community, SPD will investigate [and] SPD will hold you accountable,” he said.

This came in the wake of felony charges being brought against Jacob Greenburg, a 19-year-old accused of hitting a police officer in the head with a metal bat during a Capitol Hill demonstration. Greenburg has been charged by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for first-degree assault, first-degree attempted arson, and first-degree reckless burning.

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“Arming yourself, winding up, taking a swing, and landing a direct hit to the head of anyone, including a police officer, is a brutal crime,” he said. “This is not civil disobedience; this is illegal, this is violence — you will be arrested.”

Chief Diaz cited charging documents in the case against Greenburg as he explained the teen showed remorse the night of the attack.

“Not for potentially fatally assaulting, but for the fact that the officer was wearing a helmet that most likely saved his life,” he explained. “Greenburg also texted a friend that he would like to and I quote, ‘slit every SPD throat,’” Diaz added.

He also pointed to the recent arrest of 20-year-old Jonathan Dugar of Olympia for his alleged actions during a protest last month.

“[He] is charged with arson for throwing a flaming object with an ignited fuse into a Capitol Hill coffee shop that caused an immediate explosion. Luckily, no one was hurt,” the Chief said, “But this disregard for people’s lives and safety by throwing flaming objects into a business. This can’t be our new normal,” Diaz stressed.

“Businesses small and large are struggling during this pandemic, and it’s completely unacceptable that this ongoing violence is only compounding their challenges,” he added.

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