JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Seattle CM Kshama Sawant never reported threats to police, yet demands investigation

Jan 27, 2021, 9:46 PM | Updated: Jan 28, 2021, 10:48 am
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Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks as demonstrators hold a rally outside of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct on June 8, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

After receiving a series of threatening emails, Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant demanded the city take this issue seriously. But while she said she was “extremely concerned” with the potential for violence from the emailer, Sawant never actually contacted the Seattle Police Department.

Instead, Sawant released a press release demanding an investigation she implies the city wouldn’t conduct. But the investigation would have already started — and maybe ended — had she reported the threats to law enforcement as she was supposed to.

The councilmember is using the spurious claim to portray herself as a victim of a city disinterested in supporting her, while using the threats to rally supporters behind her. She’s transparently political, all in the name of fighting off a threat that she doesn’t seem to take too seriously.

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The threats weren’t reported to Seattle police

Sawant says she received a number of threatening emails from an account belonging to a Seattle Fire Department staffer. She published four on her council blog page, blocking out the staffer’s name.

Most of the comments are undeniably rude and mean-spirited, but may not rise to the level of illegal threats. Two emails sent, however, could. One warns her to resign “or else.” Another says if she doesn’t resign, they will make the decision for her “by any means necessary.” These emails are frightening.

The employee tied to the account denies they sent the emails, which started on Dec. 17, 2020.

On Dec. 31, the Seattle Fire Department emailed Sawant to explain they heard about the issue and were investigating. But the emails would continue. The last one was sent on Jan. 18, 2021.

Sawant then released a press release reprinting a letter to various city officials. It went to Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose home Sawant led a mob to for a political speech culminating in vandalism by her supporters, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, whose department she’s trying to defund by 50% but now hopes will spend limited resources tracking down an emailer she chose not to report, and others.

Sawant demanded “a thorough investigation into this matter immediately” after baselessly claiming a “possible link between these emails and the far right protests planned for Biden’s inauguration.” Without President Donald Trump in office, Sawant and others will pivot future attacks to unnamed “right-wing” threats.

“I believe these emails must be taken very seriously given the current political context with an emboldened right wing nationally, the specific threatening content of the emails, and the fact that they originate from a City of Seattle email account,” Sawant said.

Sawant took them so seriously that she never reported them to the Seattle Police Department.

Turning threatening emails into political games

The Seattle Police Department confirmed to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that Sawant never reported the threats directly to the department.

In fact, they only learned about them after Sawant’s comments went public. A department spokesperson confirmed there is now an active investigation. It started when they learned of the concerns.

When researching an unrelated story, a council spokesperson told me that councilmembers “are encouraged to work directly with SPD when called for, which is the normal practice for anyone.” An hour later, the spokesperson clarified her statement, claiming it’s “the Council office-staff who typically make a determination as to how to proceed.”

Instead of taking the threats seriously, it appears Sawant turned them into an attempt to earn sympathy. It worked. On Twitter, Sawant’s account has retweeted a stream of sympathetic followers. They demand an investigation that they don’t realize she stymied by keeping the threats from the police.

Does Sawant take these emails seriously? Doesn’t always seem so

For someone concerned about the threats, Sawant spends much of her press release and letter focused on talking points calling out right-wing extremists.

After spending the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone days falsely claiming these right-wing extremists were responsible for the violence at the protest zone she helped create, Sawant finally got violence she could pin on conservatives. Sawant conflated the emails with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Even that shamefully historic event was somehow about Sawant. Everything is about Sawant. She even managed to insult police, pushing a conspiracy that they “allowed” the mob access to the Capitol.

I am of course not the only left-wing elected official under threat at present in the US or internationally. Far-right attacks are escalating, including violent activity, as we saw with the riot on January 6 at the Capitol. Tragically, we also saw at the Capitol a [sic] police force that allowed the right-wing mob to walk right up the Capitol steps unhindered, in sharp contrast to the police violence used against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters across the nation all summer, including of course in Seattle. I know there are tens of thousands of working people and community members in Seattle who share these concerns.

Not hiding the political agenda

In a letter to Seattle Fire Fighters Union IAFF Local 27, Sawant made her political agenda even more apparent.

In these volatile and dangerous times, the labor movement has a critical role to play in protecting all working people from the threat of the far right’s violence and their message of hate. By coming together, our unions can and must be a powerful collective voice standing together to reject not just the violent attacks of the extreme right but also their source – right-wing, anti-worker ideas, including sexism and racism which motivate these acts of violence against both our organized and not-yet-organized sisters and brothers. The labor movement cannot afford to allow these ideas to gain ground, which serve only to empower the billionaire class. They make it harder for us to unite against systemic inequality and fight together to win the good standards of living all workers deserve.

In the context of the right-wing riot in the Capitol and threats against leaders of the workers’ movement, I appeal that you convene a meeting of IAFF members to discuss solidarity, the need for working people to unite against the increasing danger of the far right, and to confirm that there is no place in the labor movement for threats against union sisters and brothers. I would appreciate it if I could join you for that discussion.

I sure hope the union realizes they’re being used. Sawant is assembling an army to support her. But it has little to do with the threats.

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She wasn’t threatened at all, apparently

Sawant said that while she received the threats, it wasn’t really about her at all. It was about a movement she attaches her brand to (without doing much of the work, which is pawned off to low-level staff and volunteers who must pay a fee before they can join her Socialist Alternative group for the pleasure of being politically exploited by her).

“While the threats are directly at me personally, I and others recognize that they are in fact directed against our entire movement,” Sawant pretended. “They are attacking me as a means of threatening all who dare to fight for workers’ rights and against racism, sexism, and oppression which stem from the capitalist system.”

If they were interested in threatening an entire movement, they’d probably have mentioned said movement.

They were attacking Sawant alone. She’s seen by many as a bad-faith, dangerous ideologue who has helped divide the city in pursuit of her own brand and destructive socialist agenda.

Even the emailer says he voted for her. But after her role in the summer riots and insurrection on Capitol Hill, they said, “I don’t know what to do.” It’s this reaction from her supporters that explains why she now faces a recall. Perhaps that’s what this is about?

Recall defense

We don’t yet know how the Washington State Supreme Court will act on the recall. But it seems Sawant is nervous. Much of her recall fight’s funding is coming from out of state. Many locals are realizing how divisive and polarizing a figure she has become.

So now she’s pretending the threats against her are really against the movement she needs to keep her position.

See how that works? She’s fighting for them, this attack is against them through her, and the only way to push back is to keep her in office and not let the threatening emailer win.

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No matter Sawant’s agenda, the emails are despicable

It should be said that the emails are despicable and frightening. She should have called the police, even if she’s trying to defund them.

Despite Sawant’s policies being dangerous for the city, she’s undeserving of such treatment. Criticizing policies is fair game. Threatening, mildly or otherwise, is not. If the emailer works for the city, they should be fired immediately. The City Attorney’s office should see if this warrants prosecution. Even though that office seldom charges criminals, I hope they take this case seriously.

Attempts to harass or intimidate elected officials must end. Yes, that includes Sawant’s attempts to intimidate elected officials. She marched a mob to Durkan’s home, an address that is supposed to remain private because of threats Durkan faced as a U.S. Attorney.

We should also note the hypocrisy

That Sawant is a victim here doesn’t negate the fact that she’s also someone who victimizes.

It’s highly ironic that she complains of threats. Her very career is built on threats to destroy the very people she frequently demonizes: from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Mayor Jenny Durkan to police union president Mike Solan and the faceless enemies she simply labels the “wealthy.” Indeed, all of those figures face violent threats. Does Sawant hold some responsibility due to her rhetoric?

Only Sawant knows if she is as threatened by those emails as much as she says. Unfortunately, she’s such a self-serving, establishment politician, you can’t really trust what she claims. You can only trust her actions, which didn’t include reporting the threats to the police. They just included a self-serving press release and Twitter campaign to garner sympathy.

Either way, I honestly do hope the police catch whomever sent the emails. It just may take a while. Thanks to Sawant’s budget cuts and relentless attacks on police, the SPD lacks resources and continues to lose staff.

Sawant’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

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 and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Seattle CM Kshama Sawant never reported threats to police, yet demands investigation