Seattle city attorney candidate defends past inflammatory tweets as ‘satire and sarcasm’

Oct 1, 2021, 12:47 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2021, 11:11 am

Seattle city attorney...

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy (Courtesy of ntk4justice)

(Courtesy of ntk4justice)

Seattle most high-profile election this November might well be one that’s often overlooked. One candidate, abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, has come under fire in recent weeks for social media posts that go beyond mere abolition and trend toward overt threats of violence against police.

The Seattle city attorney’s seat was held for 12 years by incumbent Pete Holmes, who was narrowly edged out in the primary by single percentage points.

The left-leaning challenger, Thomas-Kennedy, has a platform that is predicated on shifting away from prosecution of low level-misdemeanor crimes. Instead, she wants to address their source: structural problems that lead to poverty.

Her political ideology, as well as her commitment to abolishing the police, are deliberately inflammatory invectives that have drawn much attention since her profile was raised post-primary.

Those stances have been articulated in various forms on social media, and some of her tweets, within the context of the summer of 2020’s protests, have drawn criticism.

In an appearance on KIRO’s Nights with Jack Stine, Seattle city attorney candidate Thomas-Kennedy defended some of her more incendiary posts on social media. Since much of them stem from anti-police sentiments, the conversation began there.

“(It was) in response to the system of policing,” Thomas-Kennedy contended. “Yes, I still believe that the system of policing is inherently racist.”

Some of her past tweets defended violence against police. One describes those who committed arson against a city property as “heroes.” Another commends the use of explosives against the East Precinct. She defended her statements as those made with ironic distance.

“There’s a lot of irony and sarcasm on Twitter,” Thomas-Kennedy said. “A lot of my tweets at that time were about pushing buttons. At the same time, SPD was continuously posting these tweets that were lying about what was going on. First, I didn’t really think that it might be entirely true, and, second, I knew that it would make people mad if I posted that, particularly the people that would tweet at me like, ‘cops should use live rounds,’ or ‘all protesters should be gassed.’ It was speaking back to that.”

“People were out in the street demanding justice for racist police killings, and what was being focused on was property damage,” she continued. “That was getting used as sort of scapegoat for these protests in saying that all the protests were violent, and in many ways equating damage to property with loss of human life. That is what I found extremely offensive, and that is what I was speaking back to, as well as the fact that SPD was being incredibly brutal to the residents of this city and was lying about what they were doing.”

Another post described property damage as a “moral imperative.”

“Yeah, it’s sarcasm,” Thomas-Kennedy continued. “It’s, again, speaking back to people who are saying that protesters should be killed. The narrative was that people are in the street protesting police murders, and occasionally there would be some property damage. Then, people on social media in particular would say, ‘those people deserve to be killed.’ I was being deliberately inflammatory.”

“Do I think that we should walk around destroying each other’s property? No. People would say, ‘well, people matter more than property.’ I’m like, ‘well then why are you saying people should be killed if they damage property?’ Then people say, ‘well, if you touch my property, I’ll kill you.’ It’s just this never ending cycle of illogic that puts property over people.”

She also contends that, because she was not a candidate for Seattle city attorney at the time, her posts are neither indicative of her campaign’s platform nor should they be taken seriously.

“Twitter is an inherently satirical and sarcastic forum,” Thomas-Kennedy added. “I was not a candidate when I tweeted those things. Will I tweet those things as a candidate? No, I will not. But Trump was president, cops were brutalizing everybody on the street, and, yeah, I said some mean and sarcastic things on Twitter as a citizen. I defend the right of any citizen to say mean, sarcastic things on Twitter.”

“Listen, these tweets are a distraction,” Thomas-Kennedy opined. “As I said over and over, sarcasm, irony, that’s what Twitter is rife with. When I tweet things out, I punch up. I don’t punch down. People are free to speak back to power. That’s all there is to it, you know? I’ll say, during those protests, I had to buy a gas mask for my nine-year-old to use in my home. Was I angry? Absolutely. And I had every right to be. I don’t know how many times I can say it, but as the city attorney will I keep saying those things? No. I’m also a trial lawyer. I don’t talk that way when I’m in court.”

The conversation turned to her perspective on prosecution as a form of deterrence against crime. Stine raised the concern that repeat offenders will have less incentive to reform if their crimes are not prosecuted, per her campaign’s platform.

Seattle city attorney candidate: Abolitionist platform is about ‘scaling back and building up’

“When we’re talking about prolific offenders, there is really nothing that illustrates the inherent folly and absurdity of the system of prosecution more than a repeat offender,” Thomas-Kennedy rebutted. “Yes, there are people who do repeatedly commit crimes or steal or shoplift. By continually prosecuting them, charging them, putting them through jail, it has been shown to be a complete waste of taxpayer money. My focus is not on, ‘should we waste all this money prosecuting people?’ My focus is on how do we get to the root of the problem, so it doesn’t keep happening. Clearly, prosecuting people and putting them in jail over and over and over is not deterring that behavior. Why waste taxpayer dollars doing that?”

When asked to clarify her proposed alternatives to prosecution, the Seattle city attorney candidate deferred to her campaign’s website.

Stine, open about his history with substance abuse, raised the issue that, speaking from personal experience, threat of imprisonment can often be what prompts addicts toward recovery.

“There is no rehab in jail,” Thomas-Kennedy responded. “We’re talking about jail. We’re not talking about prison. There are no recovery programs. There’s nothing like that. There are people who have benefited from that, I guess. I’ve talked to people like that, but it’s usually people who have been through the system multiple times.”

“There are tons of data out there that shows that things like jail-forced detox forced treatment are utter failures in the bigger picture,” she continued. “The amount of people that respond well to that is about the same amount of people who are put off recovery or detox for a much longer time because they were forced to do something that they weren’t ready to do. Recovery takes willingness. It’s a personal addiction. There needs to be a heavy amount of personal commitment to overcoming those problems.”

“Addiction isn’t illegal, first of all,” Thomas-Kennedy contended. “Addiction isn’t a choice.”

“I beg to differ, you know, as a heroin addict, I was making a lot of choices to keep doing heroin, you know what I mean,” Stine responded.

“I’m an alcoholic in recovery as well,” Thomas-Kennedy returned. “Recovery was a choice for me, but it took my personal willingness to recover. When I was in the throes of addiction, I felt like I didn’t have control. Everybody telling me ‘stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.’ I wanted to stop. I couldn’t. I had to get to the point where I had the wherewithal to do it. What works for one person doesn’t work for all people. What we know is that jail and forced treatment doesn’t work for most people. Even in your case, there was no jail and no forced treatment. You went and got help on your own and got clean.”

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Seattle city attorney candidate defends past inflammatory tweets as ‘satire and sarcasm’