Seattle Attorney Davison appeals injunction on graffiti enforcement

Jul 6, 2023, 2:08 PM | Updated: Jul 7, 2023, 5:09 am

graffiti enforcement appeal...

Graffiti on a barricade inside the so-called "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" call for the abolition of police. The area surrounding Seattle's East Precinct police station, which last week Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered to be evacuated and surrendered to protesters, is operating as a semi-autonomous jurisdiction outside the control of state authorities. (Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

After a federal judge ruled that the city of Seattle needs to stop enforcing its property crime ordinance as it relates to graffiti, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison is looking to appeal that ruling.

In mid-June, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that the city cannot enforce its anti-graffiti because, as it’s currently written, it “poses a real threat to censorship.”

More on graffiti: Property damage still illegal in Seattle after judge clarifies decision

Now, Davison is looking to overturn that ruling on the grounds that the Seattle graffiti ordinance is constitutionally valid.

“The injunction restricts the City from appropriately addressing the growing problem of graffiti,” Davison said in a prepared statement. “The victims of graffiti – the public as a whole, business owners, property owners, and others – must have a voice. Graffiti is a crime that has an enormously negative and costly impact.”

Pechman’s ruling came in connection with a lawsuit filed by four people who used charcoal and chalk to write messages protesting police violence in early 2021 — on a temporary concrete wall outside the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) East Precinct.

Even though the messages contained expletives and “anti-police” rhetoric, according to some Seattle residents, the judge said it falls under free speech.

Seattle’s ordinance said that graffiti is a gross misdemeanor, but the judge disagreed, saying the law is too vague, over-broad, and violates constitutional rights.

Michael Medved: ‘Graffiti is not free speech, it’s vandalism’

Initially, there was some confusion around what laws were unenforceable under the order since the city ordinance covers multiple types of property crimes, including smashing windows or destroying personal property. SPD released a statement that the department “cannot take action on damage to property under this law.”

The judge later clarified that the injunction is only related to the city’s laws around graffiti and that police are able to make arrests for other types of property crimes; the city attorney’s office announced they would “immediately resume charging cases of property destruction.”

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Seattle Attorney Davison appeals injunction on graffiti enforcement