Seattle City Atty. considers charges against Council demonstrators

Mar 1, 2024, 3:30 PM | Updated: 4:04 pm

Image: Demonstrators fill the Seattle City Council meeting....

Screenshot of Tuesday's Seattle City Council meeting interrupted by demonstrators. (Photo courtesy of City of Seattle's broadcast channel)

(Photo courtesy of City of Seattle's broadcast channel)

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office is weighing charges against six people arrested outside Council chambers Tuesday afternoon.

A group of protestors was there calling on the city to do more to help provide asylum seekers with housing, something Seattle City Council President Sara Nelson said the Council was already doing.

“We also provide the lion’s share of resources for King County Regional Housing authority, so we are doing our part,” Nelson said.

The six arrested — three men and three women — were among dozens protesting the city’s funding plans for asylum seekers and refugees. Demonstrators filled the room to speak during the public comment period, but once loud outbursts and chants ensued, they were asked to leave immediately by security. The outbursts began once Council President Sara Nelson cut off public comment after 20 minutes.

Nelson said the protesters were asked to lower their voices, and they were given several warnings before they were removed from the chamber and police were called in.

“We had a disturbance in chambers and the only way to go on with the business of the people was to finally have people removed by SPD from chambers,” Seattle City Council President Sara Nelson said.

Three men and three women were arrested for Criminal Trespassing. One was also arrested for Obstruction.

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Additionally, people in the public comment spoke in favor of a new minimum wage for gig workers and in opposition to new police technology for detecting gunshots.

The demonstration continued outside, shouting and banging on windows. At this point, Councilmember Cathy Moore asked for police assistance, claiming the physical safety of the council was threatened by the actions of the demonstrators.

“It is more than loud. It is a physical threat to the safety of each of us on this council and it is a threat to the operation of our city and our institution,” Moore said during the meeting, according to KIRO 7. “I want the record to be clear: I felt threatened.”

The council meeting was able to continue after an hour-long recess.

The six demonstrators were booked by SPD into the King County Jail on criminal trespass charges, with one demonstrator facing an additional charge of obstruction.

More than 200 refugees are temporarily living outside a Tukwila church, but the space is over-capacity, causing more than 70 families to move to a hotel in Kent. Those families were facing eviction by the end of January until Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell stepped in, according to Nelson.

The extension, funded by the City of Seattle, ended earlier this week. Asylum seekers and supporters have since urged the council to continue to provide funding assistance, but Nelson countered that Seattle must prioritize its resources for its own unhoused population.

“We also provide the lion’s share of resources for King County Regional homelessness authority, so we are also doing our part,” Nelson added, believing said conversations about refugee housing assistance should be held at the county and federal level rather than the city level.

There were no reported injuries and no refugees were involved in the demonstration.

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Earlier this week, King County announced it’s granting $1 million in support of asylum-seekers in Tukwila to find and obtain housing alongside food, support and legal services.

“The county is seeking to fund one or more programs that offer a year-round, temporary services to those experiencing unsheltered homelessness, while offering services that will help address immediate needs of participants,” the county stated.

Contributing: James Lynch and Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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