Raging against, rallying for Ian Birk

Feb 16, 2011, 3:55 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

On news websites and through social media thousands more have been raging against and rallying for former Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk, who has now resigned from the department.

The King County’s prosecutor announced he will not file criminal charges against Officer Birk for the fatal shooting of a Native American woodcarver, John T. Williams.

Birk confronted Williams last August when he saw Williams carrying a knife at a busy intersection in Seattle. Williams did not obey Birk’s order to drop the knife. Williams’s family members say he was hard of hearing and might not have understood the officer was talking to him. Birk testified he felt his life was being threatened, and that’s why he used deadly force in the situation.

Late today, Birk resigned from the police department. Chief John Diaz released this short statement.

Thousands of people have an opinion about this case and its every development since last August. In addition to commenting on news stories about the decision not to file criminal charges today, people are expressing strong and opposing views on several Facebook pages that either support or condemn Officer Ian Birk.

A group that formed today wants to “Give Ian Birk the death penalty,” while a larger group of more than 500 people support a Petition to fire Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk.

Comments from the group who want to have him fired range include:

Amy Bue writes, “I can’t believe he’s getting away with this! Fire him quick before someone else is next!” And Mark Schwartz claims, “The other cops know he’s guilty. But who cares…he’s a cop, a good fella, deep inside the thin-blue line.”


Photo from a Facebook group supporting John T. Williams

There’s also a group with a couple hundred supporters honoring the woodcarver, John T. Williams. They’re encouraging people to turn out at two demonstrations late today. One underway at Seattle City Hall, and another tonight at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

Among those defending the officer are 50 members of a group Support Ian Birk, Seattle Police Officer. Even the support page has been taken over by many criticizing the officer. Among those on his side is Tommy Watson who writes:

“I know Officer Birk personally, and the mere insinuation that he would have acted in any way, other than in alignment with his training and with the protection of himself, and others around foremost in his mind, is simply ludicrous. Thank you for your creation of this group, and for all the people on here who do support him. It’s a real shame that SPD is not backing their own for political reasons. God bless all of our Police Officers.”

Armand Thompson is another Birk supporter who told me why he started the Facebook group:

“I wanted the type of people who cared enough to search “Ian Birk” on Facebook to find a place where they could support law enforcement officers, specifically Officer Birk, in a positive way.

I enjoy debate probably more than most and knew that this kind of a support group would draw the anti-cop crowd, where they could show themselves for who they are while we stand for Law Enforcement officers the way they stand for us – with integrity. If you’ve noticed any of the threads, it’s almost too easy to allow the anti-cop side of the argument to completely delegitimize themselves through their words and – as I’m sure we’ll see tonight – their actions.

I happen to know Ian. During the Olympics, we shared a detail in which the subject of escalation of force and rules of engagement were the topic of our discussion for nearly three hours. I had never been engaged in such a conscientious discussion about either of these topics and I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of consideration Ian had put into the subject. He clearly knew the intricacies of his training – to include the Tueller Rule, which we both have learned and Seattle has now elected to not stand behind for political reasons. When I had heard Ian was involved, I withheld my opinion until after gathering what facts were actually available from the videos. Based on the training I know Ian received, I would stake my own Freedom on the fact that Ian met the conditions he was taught for use of deadly force. I would have made precisely the same decision.

I also have an interest in following Social Media movements, whether it is local direct action networks or political unrest around the world. Done rightly, it is also a place for people to actually exchange ideas; although, I’m finding out quickly that those opposed to Birk (or, more likely, opposed to police in general) are interested only in emotional rants and displaying the hate they pretend others are displaying. I’m more than comfortable with letting these people’s actions speak for who they truly are, which is why I’m not deleting their comments.

Lastly, I think it’s important that we support our First Responders directly and indirectly (i.e. Facebook). We’ve had rough past couple years with law enforcement, especially, in the Puget Sound and our government isn’t doing enough to stand behind those who deliver on government’s most-important duty to the People – and this is to provide security. The more we can do to promote security and the people who provide it, the better.”

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Raging against, rallying for Ian Birk