One issue that's top of mind for us right now is police accountability, and we definitely found it a little odd that the SPD got scintillating reviews for how it handled the May Day protests after an evening of smashed store fronts and violence, pepper spray, and 17 arrests. (Erica was pepper sprayed after complying with SPD orders and has filed a complaint with the city's Office of Professional Accountability.)
"How the Police Seized Control," the Seattle Times headline cheered the morning after.
We get it: There is a committed group of supposed anarchists who exploit major protests and come looking for a fight and we agree that the police should show no patience for vandalism and violence.
However, the police were going after more than trouble makers last week and in my estimation (I was reporting from Olive and 4th downtown on Wednesday when the SPD gave their order to disperse), the police aggravated the situation with belligerent tactics such as firing flash bombs, hitting protesters with batons, and pepper spraying protesters who were obeying police orders.
The SPD also got high marks from the mayoral candidates who participated in a mayoral forum the following night where the emcee, KCTS' Enrique Cerna, started things off by asking: "Yesterday was May Day, and we saw [an] outbreak of violence by young protesters seemingly intent on causing mayhem ... what can you do to stop this from happening every May Day?"
Here's what the candidates said. (Note: You won't find any quotes that will come back to haunt them with voters who prefer a tough line on protesters, but kudos to the few candidates—City Council member Bruce Harrell, neighborhood activist Kate Martin, and state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill)—who hit pause on the easy macho rhetoric and added a little context.)
City Council member Tim Burgess:
"I think the police department ... yesterday ... they were very prepared, they were present, they had sufficient officers available and as soon as the violence happened they acted very quickly, and I think that was a significant improvement over what happened last year."
City Council member Bruce Harrell:
"[Pepper] spray should never be used on a passive person or a civilian … Our use of force should be scrutinized very, very heavily."
You won't find any quotes that will come back to haunt them with voters who prefer a tough line on protesters, but kudos to the few candidates who hit pause on the easy macho rhetoric and added a little context.
Neighborhood acitivst Kate Martin began by saying the police should show little tolerance for "people who want to cause trouble," but added that the SPD needs "more professional development that needs to happen among the staff so that we don’t have the wrong people sprayed—which seems to be happening at these events."
Mayor Mike McGinn:
"I really commend the officers and the sergeants and the command staff for the work they did to have a prompt response … I commend the officers for a prompt response to people bent on damage. I’m proud that our officers stood in that difficult situation and did a tough job."
State. Sen. Ed Murray:
"When there is criminal activity we need to do something about the criminal activity. Second, we can’t ignore the fact that during the great recession economic inequality has deepened and there is more of that type of activity. It's a travesty that city is under a Department of Justice consent decree. We need to reform our police department and under this mayor we haven’t and under the oversight of the public safety committee of Tim Burgess we haven’t."
Real estate broker Charlie Staadecker:
"This is one night I would like to turn to and say thank you [Mayor Mike McGinn] for you and your team for what you did last night … and I congratulate you."
(Goofy footnote here: Staadecker than noted that it was Murray's birthday and called for and led the crowd in a round of "Happy Birthday.")
Former City Council member Peter Steinbrueck:
"The mayor is really the commander in chief, and I think what you do at the onset—given that we’ve had some experience now with several years of mayhem on the streets—[is the] mayor needs to set clear expectations that lawful First Amendment rights will be protected, number one. And number two, that unlawful activity will be dealt with by the appropriate means. I do think we're improving with crowd management."