1. Casey's got a live report from last night's Ferguson protests.
And here's some YouTube he took of SPD using a bike formation to push back protesters who were trying to block I-5 last night.
He's got more video on his twitter feed.
2. Heading into to last night's protests, Mayor Ed Murray and SPD Chief Kathleen O'Toole told the press they'd been working with march organizers and working "to help facilitate their right to protest" as they sought to draw a contrast between the SPD and Ferguson by hyping the heavy presence of bike cops at Seattle protests.
"We don't have that kind of equipment," O'Toole told reporters when asked about the "militarization" of the police that came to light in Ferguson this summer. "The heaviest equipment that we used [at protests] is bicycles." O'Toole said if there was property damage or if any protesters "were putting people's lives in danger, we will isolate them and arrest them, and get them out of the way."
(According to the SPD blotter this morning: Five people were arrested last night after a long night of peaceful protests—including a "die-in" at Westlake and a large impromptu gathering of about 250 chanting protesters at 12th and Pike on Captiol Hill. The arrests were for reckless endangerment, failure to disperse, obstruction, and one weapons charge for someone who had a gun. The blotter also notes: "vandals spray painted buildings at 6th Avenue and Pike Street and 9th Avenue and Madison Street. Vandals also reportedly shattered a bank’s window at Madison and Boylston Avenue.")
At the press conference prior to the arrests Murray said: "Bike officers do a great job. Officers will be out there [tonight] on bicycles." He added, "We're not Ferguson," citing the lack of African Americans on the Ferguson police force ["only three," he claimed] saying Seattle had "a number of African American officers."
However, saying there was "an enormous gulf of mistrust" between African American communities and the police, he added that, "race remains our greatest challenge. We have to confront the challenge painfully again and again." He said there was "tremendous hurt in the African American community" about the grand jury's decision in "the murder of Mr. Brown."
Murray boiled the issue down to the Seattle school system. "We are failing our young African American men, sending them to prison instead of college."
I asked Murray aftwerwards if he had any specific plans to address the problems in Seattle schools—he had cited drop out numbers among African American students. He said only that he wanted to convene the City, businesses, and Seattle Public Schools to identify a joint effort.
Addressing persistent rumors that he's interested in having the city take over the school district, he said that would require authorization in Olympia and told me the city was not lobbying state legislators for that authority.
3. Several members from minority communities spoke at Murray's press conference last night as well, including newly-elected SE Seattle state senator Pramila Jayapal (speaking of "the failures of the system that allows unarmed kids to die [and of] a system that is not accountable;" Urban League leader Pam Banks ("We need economic opportunity ... the median income in the African American community has dropped to staggering levels [compared to] booming South Lake Union;" and El Centro de la Raza head Estela Ortega ("Once again our justice system is not working for communities of color ... a police offer gets away without an indictment ... Officer Wilson did not have a trial ... all of this adds up to the distrust we have for law enforcement and for our criminal justice system ... we need to march and protest.")
Former Southeast Seattle state house rep Dawn Mason also spoke. Mason, who's African American, is a longtime Murray ally and came to his defense during last year's tense mayoral campaign when former Mayor Mike McGinn supporters floated charges of racism against Murray.
Last night, Mason, emphasizing the importance of women in the struggle against racism, said Murray needed an African American woman in his cabinet. "What he's missing is African American women in his cabinet," she said. "Not me. I don't want to be there," she joked, but emphasized that she wasn't kidding about the omission on Murray's top staff.
The comment surely stung Murray who's currently facing a discrimination complaint filed by his former African American spokeswoman Roz Brazel. To be fair, Brazel made some high-profile gaffes.
4. Speaking of Murray staff positions: Murray has hired Viet Shelton to replace communications director Jeff Reading; Reading announced last week that he's leaving Murray's office after just one year to take a job at consulting firm Strategies 360 and to "spend more time with his family." Reading was a longtime Murray partisan and confidant, working closely with Murray dating back to Murray's state senate career; Reading spent years as the senate Democrats' communications director.
Like Reading, Shelton is something of a Murray confidant as well; in addition to getting his start working directly for Murray back in the state house in 2005, Shelton, currently U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene's (D-WA, 1) press secretary in D.C., has worked closely on Democratic Party messaging with local consultants Christian Sinderman and Sandeep Kaushik, two of Murray's and Rep. DelBene's political operatives.
In addition to working for Murray back in '05, Shelton, a young 30-something (he's 33), worked as the Washington State Democrats' deputy communications director for brash state party chair Dwight Pelz in '06 and later worked for former Gov. Chris Gregoire as deputy press secretary. Shelton is no stranger to the mayor's office. He worked for Mayor Greg Nickels in '09 and remains close with much of the old "Team Nickels" crew like former Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, who's a bit of a mentor for Shelton. (Helping shore up Nickels' work for Sound Transit, Shelton also helped run the 2008 light rail ballot measure campaign.)
As a freshman U.S. rep, DelBene has been notably successful at the media game, standing out on fighting NSA surveillance, for example. (Shelton's delegation media counterparts give him credit for DelBene's fast rise.)