As Initiative 103 includes the Right to Citizen Oversight of the Seattle Police Department, we take note of reports of concerns of police enforcement tactics.
Information is still coming in from tonight's Student Debt Noise Brigade march on Capitol Hill last night - so it's too early to draw any clear conclusions. However, it does appear that last week the SPD allowed marchers to proceed peacefully down the center of Broadway with bike escorts. Then, tonight, police cars moved in and attempted to arrest one person starting a melee. They eventually arrested a different protester (not the original one).
After more than an hour of peaceful marching throughout Capitol Hill ... watch the video below and you can see radically different police enforcement at work:
It seems clear from the video that the police's decision to first rush one marcher (with the bullhorn) and then begin to make the first arrest rather than allow the march to proceed peacefully instigated the broader disruption. This video shows more.
I marched with this group on June 7th and it was entirely peaceful - and it included the same portion of the route where the police made the arrest. From what I heard and saw pictures of, last week's march was entirely peaceful - even escorted by the Seattle Police along this same section of the route. There appears to be no apparent reason for the change in SPD enforcement ... and the above footage shows the police cars closing in sideways on protesters prior to any verbal warning being announced. The noise brigade has been marching a portion of Broadway before retiring for the evening for a bbq in Cal Anderson Park. It's likely if the police had provided the same latitude as the week before, that this march would have been peaceful for a third week - and it does not appear that there was any violence prior to police engagement.
The Department of Justice has raised concerns of Seattle Police Department's handling of protests and crowd control in the past:
Separately, we are aware of recent incidents involving the use of Oleoresin Capsicum (“OC”) spray to disperse the so-called “Occupy Seattle” protesters on November 2, 2011 and November 15, 2011. Although these incidents concern us, we do not directly address them in this letter because they occurred outside of the timeframe of our review. However, we note that Seattle has previously been criticized for its response to demonstrators, including incidents related to the World Trade Organization meetings in 1999. In reviewing SPD’s response to the WTO demonstrators, the Police Executive Research Forum noted: “There is a balance to be struck between, on the one hand, First Amendment rights and other civil liberties, and on the other hand, the interventions required to protect public safety and property.”
The inconsistency between last week's police enforcement and this week's raises questions about tactics and their ability to communicate their intentions clearly to the public.
Initiative 103 provides the following with regards to police oversight:
Whereas, the United States Department of Justice finds that the Seattle Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and patterns of racially biased policing which include excessive use of force;
Section 4 ... (d) Rights to a Citizen Managed and Accountable Police Force. All residents of the City of Seattle have a right to a police force held fully accountable by its citizens. The Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability will now report to the Mayor.
Currently, the investigative and disciplinary arm of the police department reports to the Chief of Police, not a civilian.
Photos from last week courtesy of Alex Garland Photography.