This morning, the Deparment of Justice released a report detailing excessive use of force by the Seattle Police Department and failures of oversight by supervisors. While the DOJ has attempted to demonstrate that the City of Seattle is acting in good faith to end these abuses and protect the Constitutional rights of citizens, police actions during the West Coast Port Shutdown (WCPS) protest undermine this claim.
The Seattle Police Department has gone to the press in order to release footage of alleged instances of violence done by protesters at the WCPS protest on December 12th, 2011. This announcement has been paired with a request from the SPD for the general public to identify protesters on-scene at the demonstration without pretense of due process.
Confusingly, the released footage also contains footage of police violence against peaceful demonstrators, including pulling a peaceful female protester to the ground by her hair, destroying a banner carried by peaceful protesters, and snatching a sign away from a protester. This incident caused the peaceful protester’s glasses to fall off his face and was an unnecessary escalation into violence. This situation was de-escalated by other protesters nearby as can be seen in the video.
Occupy Seattle has been, since its founding, a non-violent organization. Assertions made by the Seattle Police Department and Mayor McGinn’s office to paint Occupy Seattle as a violent protest is neither grounded in fact and is of disingenuous intent. Seattle’s long history of peaceful civil disobedience is shamed by public officials’ attempts to undermine this movement.
Occupy Seattle encourages and supports a free press. The SPD’s attempt to manipulate the media narrative in this case makes a mockery of journalistic integrity. Furthermore, their attempts to widely broadcast the faces of non-violent demonstrators only attempts to spur a witch-hunt against persons in the video engaged in peaceful protest.
This is a bold-faced attempt to chill free speech and has the potential of opening up those persons to discrimination for their constitutionally protected political views. The violence that took place at the port demonstration was not at the urging of OS and our members, but instead was left to the Seattle Police Department, which used flash-bang grenades and brutally beat dozens of citizens, including a member of the clergy. Leveling these serious charges, while releasing imagery of the protest as a whole, exposes hundreds of peaceful protesters present to retribution from a misled community which does not bear the burden of investigation. That is left to law-enforcement.
The SPD’s move to release these accusations paired with video is nothing short of an intimidation tactic designed to suppress Seattle citizens’ right to peaceful assembly, afforded by the First Amendment, which has turned 220 years old this week. Furthermore, the SPD is attempting to distract the public from the shameful violence used against demonstrators on that day. Occupy Seattle condemns and denounces this specious move to discredit this movement.
Police violence during the WCPS protest is part of a pattern of excessive use of force and failure to de-escalate in situations involving minor offenses that has been chastised by the Department of Justice. Many examples of police violence during the WCPS protest correspond directly to cases detailed by the DOJ in their report released today, December 16, 2011. This can be found by reading Section IV, part A of the letter that we have attached. While US Attorney Durkan and Assistant Attorney General Perez attempted to demonstrate that the City of Seattle is being pro-active about police accountability during this morning’s press conference, police action during the WCPS protest discredits their claim.