A crowd estimated around 150 carried driving irons and putters through the streets of Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon in a symbolic completion of William Wingate’s travels last summer on the day he was arrested in a controversial incident that has once again put the Seattle Police Department under scrutiny.
“Only thing I can say is this: I didn’t do nothing,” Wingate told the group in brief remarks made before the march from Cal Anderson through Pike/Pine to the East Precinct headquarters at 12th and Pine.
“And I’m still confused,” he added.
Saturday’s march organized by writer and activist Chad Goller-Sojourner was the first public display of protest against Wingate’s July 2014 arrest at 12th and Pike when the then-69-year-old retired veteran was taken into custody after refusing to put down the golf club that he uses as a walking cane. SPD eventually apologized for the arrest — and returned Wingate’s club. But the incident has produced criticism of both the arresting officer and the way SPD superior officers handled her discipline. Chief Kathleen O’Toole has ordered an SPD investigation into Officer Cynthia Whitlatch’s actions during the arrest — and in her online activities — and the way East Precinct handled her eventual discipline. It also seems to have forced soul searching with SPD’s brass over how to handle free speech and social media with its officers.
At Saturday’s peaceful rally and march, there were no arrests but there were many calls for reform and change at SPD. For Wingate, the man at the center of the debate says he is still hoping for justice.
“I can’t understand why. I (have) never done anything to this woman,” Wingate told the crowd.
“I hope something comes of this.”