As the Seattle City Council sifts through dozens of piecemeal #defundSPD proposals this week, District 3’s Kshama Sawant has been dealt several early blows in the debate while an activist strategy of targeting the homes of public officials caused a stir Saturday as demonstrators tried to bring their message to SPD Chief Carmen Best’s neighborhood in a “quaint residential community in unincorporated Snohomish County.”
Here’s how the Lynnwood Times described the Saturday night scene:
A crowd of about 200 persons, mostly white men and women in their twenties, were dressed in black with masks and black hoods and carried signs that read “Black Lives Matter.” Black Lives Matter protestors shouted profanity and insults at neighbors, took license plate information on vehicles, took pictures of homes, and asked little kids who lived in the neighborhood what schools they attended.
The arrival of Black Lives Matter on Best’s rural Snohomish County home turf comes as the summer’s debate over how much and how quickly to defund the Seattle Police Department is coming to a head.
“These direct actions against elected officials, and especially civil servants like myself, are out of line with and go against every democratic principle that guides our nation,” Chief Best wrote in a public letter calling on the city council to denounce the protest strategy. “Before this devolves into the new way of doing business by mob rule here in Seattle, and across the nation, elected officials like you must forcefully call for the end of these tactics.”
The demonstration has been part of several Black Lives Matter and #defundSPD actions in recent weeks targeting the home of public officials including one this weekend at the home of budget chair Teresa Mosqueda.
— Manuel Valdes///subscribe to your local paper (@ByManuelValdes) August 3, 2020
In late June, Sawant marched with hundreds and held a #defundSPD rally in front of Durkan’s Northeast Seattle home setting off a new front in her ongoing war with the mayor. Council president M. Lorena González said she would not pursue Durkan’s demands that Sawant be investigated over the protest.
The Black Lives Matter movement has deployed the strategy before. In 2016, CHS reported on an August BLM demonstration making a long stop outside then-Mayor Ed Murray’s North Capitol Hill home. Activists opposing construction of a new youth jail returned to the street for another demonstration in December of that year.
Meanwhile, small protests against SPD violence and inequity have continued on Capitol Hill with the “Everyday Protest March” meeting nightly outside the boarded-up Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church on Harvard Ave to march for Black Lives Matter causes.
The Decriminalize Seattle group and the King County Equity Now Coalition unveiled a four-point plan that activists say would best reallocate money currently spent on patrol officers for community needs including major changes to how Seattle’s 911 system works and social initiatives including housing.
Monday, the city council’s budget committee was finishing its run-through of dozens of proposed line item cuts and changes to the department that need to be in place by next Monday, August 10th’s final vote on rebalancing the city’s 2020 budget.
Last week, CHS reported on Sawant’s step forward as the only city council member to present proposals that would achieve the demands of protesters and community groups for a 50% cut to SPD starting immediately with the remaining 2020 budget.
While a majority of the council has said they support the long-term goal of cutting the department’s annual $409 million budget by 50%, their proposals being presented and considered this week would not come anywhere close to an immediate halving.
Sawan’ts proposals would require massive and immediate layoffs for SPD. Monday, the council heard from City Hall staff who said that SPD’s 2020 depletion of funds on overtime and protest service leaves the department with a remaining budget dedicated primarily to salaries. That spend down combined with current labor agreements create what is ostensibly a three-month window to achieve any savings: To save $3 million this year, the city would have to provide immediate layoff notices to nearly 200 officers starting this weekend.
To reach Sawant’s $86 million goal in the remaining months of 2020, you would have to send a notice to every sworn officer right away, one staffer told the budget committee Monday.
While the positioning make it even more unlikely that Sawant’s proposals will attract support from her fellow council members, the council did seem likely to find line items for immediate cuts including reduction in SWAT spending and cuts to the Navigation Team responsible for sweeping encampments.
Mayor Durkan, meanwhile, has focused on a plan for $76 million in cuts to SPD in 2021 — about a third of the #defundSPD 50% goal. Durkan said the plan would call for $56 million of that cut coming from moving the 911 call center out of SPD as well as moving parking enforcement to the Seattle Department of Transportation.
Here is the full, 79-page roster of city council proposals including the items being brought to the council for a full 50% reduction by Sawant:
The budget committee will meet again Wednesday to vote on the amendments and finish its proposal for rebalancing the 2020 budget before Monday, August 10th’s final vote.
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