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Interim Seattle Police chief vows crackdown after months of ‘direct action’ protests targeting property damage and vandalism

2021 began with more protest arrests on Capitol Hill (Image: CHS)

Seattle’s interim police chief called a press conference Saturday to announce “a new policy of arresting and prosecuting people who vandalize or damage property during protests,” KIRO TV reports — but the Seattle Times says it is not clear what has changed after Chief Adrian Diaz’s weekend announcement:

Holmes wasn’t at the news conference and in a statement, his office said misdemeanor policies are the same. No documents to outline any enforcement changes were immediately available. “We only learned about it after the fact,” Dan Nolte, a city attorney’s spokesperson, said regarding the hastily called news conference.

The Times reports Diaz told reporters “he has wanted to crack down on property destruction for months, and that in his opinion, violent protesters and vandals aren’t promoting a cause.”

The chief’s message comes following more national headlines about unrest in Seattle after groups burned a flag and broke glass in an Inauguration Day protest targeting federal facilities and a handful of chain businesses including Amazon and Starbucks. There were three reported arrests.

Monday, some activists also marked Martin Luther King Day in the city by splitting off from thousands of marchers to block I-5 in protest. The Washington State Patrol made arrests during the blocking protest but the King County Jail refused to book the suspects due to current restrictions in place to reduce the number of people being held during the ongoing pandemic.

Diaz’s announcement follows months of so-called “direct action” protests targeting the East Precinct and the Capitol Hill neighborhood as tensions have remained high between anti-police activists and SPD in the wake of the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Plywood covering the windows of the walled-off precinct is one symbol of the ongoing uncertainty. In the days leading up the inauguration, the wood coverings suddenly came down in what the mayor’s office said was “the first step” in also removing the huge cement barricade wall surrounding the building. But the plywood reported went back up at some point. CHS hasn’t been by to check this week if the coverings are up — or down.

Meanwhile, protest activity has waned but continued around the East Precinct and, increasingly, in other areas of the city.

The department faces ongoing criticism after more findings of improper conduct by officers during the summer protests — though no officers have been disciplined from the findings and most of the thousands of complaints received about the use of force and crowd control tactics have not been sustained by investigators.

Diaz is also facing pressures over the behavior of his officers and their cultural and political disconnection from the city they serve. Earlier this month, an issue over officers not wearing face masks during the ongoing pandemic blew up into a public relations issue for the department. And there are now five SPD officers under investigation for their attendance at the January 6th events in Washington D.C. that culminated with a mob storming the Capitol.

SPD veteran Diaz took over the department in September following the resignation of his boss Chief Carmen Best. At the time, Mayor Jenny Durkan said a search process to select Best’s permanent replacement would start early this year.


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CH Resident
CH Resident
3 months ago

CHSB, you know exactly why the plywood went back up – you reported on it yourself on 1/14. Here’s a copy and paste from your own article:

UPDATE x2: SPD says the demonstrators also broke one of the recently uncovered and replaced windows:

Officers arrested two people during a protest outside the East Precinct Thursday evening.

A group of approximately 30 people gathered inside Cal Anderson Park just after 7 PM. The group spent an hour and a half in the park burning flags and drawing on the fountain with chalk. The group took their protest to the East Precinct at 8:30 PM where they used chalk to draw on the wall outside of the East Precinct. A few individuals from the group threw items at the building cracking a recently replaced window.

The group eventually left but not before officers arrested two people for investigation of assault on an officer.

Kevin
Kevin
3 months ago

Diaz told reporters […] that in his opinion, violent protesters and vandals aren’t promoting a cause.

Here, Diaz pretends to not hear calls for the abolition of SPD.

Capitol Hill Resident
Capitol Hill Resident
3 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

How is breaking the glass of local businesses in any way a logical move to advocate for less money to be spent on the cops? Totally counterproductive.

Martin
Martin
3 months ago

The haters will not prevail. Know thyself. The trench is not forgiving.

Jim Floyd
Jim Floyd
3 months ago

Anyone without a ‘Permit to assemble’ should be arrested immediately. And with force if needed. You do not have the right to assemble without a permit. That is the law. And you certainly do not have the right to be on a street, highway and/or freeway blocking traffic.

MarciaX
MarciaX
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Floyd

Actually we as U.S. Americans do have a right to assemble without a permit. It’s in the Constitution. What technically requires a permit is assembling in the public right-of-way in a manner that blocks others from using it. Assembling in this manner without a permit constitutes nonviolent civil disobedience, which is illegal but sometimes justified. The civil rights and antiwar movements of the 20th century could not have succeeded without it. Even riots are, arguably, sometimes justified when all other options for urgently needed change are thwarted.

Where I draw the line in the current wave of unrest in Seattle is specifically against white people who engage in violence and property destruction purportedly on behalf of people of color, but without POC community leadership, engagement or support. We all know who suffers the most as a result. No matter how noble these rioters’ alleged political goals may sound, their actions are not helping achieve them.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Floyd

Anyone without a ‘Permit to assemble’ should be arrested immediately.

Sorry General Secretary Xi, but you’re commenting on an American blog. We have this pesky constitution here that allows us to protest our government without fear of reprisal.

Good luck with your Hong Kong problem though!

CHqueer
CHqueer
3 months ago

This is long overdue. It would be interesting to see how many of the anarchist vandals that are trashing the city are actually from Seattle. It seems like most of those arrested are from outside the city (Alaska, California, Kirkland, Everett, Edmonds, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene). It would also inform the public discussion to have a summary of all businesses damaged in riots over the last 8 months. How many are mom and pop businesses? People that don’t live on Capitol Hill and in downtown may not realize that the list includes many local small businesses, not just Starbucks and Amazon.