‘It was a realization that we had an opportunity’ — After months of protest, Seattle’s moment to defund its police force is here — UPDATE: 43%

A massive march continued the call to defund Seattle Police Wednesday

UPDATE 8/6/2020 8:30 AM: The City Council’s budget committee Wednesday set the groundwork for a near halving of what Seattle spends on policing with a plan for layoffs, cuts, and new approaches to be implemented in the coming weeks and months.

“We’ve outlined and identified possible transfers, cuts and reductions in the fall budget to get to a 43% cut to SPD,” public safety and human services chair Tammy Morales said following Wednesday’s budget committee votes. “We look forward to working with community in the upcoming weeks to get us to the guiding principle of defunding SPD by 50% and reinvesting in community.”

As the council committee deliberated Wednesday, thousands marched from the King County youth jail and justice facility on 12th Ave to City Hall in a show of support for the defunding effort. Organizers of the Every Day March vowed Wednesday to continue their efforts to protest and rally in the streets.

With the time needed to meet requirements around most of the planned layoffs, actual savings to the city this year will be minimal. But other pushes forward to reducing the city’s dependence on police will move more quickly. The plan calls for moving around $14 million in early funding to begin building the network of city and nonprofit resources required to move forward on social and community programs hoped to provide non-police solutions. Continue reading

Police say van abandoned at East Precinct after protest property damage held fireworks, improvised weapons

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) said Wednesday that it found fireworks, improvised spike strips, nails, and bear mace in an impounded car parked near the department’s East Precinct during Saturday protests that the SPD declared a riot.

Police say they saw a van following protesters on 12th Ave Saturday afternoon, which was later abandoned in front of the precinct. Concerned that there could be explosives in the vehicle after a witness reported seeing baseball bats and pyrotechnics being distributed from the van, it was impounded and police were granted a search warrant on Tuesday.

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In pandemic’s Zoom era, Seattle takes another look at municipal broadband

From King County’s 2020 Broadband Access Study — the full study is embedded below

Devin Glaser’s goddaughter misses him.

Before all of this, Glaser could have popped over to visit her, but now they have to set up a Zoom video conference.

“I can’t imagine trying to predict the world where that’s the only way you can connect with your family,” he said.

Glaser, an activist with municipal broadband advocacy organization Upgrade Seattle, says the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced people to work remotely and students to learn online has only exacerbated the city’s need for a public, high-speed Internet system.

“It’s very obvious that Internet is all the more essential than it already was, and it was already essential,” Glaser said. He said that when his Internet goes out at night, he just goes to bed because there’s nothing else to do.

Meanwhile, after months of COVID-19 restrictions, the Seattle City Council conducts its public business online these days including massive conference calls that invite every citizen in Seattle to log in for public comment.

With that in mind, the council’s Alex Pedersen introduced a resolution requesting the city implement an action plan to provide affordable and high-speed Internet access to all in mid-May.

It might say a little about the city’s hopes for municipal high speed internet — and the power of the COVID-19 crisis and the past months of important Black Lives Matter protest — that the City Council is finally set to approve the resolution in late July.

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Seattle’s oldest emergency

Seattle has faced four civil emergencies this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage, the protest movement on systemic racism, and most recently the cracked West Seattle Bridge.

But Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis says he likes to remind his colleagues that the city’s longest running emergency is homelessness, with a state of emergency issued in 2015.

“We forget that the original one and one that continues to be ongoing and just has a horrible impact that drags everything else down is just the massive chronic homelessness on the streets of the city of Seattle,” said Lewis, who chairs the council’s Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability.

King County’s annual point-in-time count continues to show a persistent homelessness crisis with 11,751 individuals experiencing homelessness on one night in late January, a 5% increase from last year but still below the 12,112 counted in 2018. Among those, 53% were sheltered and 47% unsheltered, the same as 2017 and 2019. Continue reading

If Seattle is going to #defundSPD in 2020, this is how it happens

The Seattle City Council Wednesday continued its discussion of deep cuts to the Seattle Police Department and a redirection to increase funding to social and community programs as it battles through a contentious midyear rebalancing of the city’s budget amid major shortfalls stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city faces a $378 million budget gap as reduced revenue and unexpected spending on the novel coronavirus have wreaked havoc on the city’s finances. Mayor Jenny Durkan is proposing more than $183 million in spending reductions to reflect these woes.

Notable cuts include:

  • $8 million for pausing the Center City Connector streetcar initiative
  • Nearly $7.3 million from the delay of 12 transportation projects
  • $9 million to delay the city’s contribution to the expansion of the aquarium
  • $1.8 million in lost funding for a comprehensive health clinic
  • $2.5 million to stop the implementation of an accessory dwelling unit project from the city Office of Housing.
  • Almost $3.3 million from a hiring freeze at Seattle Public Utilities 

But — after weeks of protest and activism and an ongoing political battle pitting the Durkan administration against the city’s activist core —  the fight over changes to the remaining budget for SPD and cuts to the city’s broader criminal justice system remain at the center of the debate. The mayor is pushing for a little over $20 million in cuts to the department’s budget for the rest of the year, amounting to about 10% of its remaining funds. But this wasn’t enough for advocates of clear change to the way police operate in Seattle.

“The cuts need to begin this year,” Angélica Cházaro, a law professor at the University of Washington and organizer with Decriminalize Seattle, told the council Wednesday. “The city has to commit to the reorganization of the police department to both reduce its size, reallocate its funds and positions to city departments and community organizations that are better suited to creating public health and safety.” Continue reading

Politics through a pandemic: How the race to represent Capitol Hill in Olympia is shaping up in the summer of COVID-19

(Image: Elect Jessi Murray)

Jessi Murray was ready to start door-knocking.

The candidate for the 43rd Legislative District’s Position 2, representing the areas of Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and Montlake, had ordered her nametag and was prepared for the campaign’s first day of action with canvassing in late March.

But with social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders quickly levied in the state to stunt the COVID-19 pandemic, Murray and the rest of the field have had to recalibrate their campaigns on the fly to unprecedented circumstances as attention has partially turned away from politics to a global pandemic that has left hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians unemployed and killed over 1,400.

Murray first pushed the kick-off a couple weeks thinking maybe “this will blow over.”

“A week later, we were like ‘This is not gonna happen.’”

Murray’s first move was a big push toward digital campaigning, with weekly town halls on Thursday nights on various topics and some text-banking. The campaign has also invested more in targeted mailing campaigns, focusing on areas where voters may be more interested in a new candidate who fashions herself as running to the left of the longtime incumbent, Rep. Frank Chopp. Continue reading

City Council hears proposals for Seattle Police changes, strong public support for #defundSPD during budget deliberations

With reporting by Lena Friedman — CHS Intern

The Seattle City Council continued its inquest into the Seattle Police Department budget Wednesday with organizers outlining suggested cuts and changes that could include overhauling the way the department handles 911 emergency calls and how money should be reinvested into the Black community.

Nearly 45,000 people have signed a petition in line with demands from protesters of systemic racism and police brutality, which include defunding the SPD by 50%, redirecting money into community solutions, and freeing protesters arrested during demonstrations, according to a presentation from Decriminalize Seattle. Four council members, including Kshama Sawant, have indicated support for cutting the SPD budget in half and others have said they support some reductions.

“We’re talking about dramatically changing what it means to create a public safety network,” Teresa Mosqueda, who chairs the council’s budget committee and has said she supports a 50% redirection of the SPD budget, said Wednesday. “We know that this world we are currently working within is not actually creating the health and safety that’s been promised.”

Wednesday, Mosqueda and her council counterparts heard strong support for the defunding efforts during public comment on the deliberations. Massively reducing spending on policing has been at the center of demands during weeks of protests and demonstrations around Seattle in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

The debate over how exactly to #defundSPD will come to a head as the council reshapes the mayor office proposal for changes to the city’s budget in the face of the expected COVID-19 economic crisis. The council is scheduled to hold a final vote on the rebalance on July 20th.

Angélica Cházaro, a law professor at the University of Washington and organizer with Decriminalize Seattle, said cuts to the SPD could come from various aspects of the department, including cutting its training budget, freezing hiring, and reducing patrol staff, among ten specific cuts that could be made. Continue reading

Seattle City Council debates tax on big business to bridge COVID-19 budget gap as #defundSPD waits in wings

The push for Black Lives Matters and #defundSPD goals beyond 12th and Pine moved back into the Seattle City Council’s chambers Wednesday with the political battles to reshape the city’s budget in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis moved to the next stage overshadowed by SPD’s morning clearance of the protest zone around the East Precinct,

The #defundSPD budget fight is set to shape up as the council’s budget committee digs in on Mayor Jenny Durkan proposal to make $20 million in midyear cuts to the Seattle Police Department budget — about 5% of the department’s $409 million budget.

This week’s debate will be centered on filling the expected massive hit to tax revenues brought about by the COVID-19 crisis as the council works to shape Teresa Mosqueda’s plan for a tax on big businesses to help Seattle overcome its forecasted budget shortfalls due to COVID-19 and to fund affordable housing, equitable development, and economic support for small businesses. The session will include discussion of more than 20 proposed amendments to the proposal. Continue reading

Seattle City Council responds to protest violence with restrictions on police use of tear gas, chokeholds, and badge coverings

Responding to the violence from three weeks of protest, the Seattle City Council voted Monday to ban the Seattle Police Department from using crowd control devices including chemical agents, dangerous chokeholds, and mourning badges that cover an officer’s badge number.

The three measures, two of which were sponsored by council member Kshama Sawant representing Capitol Hill and the Central District, passed the council unanimously. The legislative changes join a roster of progress for the protests against police violence — though many of the larger goals around equity and Black Lives Matter have yet to be achieved.

Within the legislative victories, one prohibits the SPD from owning, purchasing, renting, or using crowd control weapons, such as tear gas and pepper spray. Such devices have been used several times in the past few weeks in Seattle to break up protests of police brutality.

“Here in Seattle and around the country, demonstrators have been grievously injured by these weapons,” Sawant said. “The police and the political establishment simply cannot be trusted with them.” Continue reading

Third week of protests begins with thousands marching and a CHAZ CHOP rally targeting the ‘affluent white communities of Seattle’

Massive crowds marched down E Madison for a rally at the beach

Massive crowds marched down E Madison for a rally at the beach

Protesters against police brutality and inequity were marching east on Madison Friday afternoon when they passed tall fencing and finely pruned bushes.

It was the gated Broadmoor community and the main goal of the march, which started inside the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone and ended about three miles away at Madison Park Beach, was to engage rich, white neighborhoods in Seattle’s ongoing protests.

UPDATE: You can still call it CHAZ if you like but the name that the community has chosen is CHOP — the Capitol Hill Organized Protest. “We are not trying to secede from the United States,” speaker Maurice Cola said Saturday afternoon.

Broadmoor served as a perfect foil for what these protesters said they wanted to do Friday; mobilize affluent white people with power to spur change that would benefit Black people. While passing, they chanted “Out of your homes and into the streets” to the couple dozen people standing on the sidewalk outside the community’s entrance.

Organizer and Seattle Peoples Party leader Nikkita Oliver highlighted the female organizers of the protest and repeated demands that the Seattle Police Department be defunded by 50%, spending increased on community-based organizations, and the protesters not be prosecuted.

She said that city leaders would try to offer some piecemeal changes to protesters, but urged demonstrators to stay in the streets until the system is overhauled.

“[Mayor Jenny Durkan] is going to try to find $100 million somewhere in the budget for 10 years to give to community, but it’s not going to be $100 million from the police,” Oliver said. “That means we have not won yet. Let’s be committed; let’s make this more than a moment. People have sacrificed things in the last 10 days; people have sacrificed things in the last 10 years; people have sacrificed things in the last 100, 200, 300 years and are tired of our powerful moments not making into a movement. It’s because we give into accepting reform.”

“Reform feels easy, but it’s not. Reform is bullshit.”

The crowd of thousands was one of two huge marches across Seattle Friday. As this group headed for Madison Park and the beach, an even larger “silent” march stretched out for blocks and blocks from the Central District to Beacon Hill. Continue reading