‘Best decisions they could’ — Office of Police Accountability clears chief and SPD brass in decision to leave the East Precinct

Best at a CHOP press conference in 2020 (Image: CHS)

The process of investigating the events of 2020, its months of unrest, and the formation of the CHOP protest zone on Capitol Hill moved forward Monday with another report finding no violations — and no blame — for Seattle Police decisions that contributed to the crisis.

Monday, the department’s Office of Police Accountability released its report exonerating former Chief Carmen Best and an assistant chief in the summer 2020 decision to clear out the East Precinct headquarters at 12th and Pine.

“Following the evacuation, OPA received complaints alleging the Chief failed to take responsibility for her command by ordering—or allowing through her designee—the evacuation of SPD personnel from the East Precinct,” a press release from the OPA on the findings reads. “That the Chief delegated to her Assistant Chief, who opted to de-escalate by withdrawing personnel to a safer location, was not a violation of law or SPD policy.”

In the statement, OPA director Andrew Myerberg said complaints “further alleged the evacuation led to the establishment of CHOP/CHAZ and a subsequent period of lawlessness in the area” but that his investigation “found no consensus within SPD command or the Mayor’s Office that opening the streets around the East Precinct—and the ensuing evacuation of personnel—would result in the establishment of CHOP/CHAZ.”

Myerberg, instead, said Chief Best and her assistant chief “made the best decisions they could under high-stress, unprecedented circumstances.” Continue reading

‘Enough is Enough’ — Seattle adds second Black Lives Matter street mural

(Image: City of Seattle)

Seattle has a new Black Lives Matter mural.

The new art stretches along the sidewalk of 4th Ave below Seattle City Hall, and, like its Capitol Hill counterpart, will be “a long-term installation that will remain in place for years” and will be “regularly maintained by the Seattle Department of Transportation.”

CHS reported here on the city’s pledge for long-term maintenance of the large Black Lives Matter mural that stretches across E Pine south of Cal Anderson and was painted by community artists and activists during the CHOP protests. Continue reading

2021 Umoja Day of Unity Parade & March steps off from Jimi Hendrix Park this weekend

2020’s parade and march

Concerns about the continued impact of COVID-19 mean another year without the full three-day festival but organizers behind Seattle’s annual Umoja events in the Central District will again gather for a day of celebration and a march “for Black Lives, Love, Unity, Healing & Justice” this weekend. Continue reading

Seattle police commander files $5.5M claim over blame for Capitol Hill protest ‘pink umbrella incident’

A scene from June 1, 2020 (Image: Matt Mitgang)

Steve Hirjak, the assistant chief demoted by Chief Adrian Diaz for his role in the “pink umbrella incident” of heavy handed police response to Black Lives Matter protesters on Capitol Hill last summer, has filed a $5.5 million discrimination and retaliation claim against the city.

Publicola reports:

Captain Steve Hirjak, whom Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz demoted from Assistant Chief after deeming him responsible for SPD’s widely criticized use of tear gas and blast balls against protesters on Capitol Hill on June 1, 2020, argued through his attorney that Diaz unfairly shifted blame for the incident away from Lieutenant John Brooks, who was the on-site commander during the protest.

Hirjak’s attorney “criticized Diaz’s decision to demote Hirjak instead of Brooks, pointing to findings by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) that held Brooks responsible for violating SPD policy on June 1,” Publicola reports.

The Seattle Times reports that Hirjak is “prepared to pursue a lawsuit, but remains open to mediating an out-of-court settlement. It gives the city and Diaz until Aug. 11 to agree to mediation.” Continue reading

New report tries to answer what went wrong during Seattle Police’s response to 2020 Black Lives Matter protests — and what to do about it

Future Seattle protests could meet a larger, more technologically prepared police force with new directives including encouraging certain officers to speak their minds — if what the cops have to say doesn’t further inflame tensions.

The first report has been released from the city’s official review of public safety implications from last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the Seattle Police Department’s flawed response to the unrest.

The recommendations from the panel of SPD officials and community representatives convened for the effort recommends a major seachange for SPD’s strategy for policing protests to “focus more explicitly and comprehensively on the facilitation of peaceful assembly and ensuring the safety of protestors.”

“The focus and mindset of SPD officers deployed to assist in crowd events should move away from ‘crowd management,’ ‘crowd control,’ and ‘law enforcement’ to ‘facilitation of speech’ and ‘crowd protection and safety,'” the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety’s “Sentinel Event Review of Police Response to 2020 Protests in Seattle” report reads. Continue reading

Seattle announces plan for no-cop response to some 911 calls, $10.4M in grants for BIPOC public safety

The first big outlay from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $30 million Equitable Communities Initiative will address public safety in BIPOC communities. Meanwhile, the mayor’s office says Durkan is set to unveil a new plan for how it responds to some 911 calls in the city as part of efforts to “reimagine policing and community safety.”

Friday, Durkan is set to unveil the planned creation of “a new specialized triage response program” to provide “an alternative model for some 911 calls.”

“Analyzing the data of 9-1-1 calls and recognizing the hiring challenges of sworn officers facing the Seattle Police Department, Mayor Durkan, SPD, SFD, and CSCC are proposing a series of plans to maintain 9-1-1 response while reducing the need for a sworn officer response in some calls,” the Durkan administration announcement reads.

Earlier this week, Durkan’s office announced $10.4 million in one-time funding for 18 months for 33 organizations “working toward community-led solutions to end violence and increase safety in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.”

“These investments will support organizations providing an array of programs, services, and upstream investments meant to improve outcomes and contribute to overall community safety and wellbeing,” the Durkan administration announcement reads. Continue reading

After complaint against Black Pride event’s ‘reparations fee,’ wave of cancellations hit tiny Capitol Hill Pride’s big plans for in-person festival

Happier days from Capitol Hill Pride in 2015

Two former Capitol Hill business owners who have continued to organize events through the years during the neighborhood’s annual Pride celebrations are scrambling this week to apologize over their complaints to the city about a competing Taking B(l)ack Pride event.

Dozens of scheduled participants including mayoral candidates, community groups, and entertainers for the planned festival in Cal Anderson Park have announced they will now not take part in the organizers’ Capitol Hill Pride in-person events this weekend.

“I will no longer be attending Capitol Hill Pride after reading their letter to the Seattle Human Rights Commission,” Seattle City Council president and mayoral candidate M. Lorena González said Friday joining a long string of cancellations. “After a year that has taken an unbelievable toll on all of our communities, I was looking forward to this opportunity to celebrate Pride in person. However, I simply cannot support an organization that is trying to stop Black people in the LGBTQ+ community from celebrating Pride in the manner that they choose.” Continue reading

‘The fight isn’t over’ — 2021 Seattle Juneteenth Freedom March crosses the Central District

With pandemic facemasks coming off and a year removed from last summer’s massive Black Lives Matter protests, the Juneteenth Freedom March crossed the Central District with calls  Saturday for stronger support for Seattle’s Black communities. Sunday, the celebration and activism continues with a festival of Black businesses in Jimi Hendrix Park.

“Pay the fee,” was one theme of the day as organizers King County Equity Now and Africatown continue the push for Black ownership of property and businesses to return to the Central District. “The fight isn’t over,” another sign read. Continue reading

Juneteenth 2021 in the Central District: Jackson’s Catfish Corner Grand Opening, Freedom March, Northwest African American Museum Jubilee

Over the weekend, the City of Seattle reversed course and issued a permit for a small Juneteenth event in Cal Anderson Park on the one-year anniversary of the formation of the occupied protest zone on Capitol Hill. While many of the battles of last year’s Black Lives Matter marches have transformed into plans and initiatives at Seattle City Hall, 2021’s Juneteenth celebrations will again center equity and equality as Black communities across the Seattle area mark the holiday celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the United States.

By this time next year, the day will be an official Washington state holiday.

Below, we’ve featured the upcoming Juneteenth events in Central Seattle including where you can find the Seattle Buffalo Soldiers. We’ve also included pictures from last summer as thousands took to the street for the Juneteenth Freedom March across the Central District.

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CHOP: One year later — The East Precinct is abandoned and the protest zone forms

Where were you when the East Precinct was evacuated and the Capitol Hill protest zone formed?

A year ago, the first days of Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle following the police killing of George Floyd were days of anger and power as thousands took to the streets to demonstrate and form a movement. By Thursday, June 4th 2020, just ten days after Floyd’s murder, the battlelines between protesters and police had been drawn at 11th and Pine.

What came next — the days we look at below — sparked the Seattle Police Department’s decisions that led to the abandonment of the East Precinct at 12th and Pine and created the space to form CHOP — the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone turned Capitol Hill Occupied Protest that made worldwide headlines and changed the course of pandemic-era Seattle history.

Here is a look back at those days including many photographs being published now for the first time.

(Image: Noah Lubin with permission to CHS)

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