In response to a request for an injunction by the U.S. Department of Justice, a federal judge issued a ruling late Friday night blocking the implementation of a law passed by the Seattle City Council last month that was set to go in force this weekend that prohibits police from using most non-lethal crowd control tools. With violent protests by Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists planned for this weekend, Police Chief Carmen Best issued a letter to businesses and residents warning that she would not allow her officers to protect property without the means to defend themselves from rioters. Police and businesses alike were boarding and blockading their buildings on Friday in anticipation of a lawless weekend of rioting.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D).
…U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block the new law, which the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month.
The U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.
Robart said the issue needed more discussion between the city and the Justice Department before the change went into effect. Ruling from the bench, just before 9 p.m. Friday night, Robart said the temporary restraining order he granted would be “very temporary.”
“I urge you all to use it as an occasion to try to find out where it is we are and where it is we’re going,” Robart said. “I can’t tell you today if blast balls are a good idea or a bad idea, but I know that sometime a long time ago I approved them.”
Robart had slapped down an attempt by Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best, earlier this week, to block the new law. In that order, he criticized the legal approach the city had taken and said it had not attempted to meet the burden necessary to issue an injunction…
Chief Best posted a letter Saturday to the department’s website on the injunction, stating officers would be armed with pepper spray and blast balls but not tear gas:
Chief’s Statement Regarding Judge Robart’s Temporary Restraining Order on the City Council’s Ban on Crowd Control Tools
Written by Chief Carmen Best on July 25, 2020 10:01 am
I wanted to update you that early this morning, the federal judge overseeing the Consent Decree issued an temporary order halting the implementation of City Council’s recently passed legislation that banned SPD from using less-lethal crowd management tools that had previously been approved by the Court, including blast balls and pepper spray. By staying the immediate implementation of the legislation, the Court Order provides SPD opportunity to meet procedural requirements of the Consent Decree that govern revisions to policy and training.
SPD stands ready to continue its work with the DOJ, the Monitor, OPA, the OIG, the CPC, and members of the community at large to take the next steps towards re-envisioning how policing is done in Seattle. The events over the past two months have been transformative both locally and nationally, and offer a monumental opportunity to build on the work of the past eight years to ensure the continued momentum of reform.
In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence. This is consistent with existing policy and the Court’s order of early this morning. SPD promises the community that we will not deploy CS (tear) gas.
The Seattle Police Department hears the community’s message and stands ready to partner in moving forward. I implore all of you to remain peaceful and to encourage the peace of others.
Mayor Jenny Durkan appeared on MSNBC before the ruling to decry President Trump sending federal agents to Seattle.
“I think it’s a really critical point for American democracy and very dangerous,” Seattle Mayor Durkan says on reports of federal agents being sent to her city. “I’ve never seen anyone suggest anything close to this. This is not what you use federal law enforcement for.” pic.twitter.com/RAlGHRvq2e
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 25, 2020
Durkan pleaded on Facebook and Twitter with protesters to behave:
“I implore the public to please protest peacefully this weekend, particularly in light of the President making good on threats to send federal forces into American cities. Know that Seattle Police Department Chief Carmen Best, Seattle Fire Department Chef Harold Scoggins and I will do everything in our power to protect our City and protect our residents. Regardless of the President’s threats, residents can and should continue to demonstrate peacefully and make their voices heard. But we cannot pretend that his comments are just bluster. Our local, state, and members of our congressional delegation are all working to oppose these actions and prepare for immediate legal relief should it become necessary.”
I implore the public to please protest peacefully this weekend, particularly in light of the President making good on threats to send federal forces into American cities.
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) July 24, 2020
The AP reported a statement on Friday’s ruling by a spokeswoman for Durkan:
…In a statement issued Saturday, Dukan spokesperson Stephanie Formas said the mayor believes changes are needed in Seattle Police’s crowd management practices, policies and training.
But the mayor also believes the Council’s ordinance could conflict with the consent decree, Formas said.
“City Council’s legislation imposed changes to the court approved policies before an appropriate review could be done, which is why the mayor and chief raised these concerns with the court in the notice previously filed by the city,” she said…