The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the effort to remove a Seattle councilwoman, who was accused of allowing protesters into city hall during riots in the city, can proceed.
City official Kshama Sawant, a socialist, faced a recall after she purportedly “admitted hundreds of people into Seattle City Hall,” “led a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s private residence,” and “failed to comply with public disclosure requirements,” the court wrote.
Charges were “factually and legally sufficient for recall,” and the effort was allowed to continue, justices concluded.
The court did away with a charge that Sawant threatened or caused bodily harm to Durkan.
“While it is true that protestors defaced and damaged Mayor Durkan’s home, there is no support offered showing that Councilmember Sawant herself threatened to cause bodily injury or physical harm to property; or that she exhorted others to engage in such conduct,” the justices wrote.
The petition to remove the local official, which was first brought by Seattle resident Ernest Lou, will need to collect 10,000 signatures in the next 180 days. The movement has generated nearly $300,000 and spent roughly $100,000. Sawant’s defense has raised more, approximately $310,000, and expended $182,000.
A group committed to preserving Sawant’s spot on the government body has blamed business and “right wing” influence for the recall effort.
“Big biz and the right wing are furious about the impact of socialist politics and social movements in Seattle & how we have inspired working people around the country,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “They are now trying to use the courts & their deep pockets to overturn Councilmember Sawant’s 2019 re-election.”
Seattle had several demonstrations following George Floyd‘s death in May 2020, and the city gained increased national attention after an enclosed autonomous zone known as the “Capitol Hill Organized Protest,” or CHOP, formed June 8.
Two people died, including a juvenile, and four were shot during prolonged violence after protesters took over the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct and erected a perimeter that kept out Seattle law enforcement. The occupied district persisted for weeks before officers disbanded it on July 1.
In late August 2020, rioters were captured on video attempting to lock officers inside the department’s East Precinct and burn it to the ground. Their efforts were unsuccessful, but law enforcement said the group tried to cement the door shut and seal the officers inside.
“They mixed up the ‘Quikrete’ and then tried to seal off the exits,” Sgt. Randy Huserik said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of leaps that have to be made about what their intent was last night.”
Durkan was criticized for her hands-off approach to the violence and was subject to a recall effort herself. The Washington Supreme Court in October 2020 struck down the petition as “legally insufficient.”