Police again deployed chemical weapons and flash bang grenades on nonviolent protesters Saturday night, but by midnight four Seattle City Councilmembers were standing at the East Precinct barricades using their bodies and voices to de-escalate police. A petition calling for Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign or face removal by the Seattle City Council gained more than 7,000 signatures in just a few days.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3) added her name to the list with a statement issued at noon. From the barricades Saturday night, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (District 8, at-large) hinted that much of the Seattle City Council may join that call on Monday.
“We have a list of demands [Mayor Durkan] has not met, including her commitment to not use tear gas,” Mosqueda said. “So, these demands haven’t been met. I don’t see another way. We are going to have to make a statement on Monday.”
After getting upset protesters were touching their barricade, police used chemical agents that one commentator took to calling I Can’t Believe It’s Not Tear Gas for the remarkably similar effects on the human body. Police mounted a forward assault in full riot gear to push back unarmed protesters (video here).
At this point, Omari Salisbury–a journalist and affordable housing advocate with Africatown who has been streaming protests all week–issued a call to elected officials to show up at the protest to prevent further violence. King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay (who represents Southeast Seattle and King County in District 2) was the first to answer the call, but more came including Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle) of the 43rd Legislative District and State Senator Joe Nguyen (D-White Center) of the 34th.
“They need to de-escalate the situation. Everybody here on this side is peaceful,” Councilmember Mosqueda said. “Do not use any tear gas. Do not use any flash bangs. Do not use pepper spray. Do you use any strategies that are going to cause harm to the protesters or the neighborhood. We’ve heard testimony of babies foaming at the mouth in these apartments… because of being gassed. This is our other public health pandemic right now.”
With the help of friendly pro-police news sources like Fox Q13, Seattle Police Department attempted to create a narrative (seemingly from thin air) that police officers had been struck with an attempted “improvised explosives.” It appeared to a few candles, and more credible news source did not spread this rumor.
Cops seeking retribution on protesters
If spreading inflammatory misinformation wasn’t enough, the police apparently are making revenge arrests of protesters, including of the man who filmed the police officer macing a nine-year-old to the colossal embarrassment of the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
Police also pulled a mother who supposedly assaulted a police officer from her car while her child watched, while making the claim “you assaulted me” at a protest (video here). With actions like these, it’s hard to tell the difference between the police and a mafia protection racket issuing beat-downs to keep clients in line and punish snitches.
Council coalesces around defunding SPD, pressuring Mayor
Councilmembers Andrew Lewis (District 7), Dan Strauss (District 6), and Lisa Herbold (District 1) stood with their colleague at the barricade. Councilmember Tammy Morales (District 2) issued unequivocal support, but was out of town. Likewise, Council President M. Lorena González (District 9, at-large) said she could not physically attend for health reasons, but had staff members there and pledged her support.
After standing with Mosqueda and protesters on Saturday, it seems likely they’ll back Mosqueda’s action in council on Monday. Large protests also happened in West Seattle and Magnuson Park/Laurelhurst on Saturday as “Defund The Police” protests continue building steam statewide and nationwide.
Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5) is immune-compromised and at high-risk of Covid-19 so has not been attending protests. As an ardent supporter of building a lavish new North Precinct building, she has been a strong police ally in the past. It’s less clear now. (The hope she had of building a $160 million police “bunker” in North Seattle is likely gone, though.)
Alex Pedersen fires Black staffer
And then there’s Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4). Pedersen fired his only Black staffer this week whom he made sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), Erica C. Barnett reported.
Another Pedersen staffer, Alexa Halling, resigned in protest, highlighting the issue of racism as she did so. “Racism isn’t always as overt as a knee on your neck,” Halling said. “White progressives love to pat themselves on the back and give themselves credit when we protest racism racism, but racism doesn’t start with murder.”
Although accountability was one his main campaign promises, Pedersen shielded himself from accountability by making staffers sign NDAs and he’s also been slow to criticize SPD, shielding them as well. Pedersen also ran on fiscal austerity and has suggested a 10% cut across the board to the general fund to deal with the Covid recession budget hit, but seemed intent on sparing SPD. His fiscal austerity appears aimed at social programs not the police state.
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County meanwhile is asking for a $100 million cut to SPD’s budget and Covid Mutual Aid and several allied groups have called for a 50% cut to the bloated $400 million police budget. The money would be reinvested in community-based solutions like crisis intervention, health care, and social housing
It’s hard to count on Alex Pedersen’s vote on police accountability or defunding, but they don’t need it. The Seattle City Charter requires only takes six councilmembers to impeach a Mayor and they may well have the votes.
What happens if Mayor Durkan is impeached?
If the six or more Seattle City Councilmembers vote to remove Mayor Durkan through impeachment proceedings, we’d find ourselves in a similar position as April 2017 when Mayor Murray resigned. Council President González would have the opportunity to assume Mayor duties and the rest of the council would then vote on a temporary fill-in for her council seat and elect a new Council President.
González could also pass on becoming temporary Mayor and the council could elect one of their members Mayor. That’s what happened when then-Council President Bruce Harrell passed and the council elected Tim Burgess interim Mayor. Councilmember Mosqueda was exhibiting clear leadership last night and some have suggested she’d be the right fit.
This is getting ahead of ourselves. Still, Mayor Durkan being in early retirement and somebody like Shaun Scott being on council to replace the Councilmember who becomes interim Mayor seemed like a pipe dream a week ago, but it seems a very real possibility right now.
The featured image is courtesy of Councilmember Teresa Moqueda and was tweeted out last night.
Doug Trumm is the executive director of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.