Eight of nine Seattle City Councilmembers demanded Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) president Mike Solan’s resignation on Monday, following a freewheeling week during which he blamed the Trump-backed coup on Black Lives Matter protesters after it failed to block certification of results. Two Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers went to Washington, D.C. to participate in the storming of the Capitol, and interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz suspended them pending an investigation.
Five people died in the coup attempt, including one Capitol police officer who insurrectionists bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher.
The Seattle City Council (sans lone holdout Debora Juarez) joined a chorus calling for Solan’s resignation that includes the MLK County Labor Council, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, and Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington. Even Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who has consistently opposed the effort to Defund SPD, had harsh words for Solan and argued he was in no position to lead negotiations for a contract extension for SPOG.
“It’s time for Mr. Solan to hand this important position over,” Pedersen said. “We must have a partner who has truly embraced that we cannot go back to the way things were. The current president of the police union has, in my view, disqualified himself to be a fair partner in negotiating the contract.”
The SPOG contract expired at the end of 2020, but talks are sputtering given how far apart the two sides are. SPOG members continue to operate under the expired contract, but raises are frozen during the negotiations. The last SPOG contract extension also didn’t happen on time, but once signed in 2018, it came with retroactive pay raises (and repealed accountability measures in contradiction of the Consent Decree) to make up for the months they were working with an expired contract. That helped many police officers pull in a record haul in 2019, including one officer who pulled in more than $400,000, buoyed by overtime.
True to his signature motto “hold the line,” Solan did not back down. In fact, in an email to SPOG members he doubled down, as has been his style since he was elected as a hardliner with 70% of the vote early in 2020 against more moderate incumbent Kevin Stuckey (a Black officer) who had nurtured the relationship with MLK Labor Council. MLK Labor Council backing helped steamroll SPOG’s highly favorable 2018 contract through Seattle City Council, with only Councilmember Kshama Sawant opposing the deal. With Solan refusing to address racism within the department despite massive Black Lives Matters protests this summer, the MLK Labor Council booted SPOG from its ranks.
“I interpret the calls to tender my resignation as political rhetoric. I will never bend to cancel culture as I lead this union with conviction. You elected me to represent you and I serve at your will,” Solan said in the email, which Publicola‘s Paul Faruq Kiefer shared. “When we are abandoned by our politicians you must remember one thing; the reasonable Seattle community supports us and we will always have each other as we are a strong union. We are SPOG.”
Solan argued the two SPD officers who traveled to DC to storm the Capitol were innocent, and police officers were “caught in the middle” between radical Left and radical Right.
“I am in communication with those two members and have provided SPOG resources to assist them during this process,” Solan added. “As you can imagine, we are concerned for their safety, mental health and for what appears to be their guilt by association for merely exercising their constitutionally protected first amendment rights. We are in a scary time in our nation’s history as voicing a dissenting opinion can get you ‘canceled’.”
Far from caught in the middle, Solan seems indistinguishable from the radical Right, citing the same tropes, promoting the writings of extremist troll Andy Ngô, and following White Supremacist leaders on Parler.
“Seattle City Council should give some thought to subpoenaing Mike Solan, the president of the city’s police union. There are a lot of questions about Seattle PD’s participation in the coup, and many citizens don’t trust the city’s police oversight agencies to get the answers,” Scott said in a tweet. “Meanwhile, at least two Seattle officers attended the coup attempt at the capitol. Did Solan participate? What did he know about the involvement of SPD officers? Were public resources used by the two officers who attended? Where will accountability about any of this come from?”
Solan’s week of fascist flirting and racist dogwhistling also included thanking Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey for his service. Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back and got off scot-free because Blake was holding a knife and a Black man and the Kenosha district attorney figured they had no case–our legal system somehow deems this a reasonable use of force for a police officer.
Some activists are urging the Seattle City Council to go beyond calls for resignation and actually fire Solan for violating SPD’s code of conduct.
Likewise, many progressives and Washington state politicians have called for Trump to be impeached and removed. However, it’s not clear how far Democrats will take the plan. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) drew up articles of impeachment, but to remove the president would take a two-thirds vote of the Senate, meaning 17 Republican votes, assuming all 50 Democrats are in lockstep, which is far from certain. Still, impeachment could take a consolation route and bar Trump from running for office again without removing him, which could be more palatable on both sides of the aisle.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina)–the number three Democrat in the House whose pivotal endorsement helped win the primary for Joe Biden–also floated the idea of waiting 100 days to impeach Trump. He’s also just proposed making the Black National Anthem (“Lift Every Voice and Sing”) an official national anthem alongside the “Star Spangled Banner” in order to promote national healing. Representative Clyburn opposed Medicare For All and defunding the police.
Councilmember Sawant noted the lack of boldness or vision from Democratic party leadership.
“The far right violence at the Capitol is the result not only of Trump, but also of the complete failure of the Democratic establishment to stand against his attacks on the working class in any meaningful way,” Sawant said in a statement Wednesday. “Today shows that we simply have no time to kick the can down the road for real change. We need a party of the working class. We need to build a mass fightback for Medicare For All, a Green New Deal, and actual democratic control over police. Unions, community groups, socialists, activists and others must fight for all these demands to build a powerful alternative to the fake and dangerous populism of Trump and to defeat the far right.”
If they don’t take bold action to hold Trump and his coup-backing minions accountable, Democrats invite more coups and fascism from Republicans–and they also invite critiques like Sawant’s from Left. It’s a tumultuous time, and the modern Democratic approach of wait-and-see and triangulate has outlived its usefulness. Impeach swiftly and pass sweeping progressive legislation to help Americans tamp down on and recover from the pandemic and truly build back better.
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.