On Friday, July 31, news outlets reported on the Seattle City Council’s latest proposals to cut the Police Department’s budget – one plan would slash 50%. The next day, 200 protestors marched on Police Chief Carmen Best’s home in Snohomish County.
Chief Best told a Q13 Fox, a local news outlet, “When the people showed up to my house, it certainly felt very personal about me.” She added, “It really does seem like a mob mentality, and bullying, to intimidate a public official.”
In a letter to Council President Lorena González and Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold, Best wrote, “These direct actions against elected officials, and especially civil servants like myself, are out of line with and go against every democratic principle that guides our nation. Before this devolves into the new way of doing business by mob rule here in Seattle, and across the nation, elected officials like you must forcefully call for the end of these tactics.”
Q13 Fox said that Best’s neighbors “used their own vehicles to block the protesters from moving further down the street where Chief Best’s home is located.” One neighbor said, “It was not peaceful. They were here to intimidate. Scare people. Scare children. There were children out there and they were asking them what schools they went to. They were yelling the most horrible things you’ve ever heard in your entire life.”
Given the violence that has rocked the city for months, neighbors were understandably fearful. One said, “It just takes one Molotov cocktail, takes one person trying to light something on fire, one firework going off. Then we now have a neighborhood in crisis. We feared that more than anything.”
Seattle has been rocked by violence and riots over the past few months. In June, protestors took over six blocks in downtown Seattle that they christened “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ). A week later it was renamed CHOP, which stood for either “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” or “Capitol Hill Organized Protest.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan described the protests and occupation as “a block party atmosphere,” saying, “I don’t know. We could have the ‘Summer of Love.’” But Seattle’s Summer of Love turned more and more violent and ugly. In her order to evict protestors from CHOP, Durkan documented a litany of violence and destruction, including:
- Three incidents of firearms violence on June 20, resulting in one individual’s death and another being injured.
- First responders denied access by “hostile crowds, including armed individuals and obstructions.”
- More shootings on June 22, injuring two individuals.
- Seattle Department of Transportation employees met with hostility and weapons.
- One youth who was shot and killed on June 29, with another seriously injured by CHOP occupiers.
- Reports to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) of “narcotics use and violent crime, including rape, robbery, assault, and increased gang activity.”
- An increase of 525% in crime, including homicides, robberies, aggravated assaults and shootings from June 2-30, compared to the previous year.
Still, the City Council presses on with discussions to chop the police department budget.
While seven of nine council members pledged to cut 50% of the SPD budget, most council members now admit this would be difficult to do immediately. A draft resolution, proposed by four members, would begin budget cuts this year, with the goal of creating “a new civilian-led department that will take a holistic approach to public safety.” The proposal would move SPD functions to other city agencies and fund “community-led activities” with money taken from the SPD budget.
The proposed resolution also adopts the “2020 Blueprint for Police Divestment/ Community Reinvestment.” The 2020 Blueprint was created by the organization Decriminalize Seattle and a coalition of groups called King County Equity Now.
The 2020 Blueprint would freeze police hiring, eliminate money for recruitment and retention, transfer departments out of police control, eliminate SWAT Team funding, eliminate spending on new equipment, and more. The Blueprint would lead to “a world where instead of being met with an armed officer who is more likely to kill BIPOC community members, people are instead met with support, services, and care so they can thrive.” BIPOC stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.”
Instead of funding the police, the Blueprint calls for funding organizations with characteristics such as “culturally-relevant expertise rooted in community connections and support,” “trauma-informed, gender-affirming, anti-racist praxis” and “Committed to retention of social service workers with adequate and equitable pay and benefits, preferably unionized.”
One council member, Kshama Sawant, still proposes cutting almost 50% of the SPD’s remaining 2020 budget. Meanwhile, Mayor Durkan has called for Sawant to be investigated and expelled from office. Durkan said Sawant had delegated hiring decisions for city employees to the Socialist Alternative party, a revolutionary, anti-capitalist group.
Durkan also charged Sawant with admitting hundreds of people into Seattle’s City Hall when it was closed to the public, encouraging people to occupy CHOP, leading a protest march to Durkan’s home and using her office “to promote and raise money for a ballot initiative.”
In response, Sawant said Durkan “has utterly failed working people and communities of color” and “bears responsibility for a torrent of violence by Seattle police, including the use of brutal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets against the Black Lives Matter protest movement.”
While Seattle council members are wrangling over cutting the SPD budget, the summer of violence, destruction and mayhem continues.
Best seems to be a voice of reason in this mess. She told council members that cutting the budget in half was “reckless behavior” and that doing so would lead to 700 officers being laid off. She said, “I don’t think we want to put 750,000 residents in the city at risk for a theory that is untested.”
Photo from VDB Photos / Shutterstock.com
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