Activists ask judge to hold Seattle in contempt for violating crowd control order

SEATTLE — In a Monday filing, lawyers representing Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County asked a federal judge to hold the city of Seattle in contempt of court for “willfully” violating an order that temporarily banned police, with some exceptions, from indiscriminately using chemical and less-lethal crowd control weapons on peaceful protesters.

“Protesters were indiscriminately hit with blast balls, pepper spray, and blunt force objects,” the lawyers wrote about Saturday’s protest that police later declared a riot.

“Journalists were trampled. Medics were maced for attending to patients. Legal observers were shot at close range. The injuries were extensive.”

The Seattle Police Department said officers did not use tear gas Saturday and released video Sunday. SPD said dozens of officers were hurt and nearly 50 people had been arrested.

“These are very serious and violent weapons and you don’t get to use them on everyone just because some people may be destructive,” said ACLU of Washington lawyer Lisa Nowlin, who described “narrow” exceptions. “They couldn’t be indiscriminate. You can’t just throw a pepper spray bomb into the crowd – you need to target where the threat is coming from and target that.”

Last month, the ACLU of Washington and legal partners representing Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County and several others, received a preliminary injunction from a federal judge that temporarily blocked SPD from using controversial crowd control measures indiscriminately after clashes at protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

The legal team has asked the federal judge to clarify the order, make sure it’s given to every officer within 24 hours and ask the city to provide a daily log of all the weapons that were used, including when, why and by which officers.

“There’s an irony that most of these people are protesting police violence and systemic racism and they’re being met with more violence and brutality,” said Nowlin, who told us attorneys are asking for a federal court hearing by the end of the week. “Everyone we’ve talked to; one common theme was the vindictiveness of it from the police that was really shocking.”

“We’ll review the claims, investigate the assertions, and respond accordingly,” said the Seattle City Attorney’s Office in a statement to KIRO 7.