SEATTLE — Legal observers say Seattle police targeted and assaulted them during Sunday's anti-police union rally, pushing several legal observers, one hard enough to be knocked over.
Now the Seattle chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is asking Seattle City Council to take further action.
Last week council members passed a resolution "condemning intentional targeting of press, legal observers, or medical personnel" by SPD during protests.
Now after legal observers say they were still targeted on Sunday, they want council to do more and are asking council for a civil recourse if observers are hurt by officers.
Body camera video from SPD shows what officers were dealing with during the anti-police union rally, where protestors marched up to SPOG (Seattle Police Officers Guild) in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood.
You see fireworks thrown by protestors exploding near police officers. Six officers were hurt, one seriously enough to need treatment at Harborview Medical Center and police ended up arresting 18 people.
But legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild share a different perspective.
“Our job is really to be there to record those interactions, to make sure protestors are able to exercise their first amendment rights peacefully,” said Abbey McMahon. McMahon is a public defender and said she has been a legal observer at protests for three years and was at the protest Sunday.
“I think the tensions have risen lately,” McMahon said. “It seems like more and more legal observers have been specifically targeted,” she said.
The Seattle chapter of the NLG shared a video of a legal observer apparently being pushed down by an officer on a bike. The video also replays it slowed down. You can see a marked observer in a green hat. She’s not looking at the officer on a bike, who extends an arm appearing to shove her – and the legal observer falls down.
“They were pushing, grabbing shoving legal observers to the point where one actually went to the ground,” McMahon said. “I think some of those officers assaulted us and had no legal justification for doing so,” she said.
The incident comes after police pepper sprayed another legal observer in the face during July 25th protests in Capitol Hill.
The group says it comes after they received assurances from Seattle Police they would be allowed to do their work
A spokesperson with NLG shared an email sent last month from SPD’s executive director of legal affairs, which said in part,
“the Seattle Police Department recognizes the rights of legal observers and media to peacefully observe and record the
activities of law enforcement officers during protests and following any orders to disperse.”
“And what happened on Sunday was a direct violation of that promise,” McMahon said.
Now, the ordinance they want city council to pass would legally exempt legal observers, press, and medics from dispersal orders, and would provide a civil option for people in those categories hurt by SPD while at protests.
City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said council would weigh a potential change like that, saying in an email, “We will consider all tools available to us” in order to “protect freedom of speech.”
The statement in full said:
“It is unacceptable and truly dangerous for members of the press, legal observers or medics to be harmed or targeted at any protest. This puts their lives at risk and puts at risk the fundamental principles of our democracy. A recent report from Amnesty International details Seattle’s excessive use of force; in a City that prides itself for its progressive values, we must do better.
“Council has passed legislation, and a resolution and will continue to use its legislative power to protect freedom of speech, rights of journalists and legal observers, and the health and safety of all Seattle residents. We will consider all tools available to us, including an ordinance that exempts press, legal observers, and medics from the scope of the so-called ‘failure to disperse’ ordinance, SMC 12A.12.020, and creates a civil remedy for press, legal observers, and medics harmed by SPD.”
KIRO7 also reached out to the Seattle Police Department and received the following statement:
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