SEATTLE — Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant revealed her proposal on Thursday for defunding the police department’s budget by an estimated $85 million, effective next month.
“Seattle’s movement is demanding that Seattle Police Department be defunded by at least 50%,” she said.
That proposed plan, which will be introduced in amendments before the council’s budget committee on Friday, includes $34.7 million for affordable housing in communities that have faced displacement and gentrification; $16.3 million to fund currently unfunded city services; $15.5 million for Black and brown restorative justice and other community programs; and $14.7 million to move the 911 center out of SPD’s control.
She is also calling for a reduction in patrols and elimination of the city’s Navigation Team, which is responsible for removing homeless encampments.
One of her supporters Sam Sumpter, the vice president of UAW 4121, spoke out against SPD’s actions during protests.
“I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by flash-bangs and the sounds of protesters screaming as they ran from tear gas,” they said. “This is what our budgets are currently prioritizing.”
Seattle police reported in a statement that an $85 million cut this year “would result in a minimum of 800 officers laid off.” “And, we would have to lay them off quickly-- which may not be possible-- to meet the Council budget action. This would be a reckless endangerment of the safety of everyone who lives, works, and visits this city,” according to the statement.
“With no plan, blunt cuts could actually slow this transformation down by causing extensive layoffs while creating no alternative approaches when individuals call 911,” a spokesperson from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said.
In response to the defunding effort, the Seattle Police Officers Guild released a commercial, pushing back against the defunding effort, using Sawant’s own words against her.
In the commercial, which is airing on local stations, including KIRO 7, Sawant is shown saying, “We are coming for you — and your rotten system,” and later, “We cannot stop and will not stop until we overthrow it.”
KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked, “What is your reaction to seeing that commercial and the use of your words in it?”
Sawant said she was not surprised to see the guild’s take, which is what she called “a demonizing approach,” though she said she believed it targeted the movement more than her.
“My comments that they have misquoted in the commercial were directed towards Amazon,” she said. “Billionaires, Jeff Bezos, and the billionaire class as a whole. It was not in relation to the police department.”
A review of those July 6 remarks, stated in an online council meeting during the big business vote, reveals this statement from Sawant: “If you, Jeff Bezos, want to drive that process forward by lashing out against us in our modest demands, then so be it. Because we are coming for you and your rotten system. We are coming to dismantle this deeply oppressive, racist, sexist, violent, bankrupt system of capitalism, this police state. We cannot and will not stop until we overthrow it.”