Seattle police released more details Thursday about a Friday rally against police brutality — one in which at least one protester threw rocks at officers and shattered a patrol car window. Hours later, an arsonist targeted a Seattle police community outreach center that was previously targeted by anti-police vandals last year.
The actions are a contrast to statements from relatives of John T. Williams, the Native American woodcarver killed in an Aug. 30, 2010 police shooting ruled unjustified by the department’s Firearms Review Board.
At a Steinbrueck Park carving session Saturday, a speaker told the crowd actions of violent protestors “make it more difficult for all of us.” At a recent City Hall forum on Seattle police accountability, Williams’ older brother, Rick, grabbed angry anarchists disrupting the meeting and demanded they leave.
A police incident report Friday shows undercover officers in the crowd watched one of the protesters throw a rock at bike officers, and though at one point they were one point the officers were within reach of the suspect he wasn’t arrested because the crowd was unsafe.
The man, in his late teens or early 20s, threw the rock at the bike officer riding alongside the protesters near the Sheraton Hotel.
Police say he pulled a yellow scarf over his face to help shield his identity, and one demonstrator was overheard saying, “no face, no case.”
The same violent man later grabbed a megaphone and shouted a chant to the crowd and made statements to news reporters when the march moved to the King County Jail.
“It was not discernable at the time, but is believed that the suspect said his name and made mention that he had previously been booked into the King County Jail as he tried to influence the demonstrators,” one of the undercover officers wrote in the incident report. “I and other plainclothed detectives kept the suspect in view throughout the demonstration and we would radio his changes in clothing description and activities.
“At one point I was with shoulder distance of the suspect, however we were in the crowd of 150 to 300 angry anti-police protestors and it was unsafe to do anything other than try to keep him under surveillance.”
Police followed the man as the protest moved to Capitol Hill and say he again threw rocks at officers there. Police broadcast the suspect description over their radios, but did not have a chance to safely arrest the man.
Officers set up a line protecting the East Precinct during the protest as some protesters called for violence and others threw plastic bottles at a line of officers. Some in the protest discouraged violence. At one point, protesters also turned their anger to a driver, kicking a car trying to get through on Capitol Hill. The driver pushed through without serious damage.
The assault suspect monitored by police remains at large, and no cases related to the Friday and Saturday incidents have been referred to the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Police union spars with mayor
In the latest issue of the police union newspaper, guild president Rich O’Neill questioned some media reports and told officers to lean from recent events.
“The anti-police ‘feeding frenzy’ is the current climate and it is ‘hungry’ for the next high profile incident that can be skewed to portray your actions in a negative light,” O’Neill wrote. “Let’s focus on ‘starving them.’
“You are paid to use your discretion and there are many ways to do police work. Recent events should show us that many in the city really don’t want aggressive officers who generate on-view incidents. They want officer who avoid controversy and simply respond when summoned by 911.”http://www.thestranger.com/images/blogimages/2011/02/16/1297887545-feb_2011_guardian.pdf
Such comments have drawn the attention of Mayor Mike McGinn, who has called for the union to not be defensive. He also used part of his State of the City address Tuesday to address the police union.
“I’m not sure the union yet understands the nature and the severity of the problem,” McGinn said, regarding the climate that led to nearly three dozen organizations asking for a federal review of the police department. “The union has a responsibility to step up.”
The mayor added there’s no place for people who don’t share city officials’ commitment to race and social justice. In response, O’Neill told KOMO radio that it’s scary that the mayor is trying to influence how officers perceive things and said that the same officers will be here long after the mayor is out of office.