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News / Northwest

Seattle City Council members slam mayor, police chief over protests

Police use tear gas on Capitol Hill demonstrators

By Associated Press
Published: June 7, 2020, 12:47pm
3 Photos
Protesters continue past Pike Place Market during the #SeattleJusticeForGeorgeFloyd march on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police last month in Minneapolis has sparked nationwide protests for police reform.
Protesters continue past Pike Place Market during the #SeattleJusticeForGeorgeFloyd march on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police last month in Minneapolis has sparked nationwide protests for police reform. (Amanda Snyder/The Seattle Times via AP) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle City Council members sharply criticized Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best after police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse protesters a day after Durkan and Best said they were trying to de-escalate tensions.

Authorities said rocks, bottles and explosives were thrown at officers in the Capitol Hill neighborhood Saturday night. Police said via Twitter that several officers were injured by “improvised explosives.”

The mayhem in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood came on the ninth consecutive day of George Floyd protests in the city. It followed a large, peaceful demonstration earlier with medical workers demonstrating against racism and police brutality. It also came a day after Durkan and Best imposed a 30-day moratorium on the department’s use of one kind of tear gas.

Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez wrote on Twitter on Saturday night that she is “outraged” by the police response. “This is NOT what de-escalation looks like!”

And City Council member Teresa Mosqueda urged Durkan and Best to “stop traumatizing protesters and neighbors” and said on Twitter she received reports that the protests had been peaceful.

A small group of protesters started throwing objects at officers about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, police said, and the crowd was ordered to disperse. Incendiary devices were then used. After the flash bangs were deployed several City Council members and other elected officials went to the protest lines.

After police were severely criticized by protesters and public officials alike for using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse largely peaceful crowds, Durkan and Best said Friday outside groups would review and update crowd-control policies, including the use of pepper spray and deadly force techniques such as neck and choke holds. Best and the mayor added that the ban on one kind of tear gas known as CS could be extended if groups need more time for policy review.

Police said CS gas was not used Saturday night.

In an open letter to Durkan on Sunday, the head of Seattle’s police union blamed Saturday’s unrest on “criminal agitators who continue to attempt to provoke police.”

Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said the union supports peaceful demonstrations and reform efforts but a small criminal element in the ongoing protests creates danger.

“This situation is becoming more untenable by the day and I fear law and order and SPOG members’ safety are in peril,” Solan wrote.

Earlier Saturday thousands of doctors, nurses and others — many wearing lab coats, scrubs, and face masks — marched from Harborview Medical Center to City Hall on Saturday. One sign said, “Nurses kneel with you, not on you.” Another said, “Police violence and racism are a public health emergency.”

Protesters have gathered across the U.S. and around the world to demonstrate against the death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after pleading for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Seattle last week also addressed other concerns of the protesters, lifting its curfew and forbidding officers who work the protests from covering up their badge numbers.

The protests in recent days had been more peaceful than last weekend, when small groups engaged in rioting and looting

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