NOTE: I have two new articles published. Middle East Eye published my piece on the abject failure of the Mossad’s targeted assassination policy as a counter-terror tactic. And Al Jazeera published my critique of the Biden campaign approach on Israel-Palestine.
I’m producing my second webinar in a series this coming week:
Palestine-Israel: Racism, Brutality and Annexation featuring Rashid Khalidi, Noura Erakat and Ian Lustick. It will be hosted by Middle East Eye’s managing editor, David Hearst. Wednesday, June 10th at 1PM Eastern, 6pm BST.
COMMENTING: Several commenters have told me they’ve tried and failed to publish comments. If you have had any such problems, please be in touch.
Full overhead scene in bottom left. Car zooms in, hits leftover barricade, man tries to pull driver out of car, is apparently shot in the arm and staggers down. Shooter runs towards police barricade. Full video on Sean Wahlund FB.https://t.co/dogDXsGMqE
— NSA_Watchbot (@NSAyeee) June 8, 2020
Earlier tonight, I heard screaming police and fire sirens for quite a long time. There were so many I knew that something serious had happened. My first thought was that the Black Lives Matter protest on Capitol Hill had been attacked. There was nothing on the news, so I didn’t know what had happened. An hour or so later, Twitter exploded with accounts of a driver attempting to ram protesters and being stopped by a barricade. A heroic bystander who’d been at the forefront of the protests for days shouting slogans for the crowd, witnessed the ramming and reached into the car and punched the driver in the face. They either tussled for his gun or the driver shot the Good Samaritan, who reeled backward. Others were seen rushing to the wounded man’s side. Another bystander pushed the barricade in front of the car so he couldn’t drive forward.
At that point, the driver ran wildly from his car brandishing a gun at the surrounding crowd. He ran all the way to the police line that faced the protesters. Though the police clearly knew what had happened and that he had a gun, there was hardly any commotion in the police line. It was almost like they had met one of their own. Remember that U.S. police departments have been widely infiltrated by the white supremacist movement.
UPDATE: The shooter has now been IDed thanks to a network of protesters (no thanks to the police who’ve released nothing). He is Nikolas Fernández, a member of Iron Workers Union Local 86. The person in the top middle image from his Instagram page (on left) appears to be him.
Here is the arrest record. Though it says bail was initially “denied,” a judge later set his bail at $150,000 after the prosecutor had requested $350,000. Fernandez’ family requested leniency given the suspect’s “ties to the community” and his inability to pay. The judge appears to have moved by the request. Though why an attempted mass murderer deserves such consideration is a mystery.
Shon Meckfessel, a professor at Highline College and a social movement scholar, was there right in the midst of the near slaughter. He offered some important information I wanted to add here:
Fernandez has what is called a “jungle style” magazine in his gun, as can be seen clearly in the pictures. The only reason for this setup is so the shooter can empty one clip, and then change clips without missing a beat. Because gun-loving friends have identified the extended clip in the gun and then second clip affixed to it, it looks like he had about 43 rounds he was planning to discharge in quick succession.
In the video, he looks like he’s wrestling with his gun after shooting Daniel, so my guess is that it jammed – otherwise, we might have had 43 bullets discharged, not one, and I (and many others) might not be here today.
Also, I think it’s worth acknowledging that Fernandez obviously reads as Latinx – so some readers will not be able to accept that he could be a white supremacist….I think there are two things worth noting: Of course members of racialized groups can subscribe to white supremacist beliefs, that’s how colonialism has always worked, and undoing that is a huge part of antiracism. Also, though, there are plenty of far-right political groups in the US and elsewhere where race is not the main topic. Joey Gibson, one of the more active fascists in the Pacific NW, is also Latinx, and employs multicultural, non-racist tropes in his fascist appeals.”
Shon also adds that Fernandez’ brother is a cop stationed at the East Precinct. In that case, it’s no wonder the shooter ran toward the police line after he failed to perpetrate mass murder. He likely knew his brother and fellow cops would keep him nice and safe.
There is no word from the police about who the attacker was or his motive. But the only violence against protesters in these situations has been either from police themselves or white supremacists. The chances the shooter was a white supremacist are substantial. Though Seattle is known (often wrongly) as a liberal city, the eastern part of the State is rural and deeply conservative. We are also only a few hours drive from Idaho, which is even more riddled with right-wing white supremacists.
Afterward, Seattle PD announced boldly that it had “apprehended” and arrested the suspect. In reality, the shooter ran into their arms. They did nothing. Similarly, the fire department announced that it had treated the wounded man and transported him to Harborview. In reality, the medics who staffed the protest were the first responders and applied a tourniquet to the wound to stop bleeding. He was later found to have suffered a broken arm from the bullet.
Story unclear at the moment but young man shot on 11th and Pine. Daniel, 26, wanted to tell his story. With the help of other medics I got a tourniquet on his arm. Street medics were on the spot with gauze and pressure. He walked off the scene. pic.twitter.com/g9Ism58YkF
— Alex Garland (@AGarlandPhoto) June 8, 2020
About the hero, he is 26 year old Dan Gregory. Here are the amazing words he spoke as he walked away from the site of the shooting presumably toward Seattle EMTs waiting to take him to the hospital:
I see a car running down Pike. I catch him and punch him in the face. I hear the gunshot go off in my arm. I moved right in time when he reaches for me. But my whole thing was to protect those people. The whole thing was to protect those people down there.
There is a Gofundme account to help pay for his medical bills.
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Around 7:40 Saturday, Seattle Police Department issued several requests for the crowd protesting against police brutality on Capitol Hill to back up “five feet” from the “bicycle fencing” barrier. The crowd demanded the cops back up from their line instead. The police did not oblige, and began dispersing the crowd with pepper spray and blast balls. The cop on the megaphone threatened to continue to disperse the crowd with “chemical agents” as people fled into the park and the surrounding neighborhood and the National Guard moved in to reinforce the bicycle fencing. • SPD has not returned a request for comment about whether they deployed CS gas, which the Mayor restricted for use only by SWAT on Friday. The chemical weapon they deployed sure looked like tear gas, and it caused some pretty intense lacrimation. By 9 pm, the crowd had pushed back to 11th and Pine. • Update: The department told Seattle Times reporter Lewis Kamb that no tear gas was deployed. Some people on the ground have been posting photos of OC gas cans allegedly thrown by police, which is pepper spray. According to the Times, OC gas “can have similar effects” as tear gas. #seattleprotest #blacklivesmatter 📸 @chaseburnsy
I imagine that very few media reports on this story will note what preceded today’s attack: the Seattle PD has routinely used massive levels of violence against almost uniformly peaceful protesters. The day before tonight’s attack (see video from The Stranger), the police assaulted hundreds of protesters with flash-bang grenades, batons and pepper spray canisters. What did they claim provoked them? The SPD Twitter feed showed an alleged “improvised explosive device” supposedly thrown at the police line. What was it? A candle. Probably used at a previous memorial service for George Floyd held a day or two before. Police wearing body armor and helmets with face visors were intimidated by a candle someone allegedly threw at them.
I know all this in a very personal way: my 19-year-old son attended that protest with his friend. Luckily for him, he was not near the front and so wasn’t assaulted by the pepper spray or deafened by the stun grenades. I have seen a great deal of violence over the years. But I don’t want my son to inherit a country like this. I want him to inherit a nation he can be proud of.
The police here occupy the city as if it was theirs. They are an occupying army. What are they protecting? Their precinct. They’re refusing to permit protesters to approach the building and guarding it as if was Fort Knox. For this, they charge into protesters, arrest them, cause mayhem. And the elected officials from the mayor on down stand by and do nothing. Jenny Durkan took the “bold step” of partially suspending use of tear gas for 30 days yesterday. So what did the police use instead tonight? Pepper spray. Big difference.
What this city needs is leadership; someone willing to speak for the people and order the police to stand down. As sure as I site here typing this, the attacker tonight was incited by this violence. Just as sure as the white supremacists who attacked the Tree of Life and the Poway Chabad were incited by the hate spewed by Donald Trump. We must do something before it is too late. Tonight, Seattle dodged a bullet. Had the driver plowed into the crowd as he appears to have intended, we could have had many dead. Do we need to remember Charlottesville? Do we want the same for Seattle?
If not, we must stop this senseless police violence. We must dismantle this brutal occupying force. We must defund the police. We must rip out the department and start over, as Minneapolis has just announced it would do. Over the years, SPD has a long and checkered history of murdering and brutalizing minority residents. Among them Native Americans, Blacks, the mentally troubled, the disabled. They have consistently earned a reputation for dysfunction and brutality, rather than de-escalation and communal engagement. For this, it has “earned” a Justice Department consent decree placing the department in the hands of a federal referee. In fact, Durkan last month announced she would move to end the consent decree because SPD had supposedly fixed all its problems.
Yesterday, Durkan wisely thought better of that move and announced she would not proceed with her plan. But she is a corporate Democrat supported by Big Business: the developers building massive skyscraper office buildings which no one may sit in after the Covid19 epidemic ends; and by the corporate elite of Amazon and Starbucks. She goes along to get along. She has been going along with police violence for far too long, as have many previous mayors; all of whom prided themselves on their liberal-progressive values.
I’m pleased to report that a large group of local and state officials have signed a letter to the Mayor demanding that she “demilitarize” the police and redirect funding to social service programs. Four of the nine members of the City Council also signed the letter indicating that the Mayor will face serious pressure should she refuse to address the issues seriously.
It’s time for change. It’s time for a new mayor. Time for Police Chief Carmen Best to resign. It’s time for a progressive City Council majority to put her feet to the fire. Get rid of our police. They are the criminals they are supposed to be protecting us from.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.