King County prosecutor, Dan Satterberg, has finally filed charges against Nikolas Fernandez (see charging document), who attempted to ram his car into the Capitol Hill protesters outside the city’s East Precinct. According to Dan Gregory, who courageously confronted the driver to prevent him driving into the crowd a la James Fields, Fernandez drove down the street “insanely” at a speed of 40-50 mph. Fernandez had a Glock with an extended magazine unholstered in his front seat, which he used to shoot Gregory:
The Glock 26 he used had an extended magazine. He had another magazine taped to that extended magazine.
Clearly, he was human-hunting. After his car stalled, he realized he would fail to reach the crowd, so he panicked, waving the gun at the crowd around him and fled toward the police lines nearby.
The police, seeing an armed man who had just shot a protester, reacted calmly and took him into custody. The ensuing police report reads like a brief for the defense, offering the shooter a strong justification for his actions. It appears no coincidence that one of the first things he told the officers is that his brother works in the precinct. No media report has clarified this point, but it would seem likely his brother is also a police officer.
The charges filed seem woefully feeble considering Fernandez appeared bent on mass murder. This recalls the mess Satterfield made of the Hokoana case in which a couple, known as gun enthusiasts and white supremacists joined a rally at the University of Washington supporting Milo Yianopoulos’ appearance on campus. Elizabeth Hokoana shot an unarmed monitor, who was attempting to intervene to deescalate tensions in the crowd. The man nearly died. The shooter was also charged with assault instead of attempted murder and the city attorney failed to get a conviction. The Fernandez case appears headed in the same direction. Residents on Seattle should make clear that a similar failure will be met with fierce opposition come election time.
Fernandez’s supporters claim he was a security guard at the downtown NikeTown (which is nowhere near the Capitol Hill protest) driving to work and that “he just wanted to see what was going on.” One wonders why a security guard at a store needs a Glock 26 with an extended magazine. In the prosecution charging document, Fernandez says he “wanted to see how bad things were.” He claims that he “could not turn around” his car to explain why he was speeding toward the protesters before he was stopped. He justifies the alleged fear he felt when Dan Gregory, a protester, tried to stop him from plowing into the crowd by calling the victim “a large Black man.” He admits in his statement, that when he exited his car he waved his weapon at protesters around him.
As an aside, after publishing my last post Fernandez supporters mounted a coordinated campaign in the comment thread. Eight different commenters posted virtually the same claims attacking the protesters and vindicating the shooter. I have not published any of these comments. And if the same happens with this post I will do the same.
Wisely, after the near massacre, both Mayor Durkan thought better of the tough response advocated by police chief, Carmen Best, which had led to daily violent confrontations with police. They withdrew from East Precinct and Durkan boasted about “reforms” they planned to initiate to restrain the police. All this, of course, to avoid the “curse” of the Defund Police campaign sweeping the country. Durkan is a tool of the city’s business elite and the de-escalation was a tactic she hoped would defuse conflict and lessen the power of the protesters’ message.
Best aired an internal video to her troops in which she complained that Mayor Durkan had removed decision-making from her control regarding withdrawing from East Precinct. She presented it as a cowardly act which gave in to violent protesters. She doubled down on her militarized response to protests, praising her officer for “protecting our home.” She called Durkan’s decision to abandon the precinct as “an insult to you and to the community.” Trust me, no one in Capitol Hill and very few people in Seattle feel de-escalating the violence instigated by police and removing them from the scene “insulted” them. She added that the city “relented to severe public pressure” and betrayed its police force with the decision. She proclaimed her “anger about how all this came about.”
She raises even more incendiary claims of “solid information” that “anti-government protesters” planned to burn down the precinct. She proclaimed “there was a real risk of a large scale fire.” There is absolutely no evidence of this being the case. And if there is the citizens of Seattle demand to know what it is. Until Best does so, she must be presumed a liar.
She repeated unfounded rumors which she subsequently walked back claiming “armed protesters” were accosting passerby and demanding ID, and that they were extorting money from local businesses. None of this is true. Yet Best, in the video, presents it as established fact. This is shameful and unacceptable. This is precisely why this sort of policing must go from Seattle and the country. Best must go. Then Durkan.
In a hastily assembled news conference in which Durkan and Best appeared together, the mayor attempted to make a joke which fizzled saying that “they’d thought about a Thelma and Lousie moment.” Come to think of it, they’re both driving off a cliff and trying to take the city with them.
UPDATE: Earlier today (Friday), federal judge Richard Jones (who is Quincy Jones’ brother) issued a temporary restraining order requested by the ACLU prohibiting Seattle PD from using tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets or any other forms of projectiles against demonstrators. He ruled they were exercising their First Amendment rights and any interference with that was impermissible. This will tie the hands of any city official like Best seeking to return to repressive mode.
Lest anyone in Seattle believe they can trust Durkan or Best, this picture was posted earlier today of a police SWAT team staging right in front of Temple DeHirsh Sinai. Knowing their rabbi to be a friend of the city’s corporate elite I doubt he’d have a problem with police mounting a violence assault from in front of his own shul. But other members may have different thoughts on the matter.
But the more important matter is why is Durakan talking about de-escalation of tension and allowing the police to prepare to retake the precinct and resume the violence against protesters?
SPD appears to have learned nothing from events of the past week. A deputy chief echoed the chief’s statement above, making this mendacious set of claims about the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, established after the police withdrawal:
“We’ve heard, anecdotally, reports of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to operate within this area. This is the crime of extortion. If anyone has been subjected to this, we need them to call 911,” Assistant Chief of Police Deanna Nollette said on Wednesday.
Her claims have enough holes to drive a Mack truck through them. What is “anecdotal?” Who told her this? What evidence does she have? As for incidents of extortion, I can’t speak for everyone on Capitol Hill, but my friend Stephen Brown, runs Eltana Bagels right across the street from the police precinct. He’s enthusiastically in support of protesters. In fact, he’s offered anyone hungry protester a bagel “with a schmear.” This is Stephen’s view as expressed on Eltana’s website:
Eltana condemns the senseless murder of George Floyd and all the pervasive, insidious, societal systems that allow such a horrific atrocity to be as American as apple pie.
We support Black Lives Matter and all protesters who continue to turn the screws on the system in a way that cannot be ignored. Keep it up.
If you are a protester looking for a snack during the daytime – come to Eltana any day for a free bagel and a spread – just say “I’m hungry for justice”.
If you are inclined to put your money where your mouth is, so are we. Make a donation of $25 or more to any of the following organizations and we will give you a free half dozen bagels to show our gratitude for funding the good fight:
● Campaign Zero
● Color of Change
Does that sound like extortion to you? As for protesters with guns, if there are any what’s the difference between a protester with a gun and 400 police on a single block with guns, tear gas, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades, and body armor? Who scares me more? If the police were disarmed then I’m certain any protesters who are armed would also disarm. And let’s not forget that American society appears to have no problems with white supremacists who mount armed near-insurrections against elected governments in Michigan and elsewhere. What happens to them? If you saw the pictures, the cops stand silent as they are taunted by these thugs. But they are white thugs.
If a protester or a Black man in this society has a gun for any purpose, his life isn’t worth a plug nickel. He’ll be shot down in a heartbeat. What happened to the Black Panthers in the 1960s? And what happened in Michigan to the white supremacists?
The police chief told the media that closing East Precinct delayed response times for police to arrive at crime scenes. Well, maybe she should’ve thought of that before she sicced hundreds of her thugs in blue on the residents of the neighborhood? In fact, not having police on Capitol Hill will probably reduce the overall level of violence there.
Police also complained that protesters patrolling the Autonomous Zone have asked people to show ID in order to enter the area. Listen to what Stephen Brown has to say about conditions established by police before they withdrew:
“On a typical weekday we get about 200 people,” Stephen says. With the pandemic, they were getting 100; after the barricades went up they were getting 50. The only way for customers to access the shop was to walk through a double set of gates, explain to police that they just wanted to buy a bagel, and then timidly creep through what looked like a war zone.
But that’s all changed now. Looking out the front window, Stephen described people strolling casually past tents and makeshift gardens. Capitol Hill is quiet for the first time in days, and the bagel shop is bustling — not just with customers, but with staff preparing to make deliveries.
The Seattle PD were an army of occupation. When they were driven out, the residents took back their neighborhood. If the city wants to enforce public safety in the neighborhood they will have to do so using an entirely different model.
If you live in Seattle, I encourage you to order some of Eltana’s wonderful bagels and side condiments. He delivers. Or you can take a walk on the wild side and venture to his Capitol Hill store to pick up yours, if you prefer.