Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best continues to feed outrageous lies to right-wing national media about the Capitol Hill neighborhood here, which has “liberated” its police Precinct after days of mass police violence targeting local residents.
The chief peddled a continuous parade of lies including claims there were armed protesters on the streets extorting “tribute” from local businesses. She also complained to her rank and file that the withdrawal from the Precinct was a shameful capitulation to protesters; and that the decision was made against her will. The latest outrage is a claim that police must return to East Precinct because there are rapes and robberies in the neighborhood which they can’t investigate.
The Department’s own crime statistics show there have been no rapes or robberies reported in the neighborhood for the past week, which is the period in which the police riots and Chaz were declared.
This stream of lies feeds a narrative spun by right-wing media outlets like FoxNews and the National Review. In fact, FoxNews conceded that it had posted a series of false incendiary images purporting to show mass arson and armed protesters in the Autonomous Zone under the headline “Crazytown.” They have been forced to walk back the entire photo montage and concede its inaccuracy (though it has still not admitted that several images were deliberately manipulated, and hence even worse than the other images). An image of a man running past a burning store was shot in St. Paul on May 30th (not Seattle). Another image was deliberately manipulated (Fox has not conceded this or explained it).
The Fox News montage did show a single purported protester carrying an AR-15 on June 10th. But no one knows who this person is, what his motives were, and where he came from. If we want to smear the movement by claiming it is a bunch of armed terrorists, let’s begin with those white Supremacists who mounted an armed insurrection against Michigan’s elected government during their temporary takeover of State government. There were scores of well-armed white men there. The police did nothing. If those were Black men supporting Black Lives Matter there would have been a massive shootout with countless lives (mostly Black) lost.
Let’s be honest: who in this society has the overwhelming level of force and uses it indiscriminately against the public (mostly against people of color)? Is it the so-called Antifa terrorists lurking around every street corner? Or it is law enforcement?
Thankfully, the ACLU filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the city to prevent it from using violent means to suppress these protests.
Judge Richard Jones approved the TRO, which will be followed by a hearing to transform it into a preliminary restraining order. This means that even if Best does get her way, and Mayor Durkan approves “retaking” the Precinct, cops will not be allowed to use such weaponry. That doesn’t mean there will be no violence, but it does mean the cops will have to physically engage with thousands of protesters who will doubtless come out to defend the Zone.
Mayor Durkan tried to make a joke out of media questions concerning whether he and the chief will resign (“this is not going to be a Thelma and Louse moment”). Her lame joke only made you feel it was all the more likely one or both would go. Best has proven herself not only incompetent and violent in her decisions, but deliberately damaging to the image of the city she’s sworn to protect. She is far more concerned with protecting her own, than she is with protecting the residents of her city. This town needs a department that is with the city and not against it. That starts from the top. If Durkan can’t be part of the solution, then she is the problem and we must remove her next year when she has to run for a second term.
We have a true progressive candidate, Nikita Oliver, who ran against Durkan last time. Then, she was a relative unknown running against a well-funded darling of the Downtown business elite. Next year, given the prominence of both Black Lives Matter and the rise of a progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Oliver will have the wind at her back. It is very likely she could or will defeat Durkan. If Seattle also elects a progressive Council majority it should smooth the way toward making the sorts of criminal justice and law enforcement reforms being called for in cities throughout the U.S. Of course, we are not there yet. Much can happen over the next year to blunt the force of the current round of protests. But we are clearly headed in the right direction. And it appears that the various crises we’ve experienced over the past few months will not dissipate quickly. So I’m hopeful for a more progressive politics in Seattle and the end of police as an occupation army.