Deal would bar Seattle police from targeting some people

SEATTLE (AP) — The city of Seattle has agreed that a court order should bar police from targeting journalists, legal observers and medical personnel with crowd weapons during protests.

The city also has agreed that the order should bar police from using the declaration of a riot as justification for indiscriminate force at protests, The Seattle Times reported Monday.

Officials for Washington’s largest city made those concessions in an agreement filed jointly Monday with lawyers for protesters who are suing Seattle over allegedly allowing the police to use unnecessary violence in controlling and suppressing crowds.

For now, the lawyers will drop a request that the judge in the case hold the city in contempt of court.

Monday’s order is arguably “the most comprehensive in the country, protecting journalists, legal observers, and medics from police abuses during protests,” said David Perez, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the case.

Black Lives Matter Seattle King County and a number of individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in June, contending the city had deprived protesters of their constitutional rights by using chemical agents such as tear gas and projectiles such as blast balls to crack down on demonstrations sparked by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and of other Black people.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones, also in June, issued a preliminary injunction barring Seattle from using force against peaceful protesters. But his ruling said the police could take targeted actions against specific imminent threats and against specifics acts of violence and property destruction.

Police subsequently used crowd weapons as they cleared a part of the city controlled by protesters, dubbed the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, in early July and as they dealt with protests on July 25.

In response, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Jones case asked the judge to hold the city in contempt. The lawyers submitted sworn statements by protesters, legal observers, medics and journalists describing how the police had attacked them the previous weekend.

Lawyers for the police initially urged Jones to reject the contempt allegations, arguing officers only used force because thousands of people in a crowd were “armed and armored individuals with a plan and agenda to do harm to the public, injure police and damage property along the way.”

Jones has scheduled a late August hearing on that matter.