Protestors sue Seattle, Washington state over treatment during demonstrations
SEATTLE – Dozens of protesters are in the process of suing the City of Seattle and the state over police treatment during Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Attorneys for 10 protesters filed a lawsuit Friday alleging wrongful death, personal injuries and civil rights violations. Attorneys also said about 40 more protesters are expected to join the suit after going through the legal claim process.
At Jimi Hendrix park Friday, protesters detailed their allegations to the press, saying police shoved, hit and used crowd-control weapons against them.
“We were here to protest an injustice, not start a fight, and we get things like this lobbed at us,” Bruce Tom said while holding a piece of rubber in his hand, part of a crowd control weapon he said was thrown his way while photographing a protest.
Attorneys for the demonstrators said they came to protest excessive force but were then met with excessive force.
Seattle Police Department has said in the past they need the crowd-control weapons to properly respond to large groups of protesters when things turn violent, which has happened several times this summer.
But some of the protesters in the lawsuit have said they were acting peaceful when met with force following dispersal orders.
Joey Wieser, who regularly live streams the unrest, can be heard in one of his videos communicating with officers, “We are moving back, we are being peaceful, we are moving back,” right before an officer is seen shoving him. He is later pepper sprayed.
“I’ve been struck by a police bicycle, I’ve been shoved to the ground by officers, I’ve had my phone get knocked to the pavement and break,” Wieser said Friday.
Some said they had lasting injuries and post-traumatic stress.
In addition to claiming excessive force, attorneys allege authorities failed to protect and preserve protesters’ right to assemble, leading to the wrongful death claim.
“We stand here today because Summer Taylor lost their life for Black Lives Matter, we stand here today because that should not have happened and it’s the government’s fault,” said Karen Koehler, a Seattle attorney on the case.
Taylor was killed when they protested on Interstate 5 after Washington State Patrol blocked the interstate to traffic to accommodate the protesters. A driver went the wrong way down an exit ramp, which attorneys say was not blocked, and targeted the protesters, killing Taylor and seriously injuring Diaz Love.
Attorneys allege WSP only partially protected the protesters after allowing them to demonstrate on the interstate.
The driver, Dawit Kelete, pleaded not guilty to felony charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.
Daniel Gregory, who was shot by a driver after jumping on his car to stop him from driving into a crowd of protesters, is also on the lawsuit.
“The police had barricades to protect themselves but there were no barricades to protect my fellow protesters,” Gregory said.
Responding to the lawsuit, Seattle City Attorney spokesperson Dan Nolte said in a statement, “We intend to investigate these allegations and will defend the city in this matter.”
Attorneys are seeking damages on behalf of the protesters.
SPD would not comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office referred back to the city for comment.