NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Trump regime still making trouble for Pacific Northwest cities despite purported exit pact

Since our last post on the ongo­ing demon­stra­tions in Port­land, which end­ed with con­cern about addi­tion­al fed­er­al offi­cers qui­et­ly hav­ing entered Seat­tle, the scope and direc­tion of the demon­stra­tions in both cities have changed.

Fed­er­al offi­cers appear to be depart­ing, the courts are increas­ing­ly busy, and there are still con­flicts to be resolved between the groups demon­strat­ing in both cities, their respec­tive city coun­cils, and their local police forces.

Portland

On Wednes­day, July 22nd, 2020, the Port­land City Coun­cil vot­ed unan­i­mous­ly to end any fur­ther coop­er­a­tion between the Port­land Police Bureau and fed­er­al offi­cers sent to pro­tect fed­er­al prop­er­ties like the Mark O. Hat­field Cour­t­house and to active­ly counter demon­stra­tions around these same facil­i­ties.

On Fri­day, July 24th, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Michael W. Mos­man denied a request for an injunc­tion sought by Ore­gon Sate Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ellen Rosen­blum to force fed­er­al offi­cers to iden­ti­fy both them­selves and their agency before arrest­ing or detain­ing a per­son, and to pro­hib­it arrests that lack prob­a­ble cause.

Mos­man declared that the state of Ore­gon lacked stand­ing in large part because no dam­age to the inter­ests of the state had been shown to have tak­en place.

He also found that no demon­stra­tor had been includ­ed in the injunc­tion, and that “injunc­tive relief requires more than a show­ing that a plain­tiff has been harmed; it requires a show­ing that she will like­ly be harmed again.”

This sec­ond rea­son is based large­ly on fed­er­al Supreme Court case Lyons ver­sus City of Los Ange­les, which sets a very high stan­dard.

That same day, two of Ore­gon’s mem­bers of Con­gress — Earl Blu­me­nauer and Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, joined by sev­er­al col­leagues — sent a let­ter to act­ing Direc­tor of Home­land Secu­ri­ty Chad Wolf, request­ing his res­ig­na­tion.

“The peo­ple of Port­land were protest­ing police bru­tal­i­ty, and you respond­ed to them with fur­ther bru­tal­i­ty… These are author­i­tar­i­an tac­tics that go against the bedrock of our demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples,” the let­ter stat­ed.

Mean­while, the Unit­ed States Attor­ney for the Dis­trict of Ore­gon, Bil­ly J. Williams, said that the demon­stra­tions in down­town Port­land were “hijack­ing the moment in his­to­ry” and ques­tioned how long the larg­er com­mu­ni­ty would tol­er­ate the destruc­tion of prop­er­ty as a response to the mur­ders of Black peo­ple by police.

Williams also ini­tial­ly denied that fed­er­al offi­cers had gone beyond the bound­aries of fed­er­al prop­er­ty to con­front peo­ple protest­ing, but when con­front­ed with evi­dence that it had hap­pened, he amend­ed his com­ments.

State leg­is­la­tors in Ore­gon, hop­ing to be more respon­sive to the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment than Con­gress has been, have released con­cepts for the Leg­is­la­ture’s next round of police reform bills, includ­ing a com­plete ban on the use of choke­holds and tear gas as well as new efforts to crack down on the arbi­tra­tion appeal process for the dis­ci­pline of law enforce­ment per­son­nel.

(The issue of a more com­pre­hen­sive ban on tear gas mat­ters, as the last bill passed in spe­cial ses­sion restrict­ing tear gas use has­n’t stopped the Port­land Police Bureau from con­tin­u­ing to use it.)

It isn’t known as yet when the next spe­cial ses­sion of the Leg­is­la­ture will take place, but the Joint Com­mit­tee on Trans­par­ent Polic­ing and Use of Force Reform will hold a series of hear­ings on the con­cepts.

Anoth­er pro­pos­al would require police offi­cers to dis­play their last name and badge num­ber unless under­cov­er and pro­vide that infor­ma­tion to any mem­ber of the pub­lic who asks for it. Offi­cers cov­er­ing their names while respond­ing to protests is now a com­mon prac­tice by the Port­land Police Bureau.

Last week, well over one thou­sand and pos­si­bly as many as two thou­sand demon­stra­tors were protest­ing in front of fed­er­al facil­i­ties in down­town Port­land. As can be seen, ten­sions ran high and tear gas was abun­dant in response — enough for the lat­ter to reach inmates at the Mult­nom­ah Coun­ty Deten­tion Cen­ter.

On Sat­ur­day, July 25th, U.S. Attor­ney Williams stat­ed in a phone inter­view that the ban approved by the Port­land City Coun­cil on July 22nd was “non­sen­si­cal, polit­i­cal the­ater” and urged local cit­i­zens to con­vince “vio­lent extrem­ists,” who keep try­ing to breach a pro­tec­tive fence around the fed­er­al facil­i­ties, to leave.

Lat­er that evening, some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of four thou­sand pro­test­ers were present, and fed­er­al offi­cers ini­tial­ly did­n’t con­front them, retreat­ing into the Mark O. Hat­field Fed­er­al Cour­t­house. But when a sec­tion of fence, put up by fed­er­al offi­cers some time ago and a bone of con­tention ever since, was torn down around 1 AM Sun­day morn­ing (with­out the demon­stra­tors cross­ing onto fed­er­al prop­er­ty), Port­land police declared a riot and fed­er­al offi­cers re-emerged to dri­ve the demon­stra­tors back using tear gas and pep­per spray.

As a result of Sat­ur­day evening’s protests, addi­tion­al fed­er­al offi­cers were being sent to sup­port those already in place in Port­land.

Black Lives Mat­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Port­land, mean­while, have been frus­trat­ed by the direc­tion in which the demon­stra­tions are going.

One recent devel­op­ment, how­ev­er, is that the lead­er­ship of the Wall of Moms involved in the Port­land demon­stra­tions have hand­ed over their author­i­ty to Don’t Shoot Port­land for guid­ance and instruc­tion.

For those inter­est­ed, there is a brief and effec­tive visu­al sum­ma­ry here of how the sit­u­a­tion in Port­land has esca­lat­ed in recent weeks, and this piece high­lights por­tions of this past week­end.

On Mon­day, July 27th, two new law­suits were filed. The first, by a group led by the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU), is a motion for con­tempt and for sanc­tions against fed­er­al author­i­ties for refus­ing to com­ply with a restrain­ing order on June 23rd that pro­hibit­ing fed­er­al troops from arrest­ing or tar­get­ing jour­nal­ists and legal observers unless they were com­mit­ting a spe­cif­ic crime.

The sec­ond, by Don’t Shoot Port­land, the group Wall of Moms and five indi­vid­ual plain­tiffs, claims fed­er­al offi­cials used intim­i­da­tion, threats of vio­lence and dis­ap­pear­ances to deprive pro­test­ers of their con­sti­tu­tion­al rights to free speech, free assem­bly and due process, and their free­dom from unrea­son­able seizures.

On Tues­day, July 29, Gov­er­nor Kate Brown announced a deal with the Trump regime that would remove most fed­er­al offi­cers, replac­ing them with state police to pro­tect fed­er­al facil­i­ties in down­town Port­land. The Trump regime is send­ing mixed mes­sages in response, but the deal appears as if it will pro­ceed.

POSTSCRIPT: By now you may have heard of the sto­ry of some fed­er­al offi­cers at the Port­land demon­stra­tions with “ZTI” tags on their gear, iden­ti­fy­ing them as con­tract employ­ees of ZTI Solu­tions, a firm that has been hired in the past by the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary, poten­tial­ly open­ing accu­sa­tions of their being mer­ce­nar­ies giv­en their present role in Port­land.

How­ev­er, the ZTI busi­ness is appar­ent­ly not what it seems.

That said, as with the Port­land Police, report­ed ear­li­er here, it is more than prob­lem­at­ic that those who are detained, arrest­ed and/or harmed can­not iden­ti­fy these indi­vid­u­als to bring charges against them or the author­i­ty they rep­re­sent.

Seattle

Demonstrations on Capitol Hill, Seattle

Demon­stra­tions on Capi­tol Hill, Seat­tle (Pho­to: Alex Garland/capitolhillseattle.com)

Late on the evening of Wednes­day, July 22nd, a group of approx­i­mate­ly one hun­dred and fifty peo­ple gath­ered at Cal Ander­son Park on behalf of the Youth Lib­er­a­tion Front Seat­tle Divi­sion and pro­ceed­ed to van­dal­ize local busi­ness­es in Capi­tol Hill, re-assem­bled at Cal Ander­son Park, then dis­persed.

A fed­er­al tac­ti­cal bor­der con­trol team arrived at Boe­ing Field on Thurs­day, July 23rd, osten­si­bly to pro­tect fed­er­al facil­i­ties in the Seat­tle area, join­ing Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion and Fed­er­al Pro­tec­tive Ser­vice per­son­nel qui­et­ly brought to the city some­time in ear­ly July.

King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine react­ed by post­ing a pair of tweets. “Let me be clear: this com­mu­ni­ty rejects Trump’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al use of fed­er­al force. It is a trans­par­ent attempt to intim­i­date. But we will not be intim­i­dat­ed… Know your rights. Stay vig­i­lant, stay safe, and stay away from fed­er­al agents.”

The fol­low­ing day, Fri­day, July 24th, Seat­tle May­or Jen­ny Durkan stat­ed at a press con­fer­ence: “Be peace­ful… If you come out in the streets and raise your voic­es, not only is it your right, but in many ways, it’s our oblig­a­tion, but for those who are bent on destruc­tion, those who want the fight to come, I say to you stop.”

That same day, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice request­ed a restrain­ing order to pre­vent the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment from imple­ment­ing the Seat­tle City Council’s ban on crowd-con­trol weapons, due to take effect on Sun­day, July 26th, which had been passed unan­i­mous­ly by the City Coun­cil on June 15th after some dis­agree­ment over final specifics.

Lat­er on July 24th, Judge James Robart of the Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the West­ern Dis­trict of Wash­ing­ton grant­ed the request, due to expire with­in four­teen days, with a brief­ing and joint sta­tus report required regard­ing the sta­tus of the restrain­ing order to be avail­able no lat­er than August 1st.

Here’s a bit of back­ground on what led up to the restrain­ing order.

On June 12th, Judge Richard Jones of the Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the West­ern Dis­trict of Wash­ing­ton issued a tem­po­rary restrain­ing order that restrict­ed the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment from using spe­cif­ic “less lethal” crowd con­trol devices, though police would be allowed to use such weapons if they saw pro­test­ers engag­ing in “vio­lent or life-threat­en­ing activ­i­ty.”

On June 15th, the Seat­tle City Coun­cil passed its more com­pre­hen­sive ban.  It was returned by May­or Durkan on June 26th, unsigned, and attest­ed (its exis­tence offi­cial­ly declared) that same day by the City Clerk.

On June 17th, Judge Jones’ restrain­ing order was extend­ed to Sep­tem­ber 30th.

On July 17th, the office of the City Attor­ney for the City of Seat­tle served notice that it had been advised by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice that the com­pre­hen­sive ban was in vio­la­tion of the fed­er­al con­sent decree for the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment that has been in place since 2012.

The con­sent decree is an an agree­ment made after a Depart­ment of Jus­tice inves­ti­ga­tion found the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment had a pat­tern of using exces­sive force, and also had poli­cies and prac­tices that could result in bias against minori­ties. The City of Seat­tle and the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment are required to present any pro­posed changes to exist­ing use-of-force and crowd con­trol poli­cies to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and police mon­i­tor for review and ulti­mate­ly to the court for its approval. This was not done regard­ing the com­pre­hen­sive ban.

This vio­la­tion was the basis for the request by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice for its restrain­ing order. Judge Robart’s action means that Judge Jones’ restrain­ing order remains the basis for the restric­tion of crowd con­trol devices.

Seat­tle Police Chief Car­men Best had react­ed to this sit­u­a­tion on July 23rd with a state­ment that among oth­er things stat­ed that such restric­tions “will cre­ate even more dan­ger­ous cir­cum­stances for our offi­cers to inter­vene using what they have left – riot shields and riot batons.”

The next day, the win­dows of the South­west Precinct police facil­i­ty were board­ed up, imply­ing that the facil­i­ty might be aban­doned, in “an adjust­ed deploy­ment in response to any demon­stra­tions this week­end,” as had been done ear­li­er at one point at the East Precinct police facil­i­ty in Capi­tol Hill on June 8th after May­or Durkin ordered pro­tec­tive bar­ri­ers removed, which were seen as a focal point of mul­ti­ple days of clash­es between demon­stra­tors and police.

This has been a point of con­tention for some time now between Chief Best and Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber Lisa Her­bold, whose West Seat­tle-cen­tered dis­trict includes the South­west Precinct facil­i­ty.

On Sat­ur­day, July 25th, demon­stra­tors peace­ably began a march at Seat­tle Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege, with “Wall of Moms” and “Wall of Vets” pro­test­ers on hand.

How­ev­er, some indi­vid­u­als even­tu­al­ly slipped away from the march and lit five trail­ers on fire at the con­struc­tion site at 12th Avenue and Jef­fer­son Street for the new King Coun­ty Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Jus­tice Cen­ter, and lat­er repeat­ed the process at a Star­bucks on 12th Avenue and East Colum­bia Street.

Oth­ers con­cur­rent­ly attempt­ed to dam­age the lob­by of the Seat­tle Police East Precinct, appar­ent­ly using an explo­sive that put an eight-inch hole in the facil­i­ty and caused struc­tur­al dam­age, though details are still some­what sketchy.

The Seat­tle Police had to evac­u­ate apart­ments above the Star­bucks for the safe­ty of the res­i­dents and declared that a riot was tak­ing place, which led to the Seat­tle Police using flash-bangs, pep­per spray, forty-mil­lime­ter “sponge tip” rounds and blast balls, even­tu­al­ly arrest­ing forty-sev­en demon­stra­tors.

Fifty-nine police offi­cers were declared injured in the demon­stra­tions. There was no offi­cial dec­la­ra­tion of the num­ber of injuries suf­fered by pro­test­ers.

Police Chief Best, at a brief press con­fer­ence late Sat­ur­day night, said: “I implore peo­ple to come to the city in peace… We sup­port everyone’s First Amend­ment right to free speech and to gath­er and assem­ble in such a way. But what we saw today was not peace­ful… The riot­ers had no regard for the community’s safe­ty, for offi­cers’ safe­ty or for the busi­ness­es and prop­er­ty that they destroyed.”

The fol­low­ing day, Sun­day, July 26th, sev­er­al pre­emp­tive arrests and acqui­si­tion and removal of sup­port vehi­cles for the demon­stra­tors at West­lake Plaza took the air out of a planned demon­stra­tion at the Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE) offices along­side the US Immi­gra­tion Review Court on 2nd Avenue.

Cal Ander­son Park was also declared closed, but demon­stra­tors orga­nized there any­way and moved ahead with their demon­stra­tions just before 7 PM, with police attempt­ing to restrict move­ment with­out being imme­di­ate­ly con­fronta­tion­al. How­ev­er, by mid-to late evening, most of the demon­stra­tors had dis­persed.

On Mon­day, July 27th, the Seat­tle-King Coun­ty branch of Black Lives Mat­ter and the ACLU filed a motion of con­tempt for vio­lat­ing Judge Jones’ restrain­ing order, “ambush­ing peace­ful pro­test­ers.”

On Tues­day, July 28th, Seat­tle author­i­ties were noti­fied that the fed­er­al tac­ti­cal bor­der con­trol team that had arrived on July 23rd had been with­drawn.

This saga is by no means over. Only time will tell what the future holds.

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