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City of Seattle

November 16, 3:08 PM click here to comment > 92

Statement on Occupy Seattle protest march

For the last six weeks, Seattle has been working to address issues raised by the Occupy Seattle movement and its protest actions. My instruction to police and other city departments has been to protect free speech rights, protect public safety of protesters and the public, and protect other legitimate public and private uses of property.

Last night, the police used pepper spray in two separate incidents, and many are now questioning whether the police use of force was appropriate to the circumstances. I have seen video and written descriptions of the incidents.

To those engaged in peaceful protest, I am sorry that you were pepper sprayed. I spoke to Dorli Rainey (who I know personally) to ask how she was doing, and to ask for her description of events.

I also called in Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and the command staff to review the actions of last night. They agreed that this was not their preferred outcome. Here are the steps we are taking in response, to achieve a better outcome next time:

• Reviewing with our officers the deployment of pepper spray last night
• Developing a procedure to ensure appropriate commanders are on the ground at these kinds of events.
• Making sure that we have appropriate levels of police resources at protest events.

We all need to acknowledge the challenges that we face. Many in Seattle recall the World Trade Organization protest in 1999 and the Mardi Gras riot in 2001. In both instances insufficient attention and preparation led to severe public safety issues.

We also do not want overly aggressive enforcement to exacerbate the situation. We have been relying on the line officers to exercise extraordinary judgment and restraint in tough circumstances. And as Occupy Seattle heads into its sixth week, tensions appear to be getting higher. Defusing those tensions is important. Just as we are going to work to ensure we are doing all we can to protect free speech and public safety, Occupy Seattle needs to work with us too. That includes ensuring that everyone participating in their protests understands the importance of nonviolence.

The underlying frustration with our unfair economic circumstances remains. I share the message and values of the Occupy Seattle movement, and want to work with them and others to meet our goals of protecting free speech rights, protecting public safety of protesters and the public, and protecting other legitimate public and private uses of property.

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Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from adam
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Mayor McGinn,

While I appreciate your taking the time to address this issue, reviewing much of the photographic and video evidence has shown that the SPD acted abruptly and indiscriminately. While I also appreciate that the individual officers are under a fair amount of pressure handling this situation, I also believe that the city has a more systemic policing problem. I think that your administration should be engaging the police department in a more substantive way with regard to the use of force. This year’s pepper spray was last year’s guns. Please sit down with the force and let them know that the protesters respect them and their job, but that if they continue to act brutally towards anyone raising an eyebrow in this town, that respect will continue to erode.

Many thanks for your time,


Pingback from SPD Provides Pepper Spray Boost to Occupy Seattle’s Popularity | The SunBreak
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

[...] Mayor McGinn released a statement this afternoon, saying in part: To those engaged in peaceful protest, I am sorry that you were [...]

Comment from Michael
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm

lets see some real action

Comment from Steve Hunt
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Occupy must get the police, fire, and all others like them on their side. In Oklahoma City where I just moved from, people collaborate with these individuals before going after the Chamber of Commerce and other scum like them, and win most of the time. Last week, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol hand-delivered a permit to the Occupy group at the State Capitol, so there would be no trouble.
I totally agree with the statements of Occupy, and have fought for a sane economic system for years. I received 42% of the vote in last years Mayoral race in OKC with only $1,000 and 2 weeks campaigning — had the support of police and fire, and I highly recommend that activists start looking into these methods to bring about change.

Comment from Charlie Smith
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Thank you, Mayor.

Pingback from McGinn says sorry for pepper-spraying protesters | Seattle Times Newspaper
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

[...] whether the police use of force was appropriate to the circumstances,” McGinn said in a statement. “I have seen video and written descriptions of the [...]

Comment from Debby Bagaason
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

This was inexcusable, plain and simple. I am very disappointed in our local government.

Comment from Marti McKenna
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Mr. Mayor,
For additional insight into last night’s events, please read this account by the priest who was also pepper-sprayed:

“…six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face.”

According to this account, the teenage girl who allegedly swung a stick at an officer (according to news reports) actually gestured angrily with the flag in her hand. This was not a violent act, and yet it was met with a violent response.

I, too, have seen videos and images, including one from the last pepper-spray incident: a photo of an officer grinning as he hoses down the crowd. I have been a voice for peace with SPD at Occupy Seattle, but how can anyone defend the joy with which that officer caused pain to the citizens he’s sworn to protect? I can’t.

Comment from Rafael Block
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm

As you say in your statement “…[I]n 199 and the Mardis Gras riot in 2001…..insufficient attention and preparation led to sever public safety issues.”

Given this much hind-sight how does it come to the point where in 2011 we need you to emphasize “appropriate commanders” and “appropriate levels” to the Chief of Police?

Could it be that, by your own admission, no action will be taken to punish those who committed assault on innocent citizens? Could it be that over the years little has been done to hold those accountable for their actions by the Chief and by their respective Mayors? I submit that this continued stance of trying to clean up AFTER instead of BEFORE things get out of hand will only lead to more “non-preferred outcomes” in the future.

We need to get AHEAD of the curve. Instead of consulting after the WTO police riot with numerous localities that had recently failed to properly respond to protests in their cities, we should be asking what cities that are successful are doing. Instead of looking to failing leadership in our own institutions, why don’t we look to other cities that have been successful in dealing with the OWS movement?

The underlying frustration with our unfair economic circumstances DOES remain, and unless we as a city prepare properly for what is to come, I fear we will only make things worse until something really bad happens.

Comment from Aaron
Time November 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I have major concerns with the “Occupy Seattle” protesters. I fully support their right to free speech and peaceful assembly. I even agree with their core message, but I do not support their use of Seattle Central Community College campus as their camp ground. It poses a safety, security, and health risk to the public. They are infringing on the students and general publics right to use the park area on campus. They are costing the city, the SCC system, and in turn taxpayers a lot of money. And now, they are making the commute home for hard working Seattle residents even that much more frustrating. More needs to be done. The city needs to follow the lead of New York and other cities and tell them they can protest but they can’t sleep outside in public areas. I am disappointed in the mayors response and push-over attitude.

Comment from Robert Williams
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Fire SPD Chief of Police. This is horrifying behavior. I will not be voting for you in the upcoming election. Shame on you.

Comment from Stan Reed
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Look at the bigger picture Mike McGinn, the Occupy Seattle movement is an extension of the Occupy Wall St. movement, which is the spearhead of a global movement to end the oppression of governments and corporations upon the people of the world. It is time to put people above money, in every aspect. We are human beings! Not plastic pieces to be discarded in this ultimate game of Monopoly that is going on. Stand up and fight for the rights of humans Mike McGinn, not for corrupt governments and corporations, or resign and get out of the way!

Comment from Matt
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm

This was essentially a BS, no substance post that doesn’t address the brutality I viewed in the numerous videos posted online. The police were the aggressors, it is shameful and should not be tolerated for any reason whatsoever ESPECIALLY when it involves peaceful people

Comment from Matt the Engineer
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm

“I share the message and values of the Occupy Seattle movement, and want to work with them and others to meet our goals of protecting free speech rights, protecting public safety of protesters and the public, and protecting other legitimate public and private uses of property.”

Just not in that order, right? Were the officers acting outside of their instructions? What does Seattle consider more important – the right to free speech and protesters’ safety, or the right of commuters to not be inconvenienced?

Comment from John
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I’m so glad we don’t have Nickels (or Mallahan, if anyone remembers him) in City Hall! This situation may be beyond Mayor McGinn’s leadership skills, but it’s not apparent to me who would do better. It’s clear to me that neither of the two other top candidates in the last election would be doing as well.

Thanks for trying, Mayor McGinn! Please try harder.

Comment from Beau Nobo
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Mayor McGinn, this is shameful.

The protesters involved in the march were non-violent and posed no threat to police or property. At worst, they posed an inconvenience for evening commuters, a problem which would have been solved much more efficiently by having the police move to redirect traffic.

These police could have upheld their duty as public servants by assisting both protesters and commuters alike, but instead chose to act violently. If the pepper spray wasn’t the SPD’s “preferred outcome,” they wouldn’t have used it. Let’s stop pretending they’re not at fault for their actions. The police had a choice, and they chose to act as violent thugs.

The police involved in the incident need to be fired. And if it happens again, those police need to be fired. And this needs to continue until Seattle has a police department willing to protect the public instead of attack the public.

Comment from Joe
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Words are great Mayor. How about some action.

1) A citizens review board for the police, something with real teeth.

2) What instructions have you gotten from either any federal agency or from any of the down town business groups ? With regards to the Seattle Occupy movement .

make it more then words.
I heard a lot of nice words at the City Council meeting Monday


Comment from Arif Vega
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I appreciate your working towards making amends.

I would however like to see you more involved in this process. You put us in harms way while we are doing your job. That is not right.

Comment from Daryl Cummings
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm

If any group wishes to express their view in a peaceful manner that is their right. Their obligation is to make sure their group is peaceful and abides by the laws. It is a two-way street along with rights come responsibility. Clearly that hasn’t been the Occupy Movements strength so far.

Comment from Sergey Solyanik
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Pepper spraying citizens is inexcusable. Actions like this seriously undermine citizen’s trust in the police and Seattle’s political leadership.

The officers who did it need to be fired. If they are not, their commanders need to be fired. If this does not happen, then Chief of Police needs to go. And if neither of this happens, Mayor, then, franky, it’s you.

Comment from Pamela Wheat
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Let’s recap, shall we?

* Reviewing with our officers the deployment of pepper spray last night

Review *What*, Mayor McGinn? The officers were there, they know precisely what they did, and why. Review so you can all have a good laugh (AGAIN) about it? Ridiculous.

• Developing a procedure to ensure appropriate commanders are on the ground at these kinds of events.

It is TERRIFYING to me, as a resident of Seattle, that there is not already a “procedure” in place. Is the city and the SPD so backward-facing that they don’t already have protocol for events? It’s not like people have never protested in this city before, or we never hold “events” here.

You have a tremendous amount to answer for. WHAT IS THE CURRENT PROTOCOL, McGINN??? Have the police violated it? Or does the contingency plan include hosing down old women and priests with chemical weapons???


• Making sure that we have appropriate levels of police resources at protest events.

Appropriate levels of police resources? There is ZERO reason for men with guns and chemical weapons to face off against non-violent protesters. Zero. I recommend you send a few traffic cops to mind the intersections, and leave it at that.

Last week there were more police than protesters around the Chase bank in the University District, at what I can only imagine is an astronomical cost to Seattle taxpayers.

Whom do you serve and protect, SPD?

Enjoy the rest of your term, Mayor McGinn, spending taxpayers’ money to assault old ladies, pregnant teens, and members of the clergy.

Your words of “support” ring as hollow as the vacant space between your ears.

Comment from Evan Cox
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Mayor McGinn,

First off, I want to thank you for reviewing the events of last nights police response to protesters. I expect that you’ll be thorough in your inquest.

As you know their are grandmothers and children in addition to virtually every other age group, race, religion, culture, social and economic status participating in this democratic expression. As part of a global calling to end economic disparity and promote the very equality in pursuit of happiness instilled in me by the United States Constitution I ask you to hold the Seattle Police Dpt. and if applicable policy accountable for these actions. Please understand that violence begets violence and that the police have an obligation to maintain the peace; they mustn’t be the instigators of violence.

While I cannot speak for the movement I don’t believe the citizens of Seattle, WA and beyond are going to be prevented from having their voices heard and expressing their discontent regardless of the level of escalation between police and protestors. I implore you to send a clear message to the SPD and our community that The City of Seattle supports it’s citizen’s and all people’s right to protest an injustice.

Thank You, Evan Cox

Comment from John Nelson
Time November 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I don’t live in Seattle, but I saw the news. I can’t vote for you or against you Mr. Mayor. But I can be ashamed of you. Please take action against the brutal behavior. The world is watching.

Comment from Barnaby Hoit
Time November 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

“That includes ensuring that everyone participating in their protests understands the importance of nonviolence.”

How does violet police repression of these peaceful protests further the understanding of the importance of nonviolence? So far, all the significant violence has been towards the occupy protestors, not by them. Your statement reads as a sly attempt to imply that this was the protesters’ fault for not adhering to nonviolence.

If you are sincere in your advocacy of non-violence, you will see that officers who assaulted the protesters are disciplined.

At this point, I will be voting for someone else next election. You might be able to regain my support, but it will take sincere work, and accepting responsibility for these failures. It is the City, you as mayor, and the police department as an institution, that has to regain lost credibility and respect.


Comment from Keith Ramsey
Time November 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Occupy Seattle may have engaged in disorderly conduct by marching in the street without a permit. “Disorderly” is NOT violent! The use of pepper spray is not a necessary use of force against non-violent (even if disorderly) protesters, it is therefore not justified. The officers unnecessarily using chemical weapons against non-violent civilians are guilty of excessive use of force and must be prosecuted accordingly.

Comment from Stephen Bangs
Time November 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Once again, Seattle police are giving the city a black eye, locally and nationally. Just look at the image of an 84-year-old woman after she had been pepper-sprayed by police, on the New York Times website. This is not an isolated incident. It’s clear that the way police are using this tool to control crowds is indiscriminate and smacks of a police state. For better or worse, the onus of justifying their actions is on the police now, not the protesters. Police actions must clearly demonstrate restraint. FYI, I have lived in Seattle over 30 years and have never been as concerned about police behavior as I am now. Please insist that police exercise restraint!!!

Comment from Michael Moss
Time November 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Shame on you, Mayor McGinn, and the ‘big men’ of the Seattle PD for acting without conscience. You should fire the SPD chief and any officers involved. There is no defense for pepper spraying a priest, a pregnant teen and an 84 y.o. woman. If you know her then you should do justice by her.

Comment from Frumbles
Time November 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm

You sir, are a weenie.

Comment from Joanna
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:06 pm

If spraying haphazardly into a crowd of peaceful protesters was not SPD’s preferred outcome, why did they do it anyway, with smiles on their faces no less?

Sorry mayor, but if you want Occupy to work with you and stop seeing you as the enemy, you need to call off your dogs.

Comment from Tom Joad
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Now Tom said “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I’ll be there
Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you’ll see me.”

Comment from Rev Aaron Elijah Colyer
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm

was there last night from the corner of 5th and Wall St until the Occupy Marched back to SCCC. I dont have video on my phone, but witnessed fice officers on bikes, after the portestors rounded the corner onto 5th and Battery, laughing about how hard they slammed this one guy to the ground. I was appalled at such unproffesional behavior. I might expect that from untrained, unorganized, jobless and dirty hippies, but not from people who are suppossed to be highly trained and professional police officers. I will say that everything I say from protesters was peacful and non-violent up until SPD begin hitting people with their bikes, shoving people, and pepper spraying people. Even after that the demonstrators never engaged in the same kind of actions, except for one person through a water bottle wich did not even hit police. These people are passionate and justifiably angry at a system that has left them homeless, jobless, in slavery to debt and student loans, corporate greed that has gone unpunished. Peaceful portestors are being punished while the real criminals like Jaime Dimon are protected and allowed to walk free. Mayor McGinn I had a lot of faith and trust in you and I supported you when you were elected, but that support is slipping because you say you want to work with Occupy to help find a solution, bu tthen you wont allow us to be anywhere on public land where we can keep our tents up all the time for those who are homeless and have no where else to go during the day. The City Hall permit says that we can not have anyone that is under 18, what about families who are homeless because they have been evicted from their homes? The permit states we must take down our occupation at 7am every morning which defeats the whole purpose of us occupying and our protest. You say you support us but I dont see how and you certainly have not proven it to me. Helps us find solutions to public health and safety instead of ordering parks people to take our porta potties, then saying we have a health and safety issue. Help us find some where we can be “safe”. Perhaps we could be the stewards of a public park or an abandoned school and help take care of the place instead of being a burden on the city. These are real solutions that the city can impliment, not just making half hearted statements for political posturing.

Comment from Jim Groves
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm

You’re the gate keeper, you ordered this heavy handed response to peaceful protest protected by the Constitution. Paint it any way you’d like but it’s your fault for not controlling those that work for you. We watched thuggery at it’s meanest by people sworn to serve and protect.

Comment from Tom Joad
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Careful whatcha wish for fella…
I’m sittin’ downhere in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad

Comment from Rev Aaron Elijah Colyer
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I was there last night from the corner of 5th and Wall St until the Occupy marched back to SCCC. I don’t have video on my phone, but witnessed five officers on bikes, after the protestors rounded the corner onto 5th and Battery, laughing about how hard they slammed this one guy to the ground. I was appalled at such unprofessional behavior. I might expect that from untrained, unorganized, jobless and dirty hippies, but not from people who are supposed to be highly trained and professional police officers. I will say that everything I saw from protesters was peaceful and non-violent up until SPD begin hitting people with their bikes, shoving people, and pepper spraying people. Even after that the demonstrators never engaged in the same kind of actions, except for one person threw a water bottle which did not even hit police. These people are passionate and justifiably angry at a system that has left them homeless, jobless, in slavery to debt and student loans, corporate greed that has gone unpunished. Peaceful protestors’ are being punished while the real criminals like Jaime Dimon are protected and allowed to walk free. Mayor McGinn I had a lot of faith and trust in you and I supported you when you were elected, but that support is slipping because you say you want to work with Occupy to help find a solution, but then you wont allow us to be anywhere on public land where we can keep our tents up all the time for those who are homeless and have no where else to keep their belongings during the day. The City Hall permit says that we can not have anyone that is under 18, what about families who are homeless because they have been evicted from their homes? The permit states we must take down our occupation at 7am every morning which defeats the whole purpose of us occupying and our protest. You say you support us but I don’t see how and you certainly have not proven it to me. Help us find solutions to public health and safety “issues” instead of ordering parks people to take our porta potties, then saying we have a health and safety issue. Help us find some where we can be “safe”. Perhaps we could be the stewards of a public park or an abandoned school and help take care of the place instead of being a burden on the city. These are real solutions that the city can implement instead of just making half hearted statements for political posturing.

Comment from Steve Barta
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:20 pm

“Pepper spray was deployed only against subjects who were either refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers,” said Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel

When did it become policy to assault citizens who are not posing an immediate risk to humans, animals or even property? I don’t know how SPD defines ‘assaultive behavior’ (I’m really loving all the new buzz words the anti-protest movement has been finding), but I’m pretty sure there’s no need to assault a peaceful protester.

I can’t actually find an online link to the SPD force policy, though the 2006-2009 report says the focus since 2007 has been de-escallation.

Comment from Bill
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Nice Mr. Mayor, you ignore weeks and months of Police tormenting and sometimes torturing occupiers in the dead of night, and now all of sudden you have serious concerns. Sucks when you are now a NATIONAL embarrassment eh?

And Aaron, sorry your commute got messed up. Hopefully your children will be more forgiving when they realize where your support was when their future was being stolen. The future is right now and each and every one of you need to ask yourselves one very important question; “Am I a rebel … or a slave.”

Comment from dougnielson
Time November 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Dear Mike McGinn,
How about offering yourself up as a human shield to protect free speech. Possibly you are not getting the picture sitting in your office.

Comment from Robert
Time November 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm

I’m truly disgusted with the response from the mayor. I hope, when you need the police the most, they aren’t available for you, or they don’t feel that it’s important to protect the rule of law.

The protesters were met by police, they were given a set of instructions, and they chose to disobey those instructions. Pepper spray exists because it’s non-lethal force.

If you’re not going to back their ability to enforce, then why have them out there. What a shameful, pandering response by the Seattle Mayor. :(

Comment from Joshua
Time November 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm

The actions by the SPD to literally hose down people with pepper spray is UNFORGIVABLE. The Police chief should step down IMMEDIATELY.

Comment from Alex
Time November 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Mayor McGinn,
While I appreciate your office taking the time to compose this response, it would nice to see some action. This is our police department. You are the Mayor of the city. How can City Council and the Mayor’s Office claim to support Occupy Seattle, while the police department beat and spray them into submission? Are they an independent branch of city government?

Perhaps it’s time to put the officer(s) in charge of both these situations on-leave until further review. The message to SPD must be clear – you cannot use chemical agents on a crowd of peaceful protestors engaging in civil disobedience. It just isn’t right.

Comment from Victoria Clearwater
Time November 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Mr. Mayor, I can not abide by the SPD’s behavior. Video and reporting of what happened here is nationwide, if not worldwide, and it’s devestating for those of us who live here. If you believe in the this movement, as I do, then you must take *action* – the Chief of Police must go. Not just for this most recent incident, but for horrific behavior since the beginning of it. My 17 year old son was pepper sprayed to weeks ago and suffered buring for days. He was just standing there and tried to get away when he saw what was happening. It’s clear you can not rely on the SPD to “to exercise extraordinary judgment and restraint in tough circumstances”. You must ACT. This is shameful. Please.

Comment from Linda Morin
Time November 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I sent you a message on your face book account 3 weeks ago that i saw a harbinger of this event.. The police were just itching for a fight. something to break up.. Lets face it the police hate free speech and assembly., grow up . stop worrying about bike lanes and control the police.. This will be so bad if there is not dialog. force will not prevail.. Think Seattle Spring? with hope for a better tomorrow.. but you cannot deny the premise of these demonstrations. No hope for youth,. more wealth to the few.. give prosperity a chance to all. Stop the police violence.

Comment from Colleen Browne
Time November 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I feel that the police department has gotten completey out of hand with the situation. What happened to Seattle and protests? This is not my city of 50 years. I join those who are horrified. Fix this now.

Comment from AJ
Time November 16, 2011 at 8:13 pm

As a SCCC student, I welcome Occupy Seattle and feel like their presence brings the problems they’re talking about right to the forefront. People don’t realize it, but if it weren’t for OS, those scarce resources and that funding problem with SCCC wouldn’t have been on the public’s radar. The problems that have long plagued Capitol Hill that are wrongly attributed to the core Occupy Seattle movement wouldn’t have been acknowledged except by wary passers-by.

While OS should work hard to solve problems within the camp, citizens should know that these problems did not materialize with Occupy Seattle and, unless the government finally addresses them, they won’t leave with Occupy Seattle.

Occupy Together.

Comment from Gregory P Whitehouse
Time November 16, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Great response Mr. Mayor. Very eloquent, very well put. Now fire the SPD Chief of Police, hold the individual officers responsible, and don’t be surprised if you are not re-elected.

Comment from Marlin Hathaway
Time November 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Ex Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper’s words below. Mike, if you haven’t read this, you need to.

They came from all over, tens of thousands of demonstrators from around the world, protesting the economic and moral pitfalls of globalization. Our mission as members of the Seattle Police Department? To safeguard people and property—in that order. Things went well the first day. We were praised for our friendliness and restraint—though some politicians were apoplectic at our refusal to make mass arrests for the actions of a few.
About the Author
Norm Stamper
Norm Stamper was chief of the Seattle Police Department during the WTO protests in 1999. He is the author of Breaking…
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Then came day two. Early in the morning, large contingents of demonstrators began to converge at a key downtown intersection. They sat down and refused to budge. Their numbers grew. A labor march would soon add additional thousands to the mix.

“We have to clear the intersection,” said the field commander. “We have to clear the intersection,” the operations commander agreed, from his bunker in the Public Safety Building. Standing alone on the edge of the crowd, I, the chief of police, said to myself, “We have to clear the intersection.”


Because of all the what-ifs. What if a fire breaks out in the Sheraton across the street? What if a woman goes into labor on the seventeenth floor of the hotel? What if a heart patient goes into cardiac arrest in the high-rise on the corner? What if there’s a stabbing, a shooting, a serious-injury traffic accident? How would an aid car, fire engine or police cruiser get through that sea of people? The cop in me supported the decision to clear the intersection. But the chief in me should have vetoed it. And he certainly should have forbidden the indiscriminate use of tear gas to accomplish it, no matter how many warnings we barked through the bullhorn.

My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose. Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went flying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires lighted; and more gas filled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conflict. The “Battle in Seattle,” as the WTO protests and their aftermath came to be known, was a huge setback—for the protesters, my cops, the community.

More than a decade later, the police response to the Occupy movement, most disturbingly visible in Oakland—where scenes resembled a war zone and where a marine remains in serious condition from a police projectile—brings into sharp relief the acute and chronic problems of American law enforcement. Seattle might have served as a cautionary tale, but instead, US police forces have become increasingly militarized, and it’s showing in cities everywhere: the NYPD “white shirt” coating innocent people with pepper spray, the arrests of two student journalists at Occupy Atlanta, the declaration of public property as off-limits and the arrests of protesters for “trespassing.”

The paramilitary bureaucracy and the culture it engenders—a black-and-white world in which police unions serve above all to protect the brotherhood—is worse today than it was in the 1990s. Such agencies inevitably view protesters as the enemy. And young people, poor people and people of color will forever experience the institution as an abusive, militaristic force—not just during demonstrations but every day, in neighborhoods across the country.

Much of the problem is rooted in a rigid command-and-control hierarchy based on the military model. American police forces are beholden to archaic internal systems of authority whose rules emphasize bureaucratic regulations over conduct on the streets. An officer’s hair length, the shine on his shoes and the condition of his car are more important than whether he treats a burglary victim or a sex worker with dignity and respect. In the interest of “discipline,” too many police bosses treat their frontline officers as dependent children, which helps explain why many of them behave more like juvenile delinquents than mature, competent professionals. It also helps to explain why persistent, patterned misconduct, including racism, sexism, homophobia, brutality, perjury and corruption, do not go away, no matter how many blue-ribbon panels are commissioned or how much training is provided.

External political factors are also to blame, such as the continuing madness of the drug war. Last year police arrested 1.6 million nonviolent drug offenders. In New York City alone almost 50,000 people (overwhelmingly black, Latino or poor) were busted for possession of small amounts of marijuana—some of it, we have recently learned, planted by narcotics officers. The counterproductive response to 9/11, in which the federal government began providing military equipment and training even to some of the smallest rural departments, has fueled the militarization of police forces. Everyday policing is characterized by a SWAT mentality, every other 911 call a military mission. What emerges is a picture of a vital public-safety institution perpetually at war with its own people. The tragic results—raids gone bad, wrong houses hit, innocent people and family pets shot and killed by police—are chronicled in Radley Balko’s excellent 2006 report Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

It is ironic that those police officers who are busting up the Occupy protesters are themselves victims of the same social ills the demonstrators are combating: corporate greed; the slackening of essential regulatory systems; and the abject failure of all three branches of government to safeguard civil liberties and to protect, if not provide, basic human needs like health, housing, education and more. With cities and states struggling to balance the budget while continuing to deliver public safety, many cops are finding themselves out of work. And, as many Occupy protesters have pointed out, even as police officers help to safeguard the power and profits of the 1 percent, police officers are part of the 99 percent.

There will always be situations—an armed and barricaded suspect, a man with a knife to his wife’s throat, a school-shooting rampage—that require disciplined, military-like operations. But most of what police are called upon to do, day in and day out, requires patience, diplomacy and interpersonal skills. I’m convinced it is possible to create a smart organizational alternative to the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing. But that will not happen unless, even as we cull “bad apples” from our police forces, we recognize that the barrel itself is rotten.

Assuming the necessity of radical structural reform, how do we proceed? By building a progressive police organization, created by rank-and-file officers, “civilian” employees and community representatives. Such an effort would include plans to flatten hierarchies; create a true citizen review board with investigative and subpoena powers; and ensure community participation in all operations, including policy-making, program development, priority-setting and crisis management. In short, cops and citizens would forge an authentic partnership in policing the city. And because partners do not act unilaterally, they would be compelled to keep each other informed, and to build trust and mutual respect—qualities sorely missing from the current equation.

It will not be easy. In fact, failure is assured if we lack the political will to win the support of police chiefs and their elected bosses, if we are unable to influence or neutralize police unions, if we don’t have the courage to move beyond the endless justifications for maintaining the status quo. But imagine the community and its cops united in the effort to responsibly “police” the Occupy movement. Picture thousands of people gathered to press grievances against their government and the corporations, under the watchful, sympathetic protection of their partners in blue.
Norm Stamper
November 9, 2011 | This article appeared in the November 28, 2011 edition of The Nation.

Comment from Michael
Time November 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm

You are a fraud and a joke. Your response to this matter and the mention of events from more than a decade ago is nothing short of ludicrous. The SPD has been notoriously brutal and short fused. Citizens of Seattle are frequently dying as a result of the SPD, a lack of training, a lack of consideration for human life, and the low standard applied to become a Seattle Police officer.

You share their message and values but you have the SPD out there macing crowds and beating on people? Dorli Rainey is not an exception. She only happened to make it in the media. The dozens of others this happens to are just written off.

You disgust me.

Comment from Russ
Time November 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Wow, way to let the protesters walk all over downtown and blame the police for everything. You are making the same mistake former mayor Schell made, while putting the city at risk for lawsuits.

Comment from Joann Edmonds-Rodgers
Time November 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Mayor McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz,

I hope you watched the footage tonight of SFPD’s handling of an occupy protest in a Bank of America in San Francisco. The SF police stayed calm and disciplined. They peacefully took each protester out, one by one, taking all the time they needed to keep it controlled and peaceful. It was exactly how peaceful protests and civil disobedience should be handled. Over the years I’ve often wondered how much crowd control training SPD gets. It appears to be very little since every time they’re faced with an even mildly antagonistic crowd, they are ill prepared to deal with it and go straight for aggressive escalation. One might even say they appear to panic. I’m tired of the excuses. This city deserves a police force that reflects it’s hospitable and largely peaceful nature. The problems within the SPD need serious addressing NOW, once and for all. Mayor McGinn, I think you would be bettered served making sure your own police force “understands the importance of nonviolence.”

Comment from Larry Williams
Time November 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Everyone needs to count to 10 and go back to being good citizens as well as having a better understanding from those sworn to serve and protect. In those motal words from Los Angeles, years ago, “why can’t we all just get along?” Blessings, Larry

Comment from D Browne
Time November 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Sorry doesn’t cut it. These were reprehensible, illegal violent assaults under color of authority. This has been going on far too long in the SPD, who seem to believe they are above the law. They seek to punish at will for their own gratification. This is sick and perverted and it needs to stop now! People need to be fired, immediately. No one bothered the homeless who used to occupy these areas, but healthy, caring citizens who wish to stand for up for their rights are brutalized.

Comment from Joey B
Time November 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Mr. Mayor, this SPD’s use of pepper spray against non-violent protestors was not an isolated incident. I myself was sprayed outside the Sheration on Nov 2nd on a city sidewalk. Three to four officers sprayed over 20 non-violent protestors including a Seattle Weekly reporter. Here’s the video:

In 1997, Amnesty International had this to say:

“The increasing use of pepper spray by police departments in the US despite conflicting studies into its safety is alarming. While many police departments authorize the spray only if officers face a serious physical threat, we are receiving increasing reports of its misuse — such as against suspects after they were already restrained or against peaceful demonstrators.”

“Amnesty International believes there should be a national review of the use of pepper spray by law enforcement agencies in the USA. Police departments who authorize the spray should also introduce strict guidelines and limitations on its use and observe international human rights standards on the use of force and prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The human rights organization believes that the USA has defied its solemn obligation under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. ”

I call on you to end the SPD’s use of pepper spray in all non-life threatening instances. If somebody is breaking the law they should be arrested, not have their lives put in danger.

Comment from Jeff Vaona
Time November 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Are we again going to have to accept that these and other police officers will not and never be punished for the obscene, appalling, and profoundly cowardly acts committed here in OUR CITY? I am disgusted with the SPD and their incompetence. The respect and honor of those fine officers who sincerely wish to help the community is daily being tarnished by the cowards hiding behind riot shields; beating innocent people up; pepper-spraying students, pregnant women, and octogenarians. And no one is punished! An armed force consistently waging war on un-armed, peaceful protesters. This all makes me and countless others…sick!

Comment from J. Glenn & Barbara Evans
Time November 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I can understand why police officers would not want to display their names because of possible personal retribution, but I see no reason why the administration does not require them to wear a number that can be traced internally and corrective action taken.

Also, I am very upset that some of our finest citizens such a Dorli Rainey and Rev. Lang or anyone else for that matter were so treated. What are the 1% asking for, another French Revolution?
J. Glenn Evans and Barbara Evans

Comment from Kanti
Time November 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Thank you for all that you are doing in our favor Mr. Mayor! Your positive efforts to deal with so many issues do not go unnoticed!

Comment from Chaim Eliyah
Time November 17, 2011 at 12:35 am

Mayor, once again, thank you for your vapid support of the Occupy movement. Honestly, I was touched when I saw you on your bicycle at the Williams candlelight vigil, and I was touched when you visited Occupy Seattle to speak about jobs (what politician wouldn’t?)–but you kicked Occupy out of Westlake, and you have now allowed SPD to cross the line yet again.

Here’s a hint: The Seattle Police Department is not your friend. Every officer I have talked to wants you out. This is because cops have a natural desire to go around killing woodcarvers and pepper-spraying protestors. It’s what they join the force for.

I checked the box next to your name because I saw labor endorsements and the Sierra Club. Do yourself a favor; quit the political grandstanding and stick to your base. This is Seattle. You help us, we’ll help you.

–Disgruntled protestor

Pingback from Seattle Mayor apologizes for police enforcement | Fellowship of the Minds
Time November 17, 2011 at 6:46 am

[...] Mayor Mike McGinn released a statement on Wednesday afternoon after the Occupy Seattle’s encounter with the Seattle Police Tuesday [...]

Comment from Kathryn Beach
Time November 17, 2011 at 7:27 am

I agree with both Steve Hunt and Raphael Block. What needs to happen is for Occupy Everywhere to establish common ground with the police, fire, and other agencies, and for everyone involved to communicate with those who have found workable solutions. Let’s be as inclusive as we can in finding answers. Violence is not acceptable on either side of this equation. Hopefully we can stay focused on the real problems, while using this as a way to embody the world as we wish to create it.

Pingback from Occupy Seattle Baptized in Pepper Spray « Java Colleen's Jitters
Time November 17, 2011 at 7:34 am

[...] did apologize to Dorli Rainey (whom he knows personally) and the others, and I was glad to see his statement on the city website. I have to say, after reading the Mayor’s comments in the Seattle Times article after hearing [...]

Comment from Andrea
Time November 17, 2011 at 7:59 am

This is absolutely inexcusable! Maybe the SPD needs a reminder that the crowd that they’re pepper spraying — which included elderly people, a pregnant woman, and a priest in full regalia — is the same tax paying crowd that pays their salaries?

The biggest problem that I have with this, is that every account I’ve heard makes it sound as though the protesters were COMPLYING with the SPD’s instructions to move, but they were blocked from doing so by the SPD and then treated with overt aggression. So basically, the protesters were set up by the police so that the police would have an excuse to use force.

I fail to see the “extraordinary judgment and restraint” that you’ve described, and I urge you and the SPD to handle these non violent protesters… well, non violently.

Comment from Joey B
Time November 17, 2011 at 9:05 am

Seattle is becoming a world-wide joke. Your apology is as well.

Comment from Mia
Time November 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

If you were REALLY “sorry” this happened, you’d fire the police chief responsible for ordering it!!

Comment from Mark Drummond
Time November 17, 2011 at 10:55 am

Seattle needs an independent, elected civilian review board that has the power to investigate the police and reprimand members of the force that are found to have broken protocol or our laws. Police officers are not above the law. Just because they have the uniform on does not mean they can get away with blatant brutality towards the citizenry. I agree with Rafael, the city and the SPD need to be able to anticipate and plan rather than react and apologize.

Comment from Elizabeth Rurey
Time November 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

We must remember that this is a government that was designed to be “Of the people, for the people, by the people.” It has become a society of Of the corporations, for the corporations, by the corporations. The public is aware that the FBI and so called Home Land Security are involved in shutting down these movements. So, those people who are supposed to protect our right to protest are bought as well?

Comment from Cindy
Time November 17, 2011 at 11:16 am

Aaron, are you aware that Occupy Seattle was INVITED to SCCC?

Comment from Joanna
Time November 17, 2011 at 11:20 am

I second Robert Williams’ comment. Fire Diaz, he is nothing but trouble. I will also not be voting for you.

Comment from J. Glenn & Barbara Evans
Time November 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Thank you for responding. Now Seattle Finest are known nationally. We recognize that tensions are rising and the SPD fears being “injured.” Geez!! They are well armed and shielded. The only violence or “rioting” we’ve seen to date is that by the SPD. We remember well the WTO, Mardi Gras and the 2004 LEIU conference. Virtually all injuries and killings at these events are done by the SPD. What about the unarmed, unshielded peaceful citizens who make up the bulk of the protest movements?

The use of the term “frustration” to describe the current economic situation is weak. There is a war going on against the citizens of this nation and there is a national effort to prevent or control the citizens in exercising their Constitutional 1st Amendment rights. What we should be seeing is a national effort by mayors, city and regional councils and state governments to put pressure on Congress. Our letters and emails go nowhere. Congress and the White House don’t give a damn. We will either stand together or go down together. Enough is enough.

Comment from Ben
Time November 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Congratulations Mr. Mayor. You have have just joined the cadre of petty dictators around the world who turn the military against their own citizens.

Comment from Chris Allen
Time November 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Dear Mr. Mayor
We’ve spoken together on the sidelines watching our children play over the years and I know you are a good man. You now have a singularly unique opportunity to take your vision of the world you want for your children to the next level. You sir, as mayor of a major American city, can tip the “domino” of corporate domination. You know what steps you have the power to take, please do us proud and take them!
Thank you,

Pingback from In Portland, Occupy activists vow to ‘shut down the banks’ | Occupy News
Time November 17, 2011 at 11:11 pm

[...] had said in a statement that he has ordered the Police Department to review the incidents and make sure that [...]

Comment from Loren
Time November 18, 2011 at 8:31 am

There is no need for pepper spray. Either have just cause to arrest or let them protest. Get rid of the pepper spray. Now.

Comment from Sharon
Time November 18, 2011 at 9:37 am

Mayor McGinn, Our family normally comes to Seattle the day after Thanksgiving for the parade and one other day during the holiday season to enjoy a live performance, have dinner, shop, etc. This year, we have out-of-state visitors joining us with a minor child. We will not come into the City till we feel our safety is of more concern to you than pandering to the Occupy anarchists. Best regards, Sharon

Comment from Damiana
Time November 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Dear Mr. Mayor–

Thanks for your initial response. I look forward to the real one, where you explain that the officers who violated SPD policy (using violence and chemical weapons in a non-violent situation, when the policy on chemical weapons clearly reserves them for situations when lethal force would otherwise have to be used) are undergoing external independent review and will be appropriately disciplined and retrained, that the entire SPD is undergoing crowd-control training in APPROPRIATE techniques, that the city is working closely with OWS to address all concerns (like, say, finding central public space they can use 24/7, assigning a couple beat cops to work with the encampment, and connecting them with resources for dealing with sanitation issues). I look forward to your transparency on what the DHS is requesting and suggesting, your announcement that the city will be moving all its accounts to local banks and credit unions, and your statement that you will not allow Seattle to become North Oakland.

The buck stops with you, Mr. Mayor. It’s time to put on the big boy pants and live your principles, even if it does make DHS and the big banks mad at you. You do all that, you won’t need to worry about them, ’cause we’ll have your back.

Comment from Kenn Space
Time November 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Dear Mr. President and Mayor McGinn,

There is a very large demonstration being planned for January 20th, 2012 at the Federal Courthouse at 700 Stewart street in Seattle, – and at every Federal Courthouse in the United States.. There are many groups organizing and “gearing up” for this demonstration. I will be promoting and advertising it. This “occupy movement” has only just begun. I suggest you figure out your plan of action and response; The rules of engagement; – Need a way better understanding of what is going on; – than during WTO in Seattle. Treat the people like they are the enemy, and they will become it.

I am hoping that what I say makes sense to someone, and they will start writing and treating this “occupy movement” with the respect it is going to earn. Did you see where Israel had a demonstration of 500,000 people demanding concessions from their government? It worked. Listen to Martin Luther King, his words are as meaningful today as they were then. This struggle for economic justice and government control will be won by the people! (It is very old..).

I feel the occupy movement does have a basic underlying message; Stop letting money decide political elections; And regulate corporate lobbying (and all lobbying) making it a public forum. Right now lobbying is mostly two old white guys sitting across from each other in an office. “They” have probably worked with each other or went to the same school; And “they” have promised you a job when you get out of politics, — tripling your present salary!. The “lobbyist” used to be a “politician”, it worked for him!. Who owns who? – That’s a “Person-hood”.

I lived in the Glenn Hotel in downtown Seattle when the WTO protests happened. It happened at my front door. I was a part of it, promoting it, and involved in it. There is something going on, and I am going to be a part of it again. I have helped organize and promote protests in Bellevue, Olympia, and Seattle Washington; another big one is coming. I feel it will be a “WTO” sized protest in multiple cities.

“I” was at the WTO protests in Seattle Washington, (with thousands of “other” really awesome “people”, and a few “freaks”) when a bunch of “anarchists” started busting windows with crowbars. We surrounded them, and they got in a circle with their crowbars. I tried to get the “Seattle police” to come arrest “these anarchists”, that were only fifty feet away and threatening violence and breaking windows… The “Seattle police” would not budge from their “police line”, making all of “us” the “enemy”…. (There were thousands of “union” and “other” people sitting and standing in the street, – it was a relatively peaceful protest until the windows started breaking…). ” I” am not the “enemy”.

I will be in Seattle at 700 Stewart street at the Federal courthouse January 20th, 2012!!! I know we can do this better than last time.

The Corporate Occupation of the United States

Our corporate controlled government (through corporate lobbying and election funding ) is out of the peoples control. People want government control back. Makes sense to me… I feel US corporate capitalism (corporatism) is a type of economic fascism: To have a corporate being where the chain of command eventually muddles all responsibility to any human being. These corporate beings are running your life, and controlling your government. (Enough to really make an individual mad and protest.) In reality, the corporate being does not exist, and when it comes to face it’s corporate responsibility, it is a piece of paper. (Or a CEO saying; “I do not recall that”, “I did not have that information”, “that was not my responsibility, I was running the company, and not just that department”,,, and on and on. It has bred a corporate culture of abuse, because they keep getting away with it..), Corporate person-hood is plain and simply wrong: A corporation is not a human being. Restore capitalism to individual responsible chains of command, or this struggle will be lost.

Please Sign the petition to amend the Constitution for revoking corporate personhood at:

(I feel January 20th, 2012: will be a bigger day in US history than WTO in Seattle. The battle continues, rage against the machine is real.)

January 20, 2012 – Move to Amend Occupies the Courts!

Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark this date — Occupy the Courts — a one day occupation on Friday January 20, 2012, of the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States and as many of the 89 U.S. District Court Buildings as we can. (I am inspired by Doctor Martin Luther King who said; “a true revolution of values”, … “there comes a time when silence is betrayal”., “people are not gonna be silenced”.). Move to Amend will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.

It’s Time to GET MONEY OUT of politics
Bailouts. War. Unemployment. Our government is bought, and we’re angry. Now, we’re turning our anger into positive action. By signing this petition, you are joining our campaign to get money out of politics. Our politicians won’t do this. But we will. We will become an unrelenting, massive organized wave advocating a Constitutional amendment to get money out of politics.

Please sign the petition!


My friend and I put on a protest in Olympia for World Can’t Wait Oct. 5, 2006 at the capitol. Here are some photos…

I also coordinated and promoted a protest in Bellevue when Bush was there.

Happy to say both worked out without arrest, injury or property damage! I worked with the Washington State Patrol in Olympia, and Bellevue Police beforehand, and we pretty much understood the rules of engagement. Medina police were not good partners..

Comment from Kenn Space
Time November 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Occupy The Courts – January 20th, 2012

There is a meeting Saturday December 3rd, 2011, from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm at the Capitol Hill library branch at 425 Harvard Ave. E., in Seattle. This meeting is for the demonstration being planned January 20th, 2012; at the Federal Courthouse at 700 Stewart street in Seattle. ( People and organizations involved, permits, porta potties, promotion, organizing, staging, sound, event speakers, entertainment, first aid, water, and stuff.)..The meeting room is reserved and holds 50 people and I would love to fill it up! Please inform interested people and organizations!) (This event is not sponsored by the Seattle public Library. )

I have done this before and want to progress this demonstration, and the reform of our government. (I have done the permits, porta potties and stuff before, but will be looking for someone who lives in Seattle to do this one. It will make more sense to elected officials that a “constituent” Seattle citizen is doing this. I will help pay for things but probably cannot afford to do it all.).

Please help distribute this information to interested groups and people. I feel the unions, democratic party, republican party, churches, student groups, and “others” need to be informed this is happening. Please help communicate this meeting and demonstration in Seattle! If you can get this event posted to any community events calendars – that would help!

This post explains my feelings more:

Thank YOU,

Kenn Dzaman (Kenn Space)

(I have also let as many Washington State lawmakers, the President, and many “others”, and the Seattle Police and Washington State Patrol know; That a demonstration is happening January 20th, 2012 at 700 Stewart Street in downtown Seattle. As much as I can make it, it will be peaceful.).

Capitol Hill Branch
425 Harvard Ave. E.

Comment from Kenn Space
Time November 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Dear Mayor McGinn,

Did you see were the retired Police Chief of Philadelphia got arrested at occupy NY? He called the NY City police; “‘obnoxious, arrogant and ignorant'”. Now the NYC Police and the Seattle Police have something in common! Please get your officers to respect people and knock off the pepper spay free for all. This occupation movement has just begun, and if the City of Seattle and their police treat them as they have, you are setting up a terrible mess.


Comment from Mike Smith
Time November 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I have been and continue to be one of your supporters. I personally know Dorli Rainey and the Reverend Rich Lang, who was also pepper sprayed on Tuesday. I’ve lived downtown at the Pike Market since before the WTO police riots. I vote and I pay attention.

I have never known or heard of anyone being hurt by protestors. It is ALWAYS the “overly aggressive enforcement” that threatens or harms the public’s safety. And the police do it repeatedly, particularly against nonviolent protestors, often while turning a blind eye to agitators and much more serious law breakers.

You reminding protesters that they need to understand “the importance of nonviolence,” is an insult.

My friends were assaulted in public, and you know who did it. Advising the wrong people and talking nice is not what is called for right now.

Step up, Mayor McGinn. I want to keep believing in you.

Comment from N. McClain
Time November 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I’ve been at a few protests myself – in Albany, NY and in Washington, DC, among other cities.

It seems that ANY protest is very difficult to contain both from within and from the outside. The Albany protest was about budget cuts to our state universities, yet minority groups co-opted the event for their own purposes and muddled the message. In DC, the protest was pro-Amnesty International, but the Young Communists of America planted themselves front and center.

Rogue wildcards join in with their own agendas or naive “anarchists” decide to take extreme measures.

The fear of mass panic is very real and very palpable both to those involved, and those trying to contain, a protest.

In fact, anyone who has been to a punk or metal concert knows how insane a rowdy group can become up front in the “mosh pit”. It is downright scary when you are physically uprooted and swayed by hundreds or thousands of bodies against your will.

I recently drove home through downtown around 6:30 and was suddenly surrounded by protesters swarming the street (6th Ave.) My car became an island and I was trapped for about 15 minutes as the people just chanted and marched by us. My preschooler became very frightened so I told her to wave to the protestors, and they waved back.

I happen to support most of what Occupy stands for, but even so, I was not pleased to be forced into the middle of it, completely no warning.

Also – it hit me that if ANYTHING went south, I’d be stuck there with my preschooler and would either have to abandon my car or…I wasn’t even sure what I would do. If shots were fired or tear gas was thrown – I wouldn’t have time or be able to take off my seat belt and remove my daughter from her carseat behind me in order to escape.

For some reason, the street was NOT blocked off – no signage anywhere. We had heard some of the chanting in the background and I had assumed the protestors were in the square/park where they usually are, contained in one place, not moving through.

Of course, it may seem irrational to panic, but that’s what happens when you are in a crowd and get swept up in it. I was irritated that the agenda was being “forced” upon us – in that there was a lot of shaking signs right at us and waving peace hand gestures into our faces, plus some were smacking the car, etc.

I thought to myself: I already AGREE with you, so you are wasting your time here, but you’re also putting me in a position where if we were having an emergency or my daughter suddenly needed to use the bathroom, I would be trapped.

On the other hand, I though to myself, if I DIDN’T agree – this display would do NOTHING to convince me.

We need useful, strategic tasks to put the point across. I am moving to a credit union (BECU) from B of A, for instance. That is a GREAT way to make a stand, even if the big banks don’t seem to care that us small potatoes are leaving.

Anyway – after the crowd moved on, one lone police officer on a bike zipped by me and gave me the “I don’t know” shoulder scrunch/smirk.

I thought it was illegal to jaywalk – I guess filling up an avenue and walking against traffic is OK? Odd.

Comment from Greg Smith
Time November 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

God forbid the protestors “violently” link arms. That will likely unleash the dogs of hell, though I’m sure you’ll be appropriately discomfited after-the-fact.

Let’s be honest. You’re in a tough spot. You don’t want to alienate the Police Department and you don’t want to alienate the Seattle power brokers who just want these protestors to go away. We get that.

But, like it or not, you’re the mayor of a major city at an unprecedented point in our history. Not since the 1920’s has so much power and wealth been concentrated in so few hands. Our police force is shockingly militarized. The federal DHS encourages a mindset that equates citizen civil disobedience with terrorism. Many police officers have gotten their initial training in Iraq and Afghanistan and have developed an “act first, think later” approach to perceived “threats.”

This is the reality of 2011, and YOU have to decide if you’re committed to maintaining the current inequities and injustices of the status quo OR if you’re committed to facilitating the transition to a more just society.

If the latter, then you MUST rein in the violent excesses of the SPD. That means investigations, suspensions, firings and prosecutions where warranted. More “training” doesn’t cut it if there are no consequences for ignoring that training.

You KNOW this. You also know that the nation’s current course is unsustainable. Hopefully, that profoundly needed change in direction will come about peacefully.

This is your moment in history, Mr. Mayor. Ten, twenty years from now your children and grandchildren will be living with the legacy of your actions today. What role will you have played during these turbulent times?

Comment from Nate
Time November 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I think most of you believe any use of force by police is automatically excessive. If someone is shot, they should have beed Tased. Tased and they should have been maced. Maced and they should have been handed daisies and sent on their way. Sometimes force is required by police. I only saw mace being used when items were being thrown at the police line, so it was appropriate.

Comment from Thomas
Time November 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

This is about as tepid and flaccid as what I’d expect from the mayor who has himself and his bicycle chauffeured (discreetly, up the road) to public events in a Suburban.

Comment from Screwed Again
Time November 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Mr. Mayor,

You should set an example for the Chief of Police and step down. You, as the overall head of the city, should take whole responsibility for the Police’s actions – after all, you profess to speak for the whole city when you apologize.

Step down now, Mr. Mayor

Comment from Ann-Marie Stillion
Time November 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Dear Mayor,

By most accounts, including the reporting of the police newsletter on KING5 TV, the police appear to be itching to show that they are the authority over the protesters. We don’t need a crackdown, we need a conversation between your office, the police and the people. The police need to stop acting like they are “controlling” anybody. It is quite obvious to all of us that this is a nonviolent protest.

I am just thankful that no one was hurt at the protest this week.

Seattle must stand for liberty and civil discourse. Aggressive crowd control to manage a few bad actors does not make sense, never did. Stop treating our citizens like they are criminals for putting their shoulders against the wheels of injustice in our society.

Thank you for all your efforts and to the police who have acted thoughtfully.

Take care of people first, that is a very important message from this movement.

Comment from David Lauri
Time November 19, 2011 at 9:18 am

There’s a simple solution for police officers who pepper spray peaceful protestors without cause. These officers who exceed their authority and use pepper spray against peaceful protestors should be pepper sprayed themselves.

Comment from Patricia Malone
Time November 19, 2011 at 11:24 am

I would like to respectfully comment that on Wed Nov 9 I was in the U District for a meeting and there were way too many police in the neighborhood. I do support our police but I thought many of them were rude and it was hard to walk down the sidewalk. I asked on officer why so many police and she refused to answer my question and would only say she was assigned. I am a taxpayer and I do expect to be answered. I was being respectful and I feared maybe there was some reason I should get out of the neighborhood. There was something about the whole situation that made me feel the huge police presence was going to make it more likely that something bad would happen. I am no stranger to the Ave. I lived in an apartment high above the Ave for 8 years and saw everything. We could never get enough safe police protection and were always calling 911, usually for the nightly riots that took place in front of the old Tommy’s Bar which the city did not do enough about at the time. I resent the fact that our tax dollars can’t seem to fund better basic protection in the U District, there are daily robberies and assaults, but we can somehow afford all these riot police. I don’t have the answer but wanted to comment.

Comment from Ann-Marie Stillion
Time November 19, 2011 at 11:56 am

Dear Mayor McGinn,

Update on the subject of pepper spray.

Watch this video of UC Davis students being pepper sprayed.

The police have begun to use pepper spray as a way to limit free speech without due process it appears. I implore you Mayor again. Put a conversation, a real conversation in place in our city to address the occupiers and those who support them in Seattle.

Stop standing up for property over people. Stop standing up for the well off over the poor, students, those asking real and important questions.

It was reported today in @MotherJones that the cop who indiscriminately sprayed the students at UC Davis makes $110,000 a year.

Is this it? Do the police have theirs while the average citizen has little or nothing.?

God help us. What have we become?

Comment from Damiana
Time November 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Mr. Mayor–

According the the article I’ve linked below, Seattle is one of up to 40 cities where the violent police reaction to the Occupy protesters is being coordinated and strategized by a private group, the Police Executive Research Forum.

Mr. Mayor, THIS NEEDS TO STOP NOW. These terrible decisions are driving our city, our nation, toward a black-and-white choice between violent repression or violent revolution.


You are in a unique position. You have the power to stop this here, and to influence other cities toward true peaceful democracy. Please use your power and your position and your bully pulpit to stop the police violence against our citizens.

Comment from Will McEvoy
Time November 20, 2011 at 11:59 am

Maybe you should inform the police that when they put on their riot gear it doesn’t mean it is time for THEM TO START THE RIOT!! How many people have to be hurt and killed by the SPD for a change to happen?

Comment from Noah Skocilich
Time November 20, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Mayor McGinn,

Like most progressives in this city, and like most participants in the Occupy movement, I feel you are basically a good person, and in your heart of hearts, probably a lot more deeply aligned with the Occupy movement than you are willing to say publicly.

The pressures around what you are or are not able so say publicly are understandable, but recent events with police brutality have crossed a line which I do not feel affords neutrality.

There were clear and egregiously violent violations of civil rights perpetrated in plain sight by city employees.

Suffice to say, your phone call to Ms. Rainey notwithstanding, I am deeply disappointing by your failure to take a firm stand on this matter.


Noah Skocilich

Comment from alan gibbs
Time November 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm

What a gaggle of goofballs. If I were to camp out on city land – an illegal endeavor – I would rightly be arrested or at least ordered out under threat of arrest. If I resisted being arrested I might well be peppered, as I should.
Even if I had a real neato moral outrage like say people in the city who are in the country, and thus city, illegally. Would anyone support me as I was hauled off to jail or if I were to be peppered for resisting? i think all you nut jobs know the answer to that. The wimp mayor is simply sucking up to the loud spolied brats to get re-elected because the responsible residents are not destroying public supported property. So rather than uphold the law of the land, McGinn would rather pander to his wacko base. Of course McWuss himself, if he were not currently occupying city hall would probably be occupying some grungy campground himself.

Comment from Michael Ludwig
Time December 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Seattle police are still beating the crap out of peaceful protesters. Who is it they are supposed serve and protect?

Pingback from Seattle mayor “sorry” Occupy Seattle protesters were pepper-sprayed | Occupedia
Time April 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm

[...] whether the police use of force was appropriate to the circumstances,” McGinn said in a statement. “I have seen video and written descriptions of the [...]