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.
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn