A group of protesters has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle, claiming the police department’s anti-riot tactics have forced demonstrators to buy prohibitively “expensive” protective gear in order to continue to enjoy their First Amendment rights.
What are the details?
KIRO-TV reported that the suit was filed Monday “on behalf of five protesters who attended the July 25 protest on Capitol Hill that police later declared a riot, seek[ing] an order from a judge to stop the city from using controversial tactics on protesters, including blast balls and pepper spray.”
“Because protestors now must purchase expensive equipment to be assured that they will be able to protest safely,” the filing claims, “the indiscriminate use of weapons by [the Seattle Police Department] implicates equal protection.”
It went to on say that “each of the Plaintiffs was unable to protest for a period of time for want of additional gear necessitated by SPD’s unmitigated and indiscriminate tactics utilized without restraint.”
The plaintiffs further argue that “the continued misuse of war munitions by SPD against civilians turns the streets — a public forum and site of protest — into a pay-to-protest racket where only a privileged few who are wealthy enough or popular enough to crowdsource funds to purchase gear akin to that used by the police department they fund can truly be in the streets.”
Fox News reported that some of the items listed as necessary protest gear “included boots, gloves, helmets and gas masks.”
The Seattle City Council is currently considering plans to slash its police spending by at least 50%, a prospect that was not lost on the plaintiffs who declared, “It is chilling to the bone that this quelling is occurring at the hands of SPD — the agency whose very existence is being challenged, its funding debated this week.”
The Seattle City Attorney’s Office issued a statement to KIRO in reaction to the suit, saying they would look into the claims. The plaintiffs are asking for a judge to order the city to cease using certain “less-lethal weapons to control and suppress demonstrations,” and to pay for the protesters’ costs associated with filing the lawsuit.
Seattle descended into chaos as part of the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in late May, and part of the city became occupied and turned into what was known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.
The police department abandoned its precinct in the area for weeks, leading to delays in responding to calls over several blocks. Multiple people were shot and at least one person was killed during the cop-free CHOP take-over, but police were eventually able to dismantle the encampment, arresting dozens of demonstrators.