By KAYLA BARTSCH
January 26, 2024 10:23 AM
The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $10 million to settle a nearly three-year-old lawsuit by 50 protesters who claimed they were injured by police who used excessive force during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
City Attorney Ann Davison said the settlement “was the best financial decision for the City considering risk, cost, and insurance,” according to the Seattle Times.
“The case has been a significant drain on the time and resources of the City and would have continued to be so through an estimated three-month trial that was scheduled to begin in May,” she said in a statement, noting the settlement involves no city admission of wrongdoing.
Davison said that in defending the lawsuit, her office reviewed hundreds of interactions between protesters and police, including more than 10,000 videos and more than a million pages of records. The city had argued that protesters “assumed the risk” of being injured by police when they chose to transgress the bounds of peaceful protest, an argument rejected by Judge Sandra Widlan, according to court records.
Karen Koehler, a lawyer representing the protesters, said her clients “were engaged in a First Amendment speech and activity against the very police brutality which they were met with,” according to the Times.
“Historians should review what we collected and write the true story of the shameful behavior of our city against the peaceful protesters,” she said during a news conference at the King County Courthouse. Surrounded by her legal team and several of the protesters she represented, Koehler chastised the city for not admitting fault. “They should have said, ‘We’re sorry that we were punks and brutalized peaceful protesters.’”
The plaintiffs included a woman who had a heart attack when she was struck in the chest by a police department blast ball, a man who was hospitalized in a coma after his arrest, and a veteran who uses a cane and was “gassed and tackled because he didn’t retreat fast enough,” according to the lawyers. They also represented a teenager whose finger was partially blown off by a blast ball and “dozens of others who suffered permanent hearing loss, broken bones, concussion, wounds, bruising and emotional damage,” the lawyers said.
When Donald Was Absent
Federal Judge Rules Trudeau’s Use of Emergencies Act against Covid-Lockdown Protesters Unconstitutional
The Anti-Israel Hooligans Have Lost the Plot
During the summer of 2020, following George Floyd’s killing by police in Minnesota, massive protests and riots broke out across the country, including in Seattle. The city’s police officers used standard techniques to disperse the unruly crowds, including flash-bang grenades, foam-tipped projectiles and blast balls that explode and emit pepper gas. Police say they were under-equipped and under-supported to respond to the crisis.
In 2021, Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan told Fox News, “Morale is not good, and that’s because we don’t have the political support from our elected officials … as we’re seeing officers flee this area, it’s a direct result of that lack of political support.”
Solan said public officials had done an about-face in their support of the police department after Floyd’s death. While Seattle leaders had called the department a “model of reform” prior to Floyd’s death, “these same politicians couldn’t run away from us faster” in the aftermath, he said.
“And that’s not saying that we’re devoid of any kind of fault in the riots post-Floyd due to tactics employed by the department,” Solan said, adding that there were “lessons learned.”
He said that as “hundreds” of Seattle police officers sustained injuries in the riots, elected officials faulted the officers “for being the instigators,” further disheartening members of the force. The department hemorrhaged hundreds of officers as a result.
The violent protests caused tens of millions of dollars in property damage across Seattle. At one point, city leaders required the police department’s then-chief Carmen Best to evacuate her officers from the area and abandon the East Precinct building located within what was known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Zone, or CHOP.
CHOP, which was also called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, was a 16-block area in Seattle taken over, occupied, and ruled by BLM and antifa protesters for several months in 2020. Best told reporters at the time that her officers were unable to respond to emergency calls from CHOP — including rapes, robberies, and “all sorts of violent acts that have been occurring in the area” — because they were not allowed inside the area.
Last year, as a result of a lawsuit, the city was forced to reimburse businesses owners trapped within CHOP for their losses.
According to District Judge Thomas Zilly, the city’s Democratic leaders were negligent in allowing businesses to remain shuttered inside of the anarchical experiment. “Plaintiffs plausibly allege that the city’s actions — encouraging CHOP participants to wall off the area and agreeing to a ‘no response’ zone within and near CHOP’s borders — foreseeably placed plaintiffs in a worse position,” Zilly wrote.
KAYLA BARTSCH is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism. She is a recent graduate of Yale College and a former teaching assistant for Hudson Institute Political Studies.