(The Center Square) — Five Seattle protesters allege that riot control tactics used by local law enforcement are charging unlawful costs on their First Amendment rights.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington, the group cites a July 25 demonstration around the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct during which 47 protesters were arrested and 59 officers were injured.
Numerous protesters were also injured by, the lawsuit notes, when officers used blast balls and mace after declaring the demonstration a “riot.”
“Washingtonians are trying to exercise their right to protest in the streets of Seattle to demand an end to police brutality,” the lawsuit reads. “But the Seattle Police Department, omnipresent at each protest, wields power and pain on the streets by indiscriminately shooting toxic substances in the air, deploying projectiles at departing protesters, and tossing blast balls into close areas of protesters marching. These tactics make safe protest prohibitive: one needs an exceptional amount of protective gear to enjoy that freedom.”
The lawsuit adds that protesters’ only option for self-defense against police is buying their own body armor and protective equipment, which can cost them hundreds of dollars.
“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 they fund can truly be in the streets,” the lawsuit continues.
The use of tear gas, impact munitions, and other crowd control measures was banned by the Seattle City Council in June prior to it being temporarily blocked by a federal judge in July.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has denounced vandalism and violence in the city coinciding with protests and most recently complained to the Seattle city council in a letter on Monday concerning protests outside her house. No damages were reported.
But in an interview with KUOW in July, Snohomish County public defender Annika Carlsten was one of many legal observers to claim that Seattle police deliberately shot her and her team with blast balls while observing the July 25 protest on the ground.
Washington activist groups have also mounted a lawsuit against Seattle police for alleged excessive use of force during the July 25 protest at the East Precinct.