Seattle council members protest after tear gas used on crowd

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©2020 Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times All Rights Reserved

A man drives into the crowd at 11th and Pike, injuring at least one person, before exiting the car and brandishing an apparent firearm, Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Seattle, during protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The man reaching into the car to stop it was injured. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP)

SEATTLE – Just days after Seattle's mayor and police chief promised a month-long moratorium on using a type of tear gas to disperse protesters, the department used it again during an overnight demonstration, bringing severe criticism Monday from City Council members, vows to overhaul the department and calls for the mayor to consider resigning.

Under pressure from councilors, protesters and dozens of other elected leaders who have demanded that officers dial back their tactics, the Seattle Police Department said it would remove barricades near the East Precinct building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where protesters and riot squads have faced off nightly. The department said protesters could march past the building and it would remain staffed to prevent damage.

Council President Lorena Gonzalez and others expressed their frustration with Mayor Jenny Durkan and the police, signaling radical change could be on the way. Gonzalez said the council must think in a “transformational way” about how the city views public safety and funds the police.

“When I hear people say there’s just a few bad apples on the police force, I adamantly disagree with that,” said Council Member Debra Juarez, a former King County judge. “It’s just not a healthy tree. We need to plant a new tree.”

Council member Kshama Sawant had already called for Durkan to resign, and members Teresa Mosqueda and Tammy Morales said Monday the mayor should at least think about it.

“How many people need to write in about being gassed in their own homes? How many people have to be sprayed in the street every night or experience getting hit with flash bombs or rubber bullets?” Mosqueda said during a council briefing. “The mayor should ... ask herself if she is the right leader, and resign.”

In a subsequent interview, Mosqueda said that while she believes the mayor should consider resigning, changing who heads the city is less important than systemic change in its approach to public safety.

As the council's budget chair, Mosqueda announced an inquest into police spending. She said she wants to cut police funding by half and reinvest the money “in communities that we’ve failed,” including in affordable housing and mass transit.