We've already posted a few accounts and video of Saturday night's melee in Capitol Hill, when police trying to rein in a raucous protest/dance party in the street turned on pepper spray and made six arrests. Police characterized the use of pepper spray as a targeted tactic against certain offenders (the department's policy goal is to use pepper spray only as a last resort or in self defense). But a growing chorus of witnesses suggest cops' accounts may not be entirely accurate. Witnesses say that the Seattle Police Department used excessive force—which jibes with a federal investigation that found Seattle cops using a pattern of excessive force—by turning pepper spray on people who didn't pose any threat to officers or could have been apprehended by other means. Despite two requests today, police and the mayor's office haven't taken the chance to respond to these claims from witnesses.
So here's the account of another witness, Megan Touhey, who says police became "unnecessarily violent" and insulting:
The march/dance party started outside of the Cuff a little before 1 AM—it was a word-of-mouth happening and it was a beautiful thing to see so many people take back the streets. When the Seattle Police Department decided to put an end to our gathering (near the intersection of 14th and Madison), they headed off the march with dozens of squad cars and were dressed in riot gear. No one even had a CHANCE to comply with their demands to get to the sidewalk before they began to use excessive force. I didn't have a CHANCE to move before I was grabbed by my backpack and thrown forward.
When I turned around to look at the officer who grabbed me, I was pushed with a nightstick and told "KEEP MOVING!!" Right in front of me, my friend couldn't protect her face as she was hoisted by BOTH ARMS by two MALE officers and shoved to the ground and called a "stupid dyke," while she was yelling "I'm peaceful, I'm peaceful!"
After we were all on the sidewalk they continued to spray mace. We got the hell out of there as fast as we could—difficult when you have pepper spray in your eyes and nose and throat—and moved down the street to a more neutral location. Once we had some time to get our breathing and eyesight back to normal and calmed down as much as possible, we tried to approach several officers about the process of filing a complaint. Most of them wouldn't even make eye contact with us. It was as though we didn't exist. One male officer told us to file a complaint online; he wasn't going to help us. He then got in a squad car without finishing the interaction and that was that.
Let me tell you, there is nothing more terrifying than being violated, repeatedly—and then ignored, repeatedly—by the very people that are supposed to protect and serve you.
I would hate to see this incident get swept under the rug; I know you all do everything you can to make sure there is coverage of horrible events like this. I obviously can't speak for everyone in the crowd and don't know whether or not any members of the group became violent with/provoked police, but I do know that several officers were absolutely using unnecessary force against me and my friend.
The city's 20/20 policing reform plan specifically calls for using pepper spray as "a self-defense tool, or as a last resort option when all other legal, effective force options have been exhausted." Can the city explain how it used pepper spray in self-defense in this situation, or how this was the last resort and that all other options had been exhausted? The city still hasn't answered that question.