In response to protesters, Seattle council members vow 'inquest' into police budget
City council members plan to introduce bills prohibiting crowd control weapons; 3 are calling for Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign
SEATTLE — Amid ongoing protests against police brutality and killings of Black people, “war zone” actions against demonstrators and calls in some corners for Mayor Jenny Durkan to step down, the Seattle City Council vowed during a briefing Monday to carve into the Police Department’s budget and rethink how to ensure public safety.
Three council members — Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda and Tammy Morales — now are calling on Durkan to resign or consider resigning.
With many condemning the Durkan administration for responding to mostly nonviolent demonstrations with chemical agents, all nine council members indicated they wanted to take steps to demilitarize Seattle police. They seemed particularly united on a desire to outlaw tear gas, discussing the issue the day after that substance was again deployed against a crowd on Capitol Hill.
This is not a movie. It’s not a foreign country. It’s Seattle. Early this morning. As police began to tear gas an entire neighborhood.Posted by Shaun King on Monday, June 8, 2020
“It is absolutely unacceptable to turn one of our densest neighborhoods … into looking like a complete war zone, night after night,” Council President M. Lorena González said.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant said she planned to introduce a bill that would prohibit all crowd control weapons, including tear gas, pepper spray, blast balls, bean bag guns, water cannons and sound-related weapons. A vote on that bill could happen as soon as June 15, she said.
Mosqueda, who chairs the council’s budget committee, meanwhile pledged to lead an “inquest” into the Police Department’s budget. She said that work would begin this week and would respond to “defunding” demands by some protesters that 50% of Seattle’s police spending be redirected to other community needs.
Durkan is preparing to propose midyear budget changes this week as she and the council deal with tax revenue streams that dried up during the city’s coronavirus economic shutdown. In the long run, Seattle’s spending must be reprioritized in a transformational way, Mosqueda said.
“We’re going to take bold action now — rooted in community-of-color demands and Black-led organizations,” she said.
The Police Department’s budget this year is more than $400 million, accounting for more than a quarter of Seattle’s general-funding spending.
All of Mosqueda’s colleagues said they would support a deep dive into police spending and the reallocation of at least some of it, though only Councilmembers Sawant and Morales joined her in committing to cutting the Police Department’s budget by as much as 50%.
Those same three council members are turning up the pressure on Durkan. Sawant issued a statement Saturday calling on the mayor to resign, citing a petition launched by some local Democratic Party leaders Friday that has collected more than 11,000 signatures.
She threatened to press for Durkan’s removal, via council vote.
When asked about Sawant’s statement Sunday, Durkan said she wouldn’t be distracted by a “political ploy.”
Mosqueda added her voice Monday, saying Durkan should in the current moment, “Ask herself if she’s the right leader and resign.” So did Morales, who criticized the mayor for allowing tear gas to be deployed again Sunday night. “Perhaps it’s time for her to consider resigning,” Morales said.
UFCW 21, which represents supermarket workers in Seattle and is one of the area’s largest unions, also called for Durkan to resign Monday.