“There is no large-scale deployment of personnel to Seattle at this time. As threats warrant, any large-scale use of law enforcement assets will involve close coordination with local law enforcement,” Woltornist stated. “There are no other cities across the country that have the same threats and lack of local law enforcement support as we are experiencing in Portland.”
Earlier this month police cleared the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone after two fatal shootings. A group had occupied several blocks around a park for about two weeks following standoffs and clashes that were part of the nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Prior to Saturday’s protests Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best had announced officers would be armed with pepper spray and other weapons, promising officers would not use tear gas and urging demonstrators to remain peaceful.
“In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence,” Best said.
At an emergency hearing on Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons.
The temporary restraining order halts the law that the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month after confrontations that have largely been peaceful but were occasionally marked by violence, looting and highway shutdowns. The law intended to de-escalate tensions between police and demonstrators was set to take effect on Sunday.
But the U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, successfully argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.