During a March demonstration downtown, a Seattle police officer accused pro-Palestine protester Carmen Woodson of property destruction for slapping a sticker on a McDonald’s sign. The sticker read, “This company helps fund genocide” and “Peace in Palestine,” and it included some images of bloody handprints.

Republican City Attorney Ann Davison’s office pursued prosecution for more than a month before eventually moving to dismiss the case based on proof issues. Even with that dismissal, though, Woodson argued that City prosecutors wasted public time and resources just to humor a cop with a bruised ego.

On the day of the demonstration, Seattle Police Department (SPD) Sergeants Matthew Newsome and Ian Stuart posted up near a McDonald’s on Fourth Avenue near the Space Needle, according to a police report of the incident. A McDonald’s employee spotted the officers and asked them to help move some demonstrators out of the restaurant’s pathway, and they obliged. As Newsome and Stuart continued to stand around, they warned a demonstrator against putting a sticker on the restaurant's sign. That demonstrator argued over the legality of stickering the business but then ultimately walked away. 

L-R: Sergeants Matthew Newsome and Ian Stuart in "action." Carmen Woodson

Then Woodson walked up to the sign. According to the police report, Stuart told Woodson not to sticker the sign, but Woodson looked at him mid-stick and said something to the effect of “it’s too late.” Woodson then walked away. Newsome and Stuart followed her “at a distance” before stopping her at Denny Park, where they told her they planned to charge her with property destruction. After that, the cops returned to the McDonald’s and discovered more stickers on the sign. 

To recommend charges against Woodson, the cops relied on a slightly tortured interpretation of the City’s property destruction ordinance. Under the ordinance, a person commits property destruction when they write, paint, or draw “any inscription, figure or mark” on public or private property. Newsome argued in his police report that Woodson had “marked” the McDonald’s with her sticker. He also ticked two boxes on the police report indicating the crime exhibited elements of bias and involved hate graffiti.

About two months after the demonstration, the City Attorney’s Office charged Woodson with property destruction. During a hearing on June 18, a City prosecutor tried to force Woodson to stay away from the McDonald’s as a condition of her release. Seattle Municipal Court Judge Catherine McDowall denied that request because the City could offer no evidence to back up the need to keep Woodson away from the business. On Tuesday, City prosecutors moved to dismiss the case, acknowledging that the City had no proof Woodson “wrote, painted, or drew as required by the ordinance.” Seems like something they might have wanted to check before filing the case.

Woodson suspects the cops were just retaliating against her for calling them “assholes” and for suggesting that they get paid well enough to spend their time peeling stickers off signs if they didn’t like the look of them. (In the police report, the cops claimed Woodson said a McDonald’s employee could remove the sticker, but Woodson denied that.) 

Moreover, ticking the hate-crime boxes seemed like an abuse of power, as claiming the company supports genocide doesn’t amount to an expression of hate or an incitement of violence against a group based on their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

“I feel like, all-in-all, they should be held accountable for wasting public dollars to do this. It's so aggravating on that front,” Woodson said.