Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian, who is also a nationally-recognized education activist, has reached a $100,000 settlement with the City of Seattle and Seattle Police Department over his pepper-spraying during last year's Martin Luther King Day demonstrations.
Hagopian was on the phone with a family member, when, out of nowhere, Officer Sandra Delafuente began screaming at the crowd and spraying in a side-to-side motion.
"This represents an acknowledgement by the city," said James Bible, Hagopian's attorney, "that there was a critical constitutional violation on MLK Day."
But the city did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. In November, Delafuente was deployed to the frontlines of racial justice protests once again.
Delafuente was to be suspended for one-day without pay, according to a recommendation by the SPD's civilian watchdog, Office of Professional Accountability Director Pierce Murphy, and an internal panel. But police chief Kathleen O'Toole quietly overrided the recommendation, levying an oral reprimand instead. After The Stranger reported on the decision, she defended the choice and called Delafuente a "stellar" officer who was "let down" by commanders.
Hagopian was incensed. "I think that any time officers commit this kind of violation," Bible reiterated today, "the penalty should be more than a simple reprimand. We are concerned about how the City of Seattle chooses to address peaceful protesters."
The settlement represents another victory for protesters who were the subjects of police action that day. Last July, a jury acquitted eight Black Lives Matter protesters who had blocked Highway 99 of charges brought by the city following their arrests.