Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant believes Seattle Police should block ICE from seizing human beings.
Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant believes Seattle Police should "block ICE from seizing human beings." City of Seattle

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During a rally in support of a detained immigrant today, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant suggested that Seattle Police should take an active role in blocking detentions and deportations of immigrants in the city.

"If we are going to be a sanctuary then we have to be a sanctuary," Sawant told the crowd. "Let's demand that the mayor not use Seattle Police to repress peaceful anti-Trump protests. Let's demand that he use Seattle Police instead to block ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] from seizing human beings."

Tonight, Mayor Ed Murray suggested that Sawant's rhetoric could mislead immigrants about what the city is actually able to do to stop their deportation or detainment.

"The Seattle Police Department and the city cannot stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other federal authorities from conducting raids in our city," Murray said in a statement, "and suggestions that would possibly create violent scenarios would undermine the commitment to peaceful protest called for by so many over the last month. Being dishonest with the communities in our city targeted by the Trump administration is irresponsible and dangerous when our city aims to do everything we can to support them."

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Sawant has long been critical of the Seattle Police Department and has become particularly vocal since Seattle police participated in policing a protest on January 28 at Sea-Tac International Airport against President Donald Trump's travel ban. SPD says its officers did not use force or pepper spray at that protest (officers from other agencies, including Port of Seattle Police, did). But Sawant has argued that SPD shouldn't be deployed to peaceful protests at all.

Her statement today took that a step further, saying not just that officers shouldn't patrol protests but that they should actively resist ICE. Short of that kind of physical altercation, cities cannot stop the federal government from rounding up or deporting immigrants, even when they declare themselves "sanctuaries."

Sawant did not immediately respond to a request for comment. I'll update this post if I hear back.

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