Arm of the law
Arm of the law LESTER BLACK

On Monday afternoon the Seattle Police Department released a timeline of events reported on the police scanner last Saturday, when 10,000 people showed up downtown to mourn the loss of George Floyd and to protest police violence against black people in general.

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In an italicized passage that precedes the timeline, the cops' comms staff is careful to qualify the information as "an initial" and "not comprehensive" timeline of "major events" that reflect "ongoing calls on the police scanner" that "may be inaccurately reported." In other words, the cops have written a poem.

It's not every day that the cops write a collective poem (though I bet we'd live in a much safer place if they did), so how could I not take this opportunity to analyze such a document through a literary lens? After all, they did.

A few notes:

• The poem opens with a concerned citizen stoking fears of antifascist activity infiltrating the noon protest at Westlake. Already, a potential villain has been identified. "Radio called to report a citizen called, stating that Antifa is to gather at Westlake at noon per a Twitter feed. RTCC informed."

• Then, around 2:00, police start alleging "bottles thrown at officers." By 2:40, the police get more specific in their descriptions: "taking glass bottles," suggesting an escalation. Seconds after glass is mentioned, officers start reporting injuries. They claim a dispersal order was given at 3:10 p.m., half an hour after they called for it and 30 minutes after a reporter posted a photo of five flash bangs around 5th and Pine. Patrol cars are first vandalized and then set aflame. Then, "HQ under siege" with people throwing stuff that "smell like accelerants." The night devolves into looting, reckless vandalism. The last store hit before the feed shuts off at midnight? "Carhart," a brand beloved by hipsters and the kinds of people who line the main streets of small towns with guns.

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• But this is not the only collective poem written on Saturday. The Seattle Office of Police Accountability collected 12,000 individual complaints about police conduct from protesters and other witnesses. The top ten complaints, which the OPA will investigate along with the others, include:

Pepper spraying a young girl (Saturday)
Punching a person on the ground who was being arrested (Friday)
Placing a knee on the neck area of two people who had been arrested (Saturday)
Covering up badge numbers
Failing to record law enforcement activity on body-worn video
Pepper spraying peaceful protestors (Saturday)
The use of flashbangs, including causing a significant thumb injury (Saturday)
Failing to secure rifles in the rear of a patrol vehicle (Saturday)
Punching a person on the ground who was being arrested (Sunday)
Officers breaking windows of a Target store (date unknown)

• It's up to media and oversight groups to merge these narratives into somewhat of a cohesive whole. If you were down there on these streets at these times, tell us what you saw.

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