Last Saturday afternoon cops arrested two people during a scuffle near the Cal Anderson Park Shelterhouse, a small rental facility protesters have occupied to distribute food and supplies to the area's homeless population, some of whom suffer with mental health issues.
The Seattle Police Department published their narrative the day after they made arrests, but interviews with protesters and videos circulating on social media reveal a few details the cops neglected to mention.
SPD says a property destruction report near 11th Avenue and East Olive Street ultimately led officers to the Shelterhouse, where they "contacted" the person suspected of busting windows.
During the arrest, cops say "a large crowd surrounded" them and the suspect. "A man who was known to officers from previous contacts began assaulting officers and inciting the crowd," they say, which prompted cops to issue a “Help the Officer” call. Backup arrived "until order was restored."
The suspect "collapsed" on the ground during the arrest, someone called the Fire Department, and eventually the cops wrapped up the suspect in a plastic gurney and handed him over to Fire.
After a trip to Harborview, cops booked the suspect on suspicion of "malicious mischief," and they also booked another protester, a trans man who uses they/them pronouns, on suspicion of felony assault.
A police account of that incident claims the protester "picked up a handful of dirt and small rocks and threw it in the face of Officer [Greg] Gaffney-Bills." The narrative continues, "[Greg] Gaffney-Bills was hit in the face and eyes by the handful of dirt and rocks. Officer Gaffney-Bills sustained a black eye from the incident."
I've requested body cam footage of the incident, and will update this post in six months, or if the department releases the video to the public. I've also asked the department for comment on the arrests, and will update the post if I hear back.
Earlier Saturday morning, before these arrests, Ali, who's been helping to coordinate services at the Shelter Occupation since last week, was trying to make a fruit salad. But police had come by and started "strong-arming us out of there again and telling us to get our shit out," she said. She obliged, and spent the rest of the day transferring food and supplies outside the facility.
The park has technically been closed since June 30, and dozens of cops cleared the Shelterhouse of protesters last Friday. "Fifteen minutes later we were serving coffee and snacks," Ali said, despite the fact that park staff had boarded up the facility from the inside.
Ali said she doesn't know who keeps opening the place, but if it's open she'll keep using the kitchen "because it’s more sanitary for people."
In any event, Ali said the guy cops arrested for "malicious mischief" had been sheltering in the area that day. She said she'd learned he'd recently been released from jail, and that he hadn't been eating, sleeping, drinking, or using the bathroom that day as far as she could tell.
When people saw him "throwing stuff at people on the [Bobby Morris Playfield]," she worried someone would call the cops on someone she thought was in crisis, and so she called REACH and Health One. She said she couldn't reach Health One, and that someone from REACH "showed up and talked to him but never came back."
I've written to both programs for comment and will update this post if I hear back.
When the police showed up to the Shelterhouse after responding to the property damage on 11th and Olive, the protesters started "protecting him," Ali said, fearing that the police might mistreat him.
Ali was in the Shelterhouse when she heard the commotion break out. "I popped the fuck out of there and I ran up and I see them on top of this person who was arrested. One officer turned around to me and said, 'Back up, I’ll tase you,' so I backed up because I didn’t feel like getting tased."
A little later on, after she helped a protester escape the fray, she said a cop told her to "move," pushed her in the chest, and then maced her. "There was nobody around me. [The officer] could have walked around me. It was the worst I've ever been maced," she said.
Video posted to social media by streamer Future Crystals appears to show a protester with a cane telling a cop near the cohort of cops making the arrest to "stop touching people." That person accuses a cop of "touching my friend." A few moments later, they can be heard calling a passing cop "a dusty-ass bitch." Another stream of the incident appears to show that cop pushing the protester after yelling, "Get out of my face!"
This new footage proves definitively that it was Seattle Police who started the physical confrontation yesterday. I just found out that the person they arrested is not only still in jail away from their child, they are being kept in solitary confinement because they are trans. pic.twitter.com/vicyqaCULK
— Spek (@spekulation) August 17, 2020
A scuffle ensues, during which police attempt to arrest the protester they later book on suspicion of assault. Another video posted to social media appears to show a police officer grabbing that person and falling to the ground. Another officer is seen deploying pepper-spray in the general area of the arrest.
During that arrest, the protester the cop pushed seems to crawl toward the other protester, but then a cop who arrives at the scene appears to kick them, which halts their crawl. That officer then draws a taser gun and starts pointing it at people. Another video of the arrest from a different angle shows four cops arresting the protester as they yell out for their 6-year-old daughter, who was nearby.
In a phone interview, that protester, whose name I'm not using because prosecutors haven't yet charged them with anything, said they never assaulted an officer. "I said I couldn’t breathe and my arm was hurting," they said.
Washington court records show no criminal history.
The protester said their arm was still swollen and hurting the day after their release from jail, where they were "thrown in the hole," they said.
A spokesperson from the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention said the jail puts transgender inmates "in restrictive housing until a housing decision is made by the Transgender Review Committee (TRC)" for the "safety and well-being of the individual and others detained in our facility." The TRC meets within 72 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) after an administrator notifies the members of the situation. Since the protester was released Monday morning after the Saturday evening arrest, the TRC didn't get a chance to convene.
Incidentally, the spokesperson at the King County Prosecutor's Office said they reviewed the investigation Sunday morning and determined they wouldn't be seeking bail to hold the protester while they continued reviewing the case. They tried to contact a King County District Court judge and the Seattle Police Department to see if the protester could be released earlier than Monday, but neither responded.
The protester, who lives out of town but who sometimes stays at Mary's Place, said they visited Seattle on Saturday to access services, and to volunteer and hang out with friends at the Shelterhouse. They know some of the protesters from the time they spent at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), where they participated in activities at the art co-op.
The protester with the cane—the one a cop appears to have kicked—said they'd torn their ligament after taking a "hard fall" on a run a couple weeks ago. They've been walking with a cane or a brace ever since.
Five minutes before the altercation they had been chatting with the protester police arrested for assault, and were planning to give them a ride back home. "I know them from CHOP days and being at protests, and they're a really kind person," they said of the protester.
"The cops pushed me, so there was no need for them to arrest the Black person in that situation. There was no need for them to put four cops on top of them. That was pretty sick to me," they added.
The cop who pushed them, they said, had been condescending to them in the past, though granted after they'd been talking shit to the cops. SPD has maintained a near constant watch on the park, and they've "been coming every morning to fuck with our aid station," the protester said.
"The officer who kicked me is the same officer who has stared me down before on the frontlines of protests," they added.
Despite the mess of that day, the protester said they'll keep helping out at the Shelterhouse. "We’re back because we’re providing mutual aid, and we’re not going to be bullied into being selfish and not helping people who still need," they said.
Ali said they need to use the Shelterhouse in particular because "it's unused, it's centrally located, and there's an existing population of people who need help."
She continued: "We’re cooking food for people. We’re accepting donations of clothes and other toiletries for people who are living outside or homeless. And we’re providing a safe space for everyone who doesn’t have anywhere else."