It was the mayor's press conference. But a crowd of roughly 20 protesters, many of them representing minority coalitions, were there ones dominating the conversation with Mayor Mike McGinn, who was responding to the news that prosecutors won't charge police officer Ian Birk with murder after he shot Native American woodcarver John T. Williams last summer.

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"We want your courage," shouted one woman. "We vote ethical people in your position. Who are the police union? Who are they? Why are they stopping you from telling us [right now] what’s right from wrong?"

Mayor McGinn, Under the Gun (Zing!)
  • Mayor McGinn, Under the Gun (Zing!)
"I know the public finds the lack of action frustrating," McGinn said. "So do I. The laws that govern this issue place greater value on the officer's due process rights, and rights in his job, than the public's expectation that improper use of force will be swiftly and appropriately dealt with."


McGinn acknowledged that delaying the discipline of Birk "erodes public trust and confidence," but stressed that, "we are bound by rules." He said that he's set up a meeting with Williams family to discuss Satterberg's decision.


McGinn also wouldn't comment on whether he thought officer Birk should be fired. "I'm not allowed to answer that question, he is given that last right to be heard," McGinn said. "You will have our decision on Ian Birk within two weeks and you will hold me accountable for that decision.”

But people wanted answers—not assurances that answers would come. They accused the mayor of not having control over SPD. They demanded the mayor condemn Birk's actions, and denounce Police Chief John Diaz and the entire police department. "They're calling you the enemy—why aren't you standing up to them?" said Lonny Peddycord, a Native American activist.

McGinn would only say that procedure must be followed.

When challenged on SPD's documented instances of using force against minorities, McGinn said, "I'm not proud of where we've been, I'm not proud of our history," but then continued to defend Diaz as the man to lead the department.

So, does that mean Diaz is living up to McGinn's expectations? "We have a long way to go to get there, together," is all the mayor would say.

"The process is broke," one man said. "What are you doing to fix it?"

McGinn talked about SPD reviews of officer training, oversight, and mentoring. It wasn't enough.

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"Where's your passion? Where's your anger?" interrupted a woman. McGinn responded that he's focusing on rebuilding faith and trust between the department and Seattle residents—a task that isn't aided by angry denouncements.

"I am deeply sorry for this tragedy, and for the loss of faith between our community and our police force," said McGinn. "I will do all in my power to restore it."

The first major step will be disciplining Birk. The John T. Williams Organizing Committee is holding a rally to protest Satterberg's decision not to charge Birk at 4:00 p.m. today, at City Hall. Another protest is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at the Westlake plaza.

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