(The Center Square) — Washington activist groups want Seattle police held in contempt of court for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of Seattle demonstrators protesting police brutality over the weekend.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, and other groups allege in a motion filed Monday that Seattle shot pepper spray and blast balls indiscriminately into a crowd of protesters when a small number of individuals began damaging nearby buildings.
Seattle police reported Sunday that numerous officers sustained mostly minor injuries.
According to the motion, they claim that the chemical weapons and projectiles used by Seattle police qualified as excessive force, violating protesters’ Fourth and First Amendment rights.
“The violence with which SPD met protestors on Saturday was disproportionate, unconstitutional, and, we believe, in violation of Judge Jones’ preliminary injunction,” ACLU-WA Senior Staff Attorney Molly Tack-Hooper said in a statement. “We are asking the court to take additional precautions to make sure the City follows the injunction and stops violating the civil rights and liberties of those they are sworn to protect.”
"We’ll review the claims, investigate the assertions, and respond accordingly," said Dan Nolte, spokesperson for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
An order from U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in June barred Seattle police from using chemical irritants or projectiles on peaceful demonstrations.
A ban on tear gas, pepper spray, and other crowd control methods was also passed by the Seattle City Council that month.
U.S. District Judge James L. Robart issued a temporary restraining order effectively nullifying the city council’s ban last week.
The restraining order was requested by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which argued the ban prevented police officers from effectively de-escalating situations. It also claimed the ban violated the city of Seattle's consent decree.
The decree is essentially an agreement made between the DOJ and the city following a DOJ investigation which found the Seattle Police Department guilty of using excessive force and biased policing of minorities.
Judge Robart ruled in 2018 that reforms regarding discipline, force, accountability, and community oversight be implemented over a two-year period.
While Robart said last year that the SPD has not met standards for accountability, the city and the DOJ filed a joint motion to remove parts of the decree they were in compliance with such as use-of-force.
Seattle faces an increasing number of lawsuits since local and nationwide protests against police brutality began in May, including a wrongful death lawsuit was filed last week by a mother of a young man killed in the city's former Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone.