Posted by on Sep 3, 2018 in Featured

Seattle City Attorney Threatens to Crack Down on ‘Highly Disruptive’ Protests: Organizers Respond

Seattle City Attorney Threatens to Crack Down on ‘Highly Disruptive’ Protests: Organizers Respond

On August 29th 2018, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes issued an editorial in the Seattle Times that signaled his intention to crack down on protests his office deems as highly disruptive.

He states, “A newer form of civil disobedience has been used in Seattle — the lengthy shutting down of public roadways. Immigrant-rights advocates lay down on Second Avenue in downtown Seattle on a June morning and linked their arms through PVC piping (called a “sleeping dragon”). A month prior, others erected large teepees and suspended themselves high above the same roadway in the name of environmental justice. Police officers asked the protesters to leave the roadway multiple times before ultimately making arrests and clearing the streets.”

Action against JPMorgan Chase HQ in Seattle due to their funding of projects like the TransMountain pipeline, KXL pipeline, DAPL and other energy intensive projects.

He further states, “I will tell you that if you undertake protests that unlawfully interfere with other people’s lives and compel the redirection of life-safety resources, then you should be prepared to courageously accept the consequences of your actions.”

Holmes office has already started to crack down on protests he deems highly disruptive and reckless.

According to the Capital Hill Seattle, “The City Attorney’s office this week filed charges against 15 protesters who blocked 2nd Ave in May in action targeting JPMorgan Chase’s financial support of a tar sands oil project and pipeline [the TransMoutain pipeline]. Holmes’s office also reportedly plans to file charges against protesters arrested at another action in June that blocked 2nd Ave in a protest against the Immigration and Custom Enforcement office on the street.”

Protestors block entrance to ICE building in downtown Seattle

Holmes aggressive posturing against activists follows a trend in the Trump era, where according to the Lakota Peoples’ Law Project, “Activists are targeted by law enforcement and treated like terrorists. Currently, 20 states have passed or are considering legislation that would curtail our rights to protest environmental destruction and human rights violations.

Community organizers in Seattle respond

Last Real Indians editor and Mazaska Talks co-founder Matt Remle noted the irony in the timing of Holmes announcement, “I find it ironic that on the day we celebrate the Federal Court of Appeal decision in Canada halting the construction of the TransMountain pipeline, that he [Holmes] issues a statement signaling his intention to aggressively prosecute ‘reckless’ protestors specifically singling out our action against JPMorgan Chase for their financing of the TransMountain pipeline. 

The irony was also not lost that his statement comes on the heels of a major report by the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle that found that found that 94% of the women [Native women in Seattle] who participated in the survey experienced rape or were coerced into sex in their lifetime and that only 8% of cases of a rape victim’s first attack ended in conviction. 

At our actions against JPMorgan Chase, the other Wall Street banks, and these pipelines our Indigenous women are courageously calling out the horrific man camps that accompany these projects and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. 

Perhaps his time as city attorney would be better spent on aggressively targeting the perpetrators of violence against Native women here in Seattle, finical institutions that are funding these earth destroying projects and corporations that are pushing extreme energy intensive projects that violate Native peoples inherent rights.”

Community organizer, and former Seattle Mayoral candidate, Nikkita Oliver states, “Pete Holmes does not care about your First Amendment Right. In fact, if you protest and it causes a disruption to business, people getting to work, or keeps police and firefighters busy, he intends to prosecute you. Pete Holmes sounds a lot like 45. #FauxProgressiveSeattle

Do NOT sanitize history.

The article describes non-violent civil disobedience and invokes well-known figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela. These figures, according to the article, represent the old and respectable form of protest.

Please UNDERSTAND protests (yes even during the Civil Rights era and even those lead by Dr. MLK [Holmes praised MLK, Rosa Parks and others of the civil rights era as ‘good’ protesters. editors note) disrupted everything–police, firefighters, businesses, government, work, transportation, etc. Just because they were “peaceful” does not mean they did not have significant and disruptive impact on all functions of society.

Protestors are not using “new” strategies.

There is nothing new about protestors locking their-selves down, erecting structures, or attaching their-selves to structures. In fact, these are tactics we learned from many of the pillars of civil disobedience elected officials like Pete Holmes or Jenny Durkan will praise for the sacrifice or service on MLK Day or Indigenous Peoples Day.

Furthermore, Pete’s use of the words “protest recklessly” is a perfunctory use of language to justify “law and order” and state repression.

The goal is disruption.

We do NOT protest for spectacle. It is not symbolic. To infer so is to spit on the legacies of Bernie Whitebear, Roberto Maestas, Aaron and Elmer Dixon, Silme Domingo, Gene Viernes, etc.

We protest to make an impact. A part of that impact is disruption to society. I learned this from Dr. MLK, Jr.’s legacy. In a capitalist society built on money, oppression, and privilege we have to disrupt business, power, and entitlement in order drive elected officials towards positive change. Rarely do they change on their own without disruption or political pressure. Rather, what Pete’s statement reveals is that elected(s) attempt to squelch protest with political expediencies.

There is nothing symbolic about taking an arrest at a protest. It is time consuming and costly. It is state repression of our First Amendment Rights. It is actively fighting the State long after the protest ends. And if you are Native, Black or brown the consequences can be far reaching and damaging for life.

To say in this article that a street protest requires a permit flies in the face of the First Amendment. It supports state repression and is inherently oppressive and fascist.

If they do not want police and firefighters tied up at protests, they should stop sending them out as overseers to control and repress the people. Sometimes there are more police than protestors!!

Let the people protest.

Pete writes, “Ask yourself whether you’d really want me, a representative of the government, deciding which causes or underlying messages make a person’s actions immune from prosecution.”

I certainly do not. I also believe and know what history has taught me about civil disobedience and protest. The First Amendment gives people much broader rights than what Pete describes in this article. Not to forget protest and civil disobedience is intended to be disruptive to society and especially disruptive to the government. History has taught us the government often does not do the right thing until the People disrupt it.

What Pete Holmes is saying is that bureaucracy and people getting to work matters more than fighting for much needed social change; matters more than exercising our First Amendment right; matters more than doing the right thing.”