Seattle councilmember rips ‘brutality of American capitalism’ for endangering ‘peaceful protesters’

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Seattle city councilmember Kshama Sawant decried “the brutality of capitalism” after a judge blocked the city’s ban on police crowd-control tools such as tear gas and pepper spray, declaring that the Friday ruling threatened “peaceful protesters.”

“Rather than ensure that peaceful protestors are kept safe from federal agents, this court ruling reveals the brutality of American capitalism readying its full arsenal of weapons to attempt to violently suppress demonstrations,” said Ms. Sawant in a Saturday press release.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart issued a temporary restraining order against the ordinance passed unanimously last month by the city council, a measure that barred police from using tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, bean bags, flashbangs, ultrasonic cannons, water cannons, and other “less lethal” means to break up crowds.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best warned that the ordinance, which was slated to go into effect Sunday, would leave police with “NO ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large violent crowd,” as she said in a Friday message to businesses and residents.

Seattle has been billed as the first U.S. city to prohibit a wide array of crowd-control methods under the ordinance, which passed June 15 and was sponsored by Ms. Sawant.

She said it was needed “after the city’s police — under the watch of Democratic establishment Mayor Jenny Durkan — had viciously used the weapons repeatedly against the Black Lives Matter protests.”

“Now a federal judge has shamefully ruled that these weapons can continue to be used by Seattle police,” said Ms. Sawant in her Saturday statement. “While the judge says this is temporary, our movement understands this is a serious threat. It is particularly chilling that this comes in tandem with Trump’s decision to send border patrol agents like an occupying army into Seattle.”

Seattle police made 45 arrests after declaring a riot overnight as agitators set trailers on fire, broke windows on cars and businesses, threw rocks and mortar fireworks at police, and blew open an eight-inch hole on the East Precinct wall with an explosive device after breaching a fence line.

“Police deployed less-lethal equipment, including OC spray, blast balls, and 40mm sponge rounds. Officers did not deploy CS (tear) gas,” said the Seattle Police Blotter.

Twenty-one officers were injured in the melee, but Chief Best said she had not seen federal law enforcement at the protest. Before the protest, she said police would not use tear gas.

In her statement, Ms. Sawant called for “continued peaceful resistance.”

“We will need continued peaceful resistance to send the courts a clear message that our movement demands its right to protest without being met by the heavily-armed forces of militarized police prepared and planning to inflict harm,” she said.

In Portland, the hotbed of U.S. protest activity for the past eight weeks, non-violent demonstrators typically begin marching in the early evening, but by 11 p.m., bands of rioters, vandals and looters descend on the Justice Center area, where Department of Homeland Security agents are now protecting federal buildings.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a bill last month banning police use of tear gas except in riot situations.

Last month, Ms. Sawant blamed “capitalism’s brutality” after a deadly shooting in the protester-occupied “autonomous zone.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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