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Black Lives Matter group sues over violent Seattle police tactics

Seattle officers have used tear gas, pepper spray, and other less-lethal tactics to break up large crowds.

SEATTLE — A Black Lives Matter group is suing the Seattle Police Department to halt the violent tactics it has used to break up largely peaceful protests in recent days.

ACLU of Washington, the Korematsu Center, and Perkins Coie filed a lawsuit on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County in U.S. District Court on Tuesday. 

Officers have used tear gas, pepper spray and other less-lethal weapons against crowds that have demonstrated against racism and police brutality.

The office of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan responded to the lawsuit on Tuesday in a statement to KING 5 that said, in part, "The Mayor and Chief Best are committed to a thorough and complete review and report of the Seattle Police Department’s response to the protests and have already implemented a series of changes." Scroll below to read the full statement.

RELATED: Seattle council members explore defunding police after calls from protesters

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have apologized to peaceful protesters who were subjected to chemical weapons.  They promised a ban on using one type of tear gas, but officers used it again. 

RELATED: Seattle bans police use of tear gas for 30 days

"These daily demonstrations are fueled by people from all over the city who demand that police stop using excessive force against Black people, and they demand that Seattle dismantle its racist systems of oppression. It is unacceptable that the Seattle Police Department would then respond to these demonstrations with more excessive force, including using tear gas and flashbang grenades," said Livio De La Cruz, board member of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. "Rather than trying to silence these demonstrations, the City and SPD must address the protesters' concerns by focusing on its policies and systems regarding police practices, use of force, and accountability."

On Monday, Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said that while the officers he represents support the community and condemn the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the violence that is occurring outside peaceful protests is "unreasonable." 

Several officers have reportedly been injured during the protests.

There have been calls to defund the police department as well. 

Solan asked what will happen to officers in the field if they can no longer protect themselves or no longer receive proper training for such situations.  

A spokesperson for Mayor Durkan's office released the following statement to KING 5 on Tuesday: 

"The Mayor and Chief Best are committed to a thorough and complete review and report of the Seattle Police Department’s response to the protests and have already implemented a series of changes. 

On June 2, the Mayor met with Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Police Accountability and requested that they thoroughly review actions relating to the protests and the Department’s crowd management policies, practices, training, and actions. Those reviews necessarily must involve the Community Police Commission to ensure community voice is centered. Today’s lawsuit represents another step by the community to hold the City accountable for its response to the recent events. 

It is fitting that it lifts the voices and experiences of Black Lives Matter and longtime civil rights leaders like Sharon Sakamoto. From the onset, the Mayor has been clear that she believes that people are righteously marching to fight systemic racism. The City will protect every individual’s First Amendment right to safely protest their government and demand action. 

The Mayor and Chief Best have acknowledged that the city can and must do better for crowd management."

The mayor's office included the following information with their statement:

On Background:

"Under the previous administration, the Court approved crowd management policies were drafted, revised, and reviewed by the City Council, accountability partners, the Department of Justice, the City Attorney’s Office, and the federal court monitor. But recent events make clear that a renewed robust review is needed. The Mayor met with all three SPD accountability partners this morning and again emphasized that these independent reviews are a priority for her and Chief Best, and critical to showing the strength of the independent SPD accountability structures.  

Not only do people have the right to peacefully protest, it is a historic and critical tool for the people to demand change and show collective solidarity for justice. Indeed, the Mayor has protested and marched many times in the streets of Seattle and in the nation’s capital, including against wars, for civil rights, for the Equal Rights Amendment, for reproductive rights and for full LGBTQ equality. 

Last night’s decision to take down the barricades and support protesters ability to march in Capitol Hill was an important step in the City’s efforts to lead with de-escalation and begin to rebuild community trust."

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