SEATTLE — Frustrated courthouse employees led a march in Seattle on Friday to push for safety at the King County Courthouse.
The rally comes a week after a woman was attacked in a bathroom, but workers say this was hardly the first incident.
“I think there is a strong sense of fear among a lot of employees after hearing news of that incident, but I would reiterate this is not about that one incident," Darrah Hinton with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Association said. "This is about long-standing concerns we’ve had that we’ve raised with the county."
Workers gathered outside the County Administration Building on Fourth Avenue just before noon to talk about the problems around and inside the building.
"We demand you make a commitment to make sure we are safe while we do our jobs," said Superior Court Supervisor Eric Conway through a microphone.
Attorneys, juror and other court employees who have experienced problems throughout the years shared their stories and marched around the courthouse building chanting, "Enough is enough." Many said they don’t feel safe going to work.
"This has been an ongoing problem in the King County government and in this sacred hall of justice, where people, we tell the public, come, this is where you get adoptions and marriages," said Amy Freedheim, who has worked at the courthouse for more than 30 years.
The workers believe the safety issue has impacted the public because they’ve had prospective jurors express fear about going downtown and they worry this could impact their ability to administer justice.
Organizers of the rally said there isn't one solution that they’re pushing for but they want to get the attention of county and city leaders and begin a slate of reforms that make people safer.
“We just feel our concerns have not been heard by the county and we’re tasked with ensuring the safety of the King County community and we’re asking the community to ensure our safety as their employees,” Hinton said.
They've talked about extra security, shuttles to take employees back and forth to bus stops, King Street Station or ferries and escorts for employees who get done after hours.
The county has said it's a struggle to patrol the area around the courthouse because the Seattle Police Department has jurisdiction outside the building. There was some talk about possibly swapping land with the city to give the county control.
In the meantime, a spokesperson for King County Executive Dow Constantine said they are taking action to boost security in the courthouse and other King County buildings including designating some bathrooms as accessible only to employees with badge access, and increasing the availability of employee security escorts.
Constantine's office released the following statement Friday following the rally:
"Last week, an extremely unsettling incident took place at the King County Courthouse and a King County employee was assaulted while at work. Thankfully, that employee is recovering, and the perpetrator was apprehended.
"King County does not condone violence against any employee, and it is unacceptable that this assault took place in one of King County’s buildings. Our goal is always to provide our employees with safe, supportive, and welcoming workspaces because everyone deserves to be able to do their work free of harassment, violence, and fear. No one should ever have to experience what this employee went through.
"We are taking immediate action to make our workplaces safer including boosting security in the courthouse and other King County buildings, designating some bathrooms as accessible only to employees with badge access, and increasing the availability of employee security escorts. We have already begun implementing some of these, and other changes will be put into place in the coming weeks.
"King County takes this matter very seriously and safety at work is always a top priority. We will continue to work across our government and with our partners in labor, community, law enforcement, and business to do everything necessary to provide a work environment where everyone feels safe, supported, and welcome."