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Hold Seattle Police accountable for attacking Jesse Hagopian

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We the undersigned urge Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole and Mayor Ed Murray to take immediate action to address the assault of Seattle Teacher, Author and Activist Jesse Hagopian by Seattle Police on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

We demand:

1. The immediate disclosure of the identity of the officer who attacked Jesse.
2. SPD should dismiss this officer from the force. This Seattle Police Officer has demonstrated a lack of clear judgement and control and is a danger to public safety. 
3.  An apology from the Seattle Police Department for the unwarranted attacks, arrests and restrictions of movement of Black Lives Matter protesters.

Thousands of Seattle citizens marched in the streets on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in opposition to the racism of law enforcement throughout the United States and to assert that Black Lives Matter. On this day prominent Author, Activist and High School teacher Jesse Hagopian was pepper sprayed by Seattle Police after speaking at a rally that preceded the march. The irony of a Black man, who among other things is a prominent critic of the abuses of the Seattle Police department, being attacked on MLK day, should not be lost on anyone.

Jesse's family was also celebrating his young son's 2nd birthday that day, which prompted him to leave the march early. While walking away from the march, Jesse phoned his mother to arrange a ride home. During the call, Jesse was blasted in the face with pepper spray, in an irrational display of force by an anonymous Seattle Police officer. Video shot at the march clearly shows the attack: http://youtu.be/ntjsAuLn5OM

The incident also clearly violates the Seattle Police Departments own rules on the use and deployment of OC (pepper) spray.

Was Jesse targeted because of his vocal criticism and advocacy? Why did Seattle Police react so violently to a group of peaceful protesters made up of teachers, nurses, small business owners and students? Where is the accountability and oversight on incidents like this?

The Seattle Police Department is under a federal consent decree due to its excessive use of force, especially against people of color. The Department of Justice investigation of the department found that 1 out of 5 incidents of force used by SPD is unconstitutional, among other findings. Mayor Ed Murray campaigned on a platform to reform the Seattle Police Department. In this vein he hired Chief Kathleen O'Toole to assist with these reform efforts. 

Now into his 2nd year in office, we have to wonder what progress has been made. In addition to what happened to Jesse Hagopian, there is the recent case of 70 year old Air Force Veteran William Wingate, who was arrested by police for walking down the street with a golf club he used as a cane. Is it now a crime in Seattle to walk while black, whether that be with a cane or cell phone in hand?

Furthermore, Seattle Police have engaged in a relentless campaign of harassment, brutality and violations of the constitutional rights of Black Lives Matter protesters, since the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, MO not to indict Darren Wilson. To date 41 protesters have been arrested, with many more having withstood the egregious use of pepper-spray, batons, and the use of bicycles as bludgeons against these protesters. Police have restricted the movements of street protesters, in a blatant attempt to prevent protesters from reaching the downtown shopping district during the holiday shopping season, a violation of their First Amendment rights. 

Clearly the video evidence in Hagopian and Wingate cases has been decisive in rallying public outcry. Jesse's prominence in the community further allows his story to be more widely told. For so many, incidents of police misconduct and brutality are not captured on film, and largely go unreported. How many others have been victimized by police without the definitive proof of video evidence? 

We call upon the community to support all victims of police brutality.



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