Judge Orders Seattle to Stop Using Tear Gas During Protests

June 12, 2020 Updated: June 13, 2020

SEATTLE—A U.S. judge on Friday ordered Seattle police to temporarily stop using tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang devices to break up protests.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones sided with a Black Lives Matter group that sued the Seattle Police Department this week to halt the various law enforcement measures it has used to break up protests.

Last weekend, officers used tear gas, pepper spray and other force against crowds of protesters. Jones’ order halts those tactics for two weeks.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have apologized to protesters who were subjected to chemical weapons. But Best has said some demonstrators violently targeted police, throwing objects and ignoring orders to disperse. Both have faced calls to resign, which they have rejected.

The judge said those objecting to the police tactics make a strong case that the indiscriminate use of force is unconstitutional. Jones said weapons like tear gas and pepper spray fail to target “any single agitator or criminal” and they are especially problematic during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

“Because they are indiscriminate, they may even spill into bystanders’ homes or offices as they have done before,” Jones wrote.

Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, “believes the court struck the right balance to protect the fundamental constitutional right to exercise protest, with the need to also ensure public safety,” spokeswoman Kamaria Hightower said in an email.

Durkan also has requested reviews of police actions from the Office of Police Accountability and the city’s inspector general.

This week, demonstrators have turned part of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood into a protest center with speakers, drum circles and Black Lives Matter painted on a street near a police station. Police largely left the station after the chaos last weekend.

Durkan wrote on Twitter that on Friday she visited the so-called autonomous zone.

President Donald Trump has criticized her and Gov. Jay Inslee for not breaking up the occupation by “anarchists” and threatening to take action if they don’t. Both have assailed his comments and say they’re focusing on a peaceful resolution.

Michele Storms, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, said the group was pleased with the judge’s ruling.

The ruling came as massive crowds marched in the rain and some businesses temporarily closed in response to a call from Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County to launch a statewide general strike.

Black Lives Matter organizers have demands for the city, county, and state that include cutting at least $100 million from the Seattle police budget, ending cash bail, and declaring racism a “public health crisis.”

By Lisa Baumann

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.