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caption: People protesting for racial justice and against police brutality clash with the Seattle Police Department and SWAT near the intersection of Broadway and East Pine Street on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Seattle. 
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People protesting for racial justice and against police brutality clash with the Seattle Police Department and SWAT near the intersection of Broadway and East Pine Street on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Blog: Ongoing protests for racial justice in the Seattle area (July 13-26)

This post is archived. Read the latest here.

  • The back story: After weeks of protests, Seattle police retreated from the East Precinct at 11th and Pine on Capitol Hill, leaving it empty and boarded up. Protesters began blocking off an area around it on Capitol Hill, first naming it CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone), and then renaming it CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized Protest).
  • Around 5 a.m. Wednesday, July 1, Seattle police began efforts to clear people from the CHOP zone. Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an emergency order to vacate the area.
  • The rallying cry has been to defund the police. Here's what that means.
  • Deaths and injuries: There have been four shootings, resulting in two deaths, that occurred in or near the CHOP. It is unclear whether the shooters have a connection to the protest. On Saturday, July 4, a motorist sped through a protest on Interstate 5, killing Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old demonstrator, and seriously harming Diaz Love, also part of the demonstration.

SUNDAY, JULY 26

Seattle police give update on officer injuries

5 p.m. -- The Seattle Police Department released an update with their perspective on clashes between officers and protesters over the weekend.

Police Saturday used pepper spray and flash bang grenades on people protesting for racial justice. According to the Seattle Police Department's account of events, "Officers were moving protesters away from the East Precinct after they threw an explosive at the building causing structural damage."

Meanwhile, legal observers from Seattle's National Lawyers Guild deployed to monitor the protests released a statement criticizing the police response. They said police "engaged in the indiscriminate use of crowd control munitions against largely peaceful protesters." The legal observers claimed to witness the use of pepper spray, blast balls, rubber bullets and flash bang grenades against protesters and even members of their own team, "all while concealing their badge numbers."

They are asking for Chief Carmen Best to investigate the officer's use of force against legal observers.

The statement from Seattle police states that 59 officers were injured and 47 people arrested.

Protests are continuing this evening.

-- Jill Jackson


SATURDAY, JULY 25

Seattle's Capitol Hill: scene of tense confrontation; other demonstrations peaceful

5:53 p.m. -- Seattle Police responded to demonstrators calling for racial justice with crowd control devices, including pepper spray and flash bang grenades Saturday evening, less than 24 hours after a federal judge overruled a city law that banned the devices.

Demonstrators held a march that started at Seattle Central College Saturday afternoon, and multiple fires and property damage were reported during the march.

Police responded to protesters and that led to a standoff around Pine Street and Broadway, as captured by KUOW photojournalist Megan Farmer.

caption: Seattle Police officers run toward people protesting for racial justice and against police brutality before making arrests at the intersection of 11th Avenue and East Pine Street following the Youth Liberation Front march in solidarity with Portland, on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Seattle.
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Seattle Police officers run toward people protesting for racial justice and against police brutality before making arrests at the intersection of 11th Avenue and East Pine Street following the Youth Liberation Front march in solidarity with Portland, on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle police said three officers were injured and at least 11 people have been arrested.

Other demonstrations in the Seattle-area have been largely peaceful.

-- Derek Wang


Seattle Police respond to demonstrators with pepper spray, flash bangs

5:16 p.m. -- After a rally and march that started peacefully, property damage and fires were set during march from Seattle's Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon, and police are responding with flash bang grenades and pepper spray.

KUOW's Esmy Jimenez reports that Seattle Police and protesters were in a standoff in the area around Broadway and Pine Street.

The standoff was fluctuating Saturday afternoon.

Seattle police say protesters are throwing explosives, rocks and mortars.

-- Derek Wang

More property damage as march from Capitol Hill continues

4:29 p.m. -- As demonstrators continue their march from Capitol Hill, KUOW's Esmy Jimenez reports that the property damage along the march route is increasing.

And Seattle Police have declared the situation to be a riot.

Seattle police say they're trying to disperse the crowd.

-- Derek Wang

March from Capitol Hill mostly peaceful, but smaller group sets fire to youth jail site

4:14 p.m. -- The march that started in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood has been largely peaceful, but a smaller group of demonstrators has set fire to some portable buildings at the site of the new King County youth jail, known as the Youth Services Center.

KUOW's Esmy Jimenez reports that the Seattle Fire Department is responding.

As the march approached Alder and 12th, Jimenez said she could hear windows being smashed from the construction site and chants of "Do not film us."

On Tuesday, King County Executive told KUOW that he would be proposing closing the youth jail, something that activists have long called for.

Jimenez also reported Saturday afternoon that a smaller group of protesters smashed several security cameras near apartment complexes in the Yesler area.

-- Derek Wang

About 100 demonstrators march in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood

3:11 p.m. -- Just hours after a federal judge allowed the Seattle Police Department to use crowd control weapons, overruling a new city law, about 100 demonstrators gathered in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood for a rally and march for racial justice that started around 1 p.m.

KUOW's Esmy Jimenez reports that like in Portland, the demonstrators represent a wide group of people, including veterans and moms.

On Friday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other Democratic politicians expressed strong concerns about federal agents being deployed to Seattle. Durkan asked demonstrators to avoid getting into violent confrontations with federal agents, as has happened in Portland.

FRIDAY, JULY 24

Federal judge will preserve SPD access to crowd control weapons this weekend

9 p.m. - The federal judge overseeing the consent decree with the city of Seattle and SPD said Friday he intends to grant a temporary restraining order preventing the new city ban on crowd control weapons from taking effect this weekend.

The U.S. Justice Department requested that Judge James Robart put a temporary halt to the ban, arguing that if law enacted by the Seattle City Council took effect, the public could suffer irreparable harm “resulting from officer confusion and the inability to modulate force or de-escalate situations in which force may be needed.”

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has said the new ordinance puts her officers in danger during expected protests this weekend. She wrote, “If I am not allowed to lawfully equip officers with the tools they have been trained to use to protect the community and themselves, it would be reckless to have them confront this level of violence under the current legal restrictions imposed by Council.”

Judge Robart emphasized that his order will be “very temporary,” and will preserve the “status quo” of the existing order from his colleague on the federal bench, Judge Richard Jones, who granted a restraining order on SPD’s use of crowd control weapons last month.

Jones’ order allows police officers to use crowd control weapons in narrow circumstances. It states, “The Chief of Police may only authorize limited and targeted use of tear gas and must direct it to those causing violent or potentially life-threatening activity. " He said chemical irritants and projectiles "shall not be deployed indiscriminately into a crowd and to the extent reasonably possible, they should be targeted at the specific imminent threat of physical harm to themselves or identifiable others or to respond to specific acts of violence or destruction of property.”

-Amy Radil

Lawyers could seek to include federal agents in Seattle's existing court order

3 p.m. - Seattle’s new law banning police use of crowd control weapons takes effect this Sunday. The law replaces a court order currently in effect.

Last month a federal judge granted a restraining order barring Seattle police from using chemical agents or projectiles against peaceful protesters. Attorney David Perez sought the order on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. He said the city ordinance taking effect Sunday goes even farther. “The order we obtained allows a very limited narrow use of these weapons in very specific circumstances. The ordinance prevents their use altogether" during demonstrations.

Federal agents aren’t covered by the order or the city law, but Perez said he will seek to include them in the restraining order if they use force against demonstrators. “If they do anything of the sort that has occurred in Portland, we will not hesitate to seek a temporary restraining order against the federal government,” he said.

SPD Chief Carmen Best said the new law creates dangerous circumstances for her officers, and may limit their response to any upcoming protests. She said officers will no longer carry pepper spray.

-- Amy Radil

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan confirms federal law enforcement personnel sent to Seattle area

7:30 a.m. -- Federal authorities said they would tell Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan if they decided to send federal law enforcement personnel to Seattle., according to Durkan.

But Thursday night, Mayor Durkan said the federal government did not do that, as she confirmed to KUOW that federal "forces" were being sent to Seattle to protect federal buildings.

A spokesperson for the mayor said they learned of the development from a New York Times reporter.

Durkan has said if the federal personnel intervene in Seattle like they have in Portland, the city is ready to pursue "every legal recourse."

Read more here.

-- Derek Wang

THURSDAY, JULY 23

Federal judge rejects injunction, so tear gas ban goes forward -- for now

8 a.m. -- A federal judge has rejected a challenge from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best to a new city ordinance banning police from using tear gas, blast balls and other crowd control weapons.

The ruling, issued Wednesday, means the ban can go into effect this Sunday.

Durkan and Best asked Judge James Robart to issue an injunction while he weighed whether the ordinance violates the federal consent decree that governs the Police Department.

But in a nine-page ruling, Robart said that they had not provided evidence “for the court to impose such extraordinary relief.” Robart left open the possibility that Durkan could prevail, however.

For now, come Sunday, tear gas will be banned (along with acoustic weapons and water cannons).

There is an exception for pepper spray – as long as it’s not used at a “demonstration, rally, or other First Amendment-protect event,” and it’s used only on someone who’s breaking the law. That means police can’t spray innocent bystanders.

-- Angela King and Gil Aegerter

WEDNESDAY, JULY 22

Seattle driver charged in protester's death pleads not guilty

3:14 p.m. — Dawit Kelete, 27, pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with an Interstate 5 collision, in which he struck two protesters earlier this month. The incident left one protester dead and another severely injured.

Kelete appeared in court Wednesday morning to be arraigned on felony charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, and reckless driving, which is a gross misdemeanor in Washington state.

During the early hours of July 4, Kelete drove his white Jaguar XJL the wrong way down the interstate's Stewart Street exit ramp in downtown Seattle.

The Washington State Patrol had closed the highway shortly before to accommodate the Black Femme March against racism and police violence. However, Kelete circumvented the closures, and barreled past several vehicles intended to act as a barricade by driving up the shoulder of the highway, according to court documents.

Moments later, he veered sharply to the left, ramming into demonstrators Summer Taylor and Diaz Love. Taylor, 24, died of their injuries later that day. Love, 32, is still recovering at Harborview Medical Center.

Kelete's defense attorney Francisco Duarte on Wednesday denied that Kelete bears any hostility toward the Black Lives Matter movement.

"We're talking about 27-year-old, young Black male, who found themselves in an unfortunate situation that was opening a tragic event [timeline]," Duarte said.

Kelete was not found to be under the influence of alcohol by officers who responded to the collision, but later told jail staff that he had an untreated drug addiction and was withdrawing from Percocet. Several smoking apparatuses and a substance appearing similar to crystal methamphetamine were recovered from his vehicle.

Read more here.

—Liz Brazile

Durkan: We won't let feds do what they did in Portland

12:30 p.m. -- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said today that she and SPD Chief Carmen Best have made it clear: They will not allow federal officers to detain or take measures against protesters as they’ve done in Portland.

Durkan told the city’s Community Police Commission that she has no indication that similar actions by federal agencies are planned for Seattle.

But she said she does expect more federal security around court buildings, after Seattle’s municipal courthouse was vandalized last weekend.

“So they will probably have more protection in and around those but we have no indication that we will see the kind of armed response that we’ve seen in Portland, nor would we stand for it,” she said.

The mayor also condemned calls for people in Seattle to -- her words -- "fight with the police," saying she doesn’t want to give President Trump an excuse to get involved.

-- Amy Radil

Washington senators push bill to restrict federal law enforcement in cities

9 a.m. -- Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell say they're co-sponsoring a bill to restrict the role of federal law enforcement in American cities.

The bill would limit the activities of agents to federal property and the immediate vicinity -- unless requested by the mayor and governor. And it would prevent unmarked vehicles from being used in arrests.

Oregon Public Broadcasting has reported that federal law enforcement officers are driving around Portland in unmarked vehicles and detaining protesters with no explanation of why they're being arrested.

Chad Wolf, acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, says federal agents aren't going to leave Portland. he argues that they have clear authority to protect government property.

--Andy Hurst

Seattle man sues Trump over beating at Portland protest

8:30 a.m. -- A Seattle man who says he was beaten by federal officers during a protest in Portland has filed suit against President Donald Trump, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and others.

Jeff Paul filed the suit Tuesday in federal court in Portland. He told The Oregonian that on Saturday night he stepped between an unnamed officer and a middle-aged woman to keep her from being beaten and was struck in the head. He said neither he nor the woman were being violent, just protesting peacefully.

Paul spent a night at the hospital with facial injuries.

The complaint (read it here) alleges violations of Paul's rights under the First and Fourth amendments.

Paul said he is a special education paraprofessional for Seattle Public Schools.

-- Gil Aegerter

MONDAY, JULY 20

Clashes downtown leave windows broken, people injured

6:30 a.m. -- Seattle police say at least two people were arrested and 12 officers injured during a large protest in downtown Seattle on Sunday afternoon.

A peaceful group first gathered at Westlake Park then was joined by another group.

While marching, some people started smashing out store fronts and damaged the Municipal Courthouse. Then a group in the Capitol Hill neighborhood headed toward the SPD's East Precinct building, and police said they broke out several windows and threw a device into the lobby that started a small fire inside the precinct.

The fire was quickly put out and no injuries were reported there.

It was unclear how many protesters might have been injured, beyond the officers who the police said were hurt.

-- Casey Martin and Angela King

SUNDAY, JULY 19

3:45 p.m. — Hundreds of demonstrators are marching through the Westlake neighborhood of downtown Seattle for a protest against ICE.

There have been reports of police using flashbang grenades and pepper spray against protesters, and damage to storefronts.

FRIDAY, JULY 17

Federal law enforcement officers arrest people off Portland streets

8 a.m. — Protests in Portland have continued over violent policing and systemic racism. And the federal government continues to crack down on them.

Federal law enforcement officers in unmarked vehicles have arrested people off the streets in downtown Portland in recent days.

The head of the Department of Homeland Security also has visited Portland, and issued a scathing statement that called people at the protests "violent anarchists."

The mayor and other local officials say they didn't ask for help from federal law enforcement and have asked them to leave.

--Paige Browning

WEDNESDAY, JULY 15

Community groups press Seattle City Council to shift police funding this year

Community groups want defund of SPD to start this fall

Community groups want defund of SPD to start this fall

6 p.m. - Coalitions seeking to defund the Seattle Police Department say it’s urgent to get started on the process this fall. They brought their blueprint to the Seattle City Council Budget Committee on Wednesday. It suggests ways to transfer some public safety responses from SPD to local nonprofits.

The blueprint asks for at least $3m to begin researching and preparing for the transition. It states, "Policing and community safety are fundamentally racial justice issues, so a broad coalition of directly-impacted people of color must take the lead in shaping the solutions."

Nikkita Oliver with Decriminalize Seattle said community groups need time and funding to prepare. “It is clear that we’re not going to be able to just tomorrow hop in and have a fully community-led, community-based public safety initiative," she said. "But if we don’t take seriously the investments and prioritizing the capacity-building and technical support of organizations that we’re going to expect to take on that work, then we won’t be able to hit the ground running in 2021.”

A majority of council members say they support cutting SPD funding by fifty percent. Mayor Durkan has proposed smaller cuts. The council plans to vote on changes to this year’s budget on August 3rd.

-- Amy Radil

TUESDAY, JULY 14

Decriminalize Seattle responds to mayor's SPD proposal

10 a.m. -- In a statement, Decriminalize Seattle and Seattle Equity Now responded to the proposal put forth by Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best. They say that Durkan's comments on Monday "relied on fear-mongering and outdated talking points," and do not address their demands.

The groups have listed four demands: a civilian-controlled 911 system; using community-based responses to crises; funding research that will lead to "life beyond policing"; and investing in housing.

The statement argues that the mayor is distracting from their plans to change Seattle policing.

For years, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community members and organizations have been working to push community-led alternatives to the life-threatening status quo. Now is not the time to distract from the urgent and clear demands from community. Even as the Mayor and the Chief of Police scramble to derail progress with their divisive rhetoric, we will continue to invest the time and energy in defense of Black lives to implement this four-point plan. We call on elected officials to do more than just listen to our BIPOC community. They must back our vision with action, investments, and support.

Read their full statement here.

Read more about Mayor Durkan's proposal here.

--Dyer Oxley

Eastside high school changes mascot

9:30 a.m. -- Juanita High School in Kirkland is dropping the Rebels as its mascot.

Lake Washington School District Superintendent Dr. John Holman said during Monday night's school board meeting that the name is often associated with the Confederacy and does not unite students.

Students will vote on a new mascot name after administrators make sure the choices reflect the district's values.

Several former and current students have circulated petitions over the past couple of years pushing for the name change

--Angela King

Activists react to Seattle mayors plan to reduce size, budget of SPD

Mixed reactions to Seattle mayor's plan to shuffle jobs out of SPD

Mixed reactions to Seattle mayor's plan to shuffle jobs out of SPD

9 a.m. -- Mayor Jenny Durkan, along with Police Chief Carmen Best, has unveiled her proposed changes to the Seattle Police Department and its budget. Black Lives Matter activists have mixed reactions to the proposals.

The mayor's proposal comes as a majority of the Seattle City Council has expressed support for cutting SPD’s budget by 50%. The mayor called that irresponsible and pitched some more modest changes.

Victoria Beach, chair of the African American Community Advisory Council, agrees with Mayor Durkan.

"We need city council members that are going to support our police department. I don't see how things are ever going to work when you have them always picking at them."

But many of the activists still marching throughout Seattle are set on at least a 50% cut to the police budget, and want to see that money redirected into the Black community.

--Casey Martin

Mayor, police chief propose changes to SPD to reduce budget and size

8:30 a.m. -- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have released a proposal to cut approximately $76 million from the Seattle Police Department in 2021.

Some of that would come from not expanding the force and reducing overtime costs. Other reductions would come from shuffling civilian jobs out of SPD and into other city departments -- such as the 911 call center.

Durkan says they’re still working to decide whether to cut any other personnel.

“The number one requirement that Chief Best and I have is that we have the right work force to respond to what the city needs 24/7 in every part of the city," Durkan said Monday. "We will be doing a workforce analysis to see what that response looks like and what kind of personnel we need.”

The cuts identified by the mayor and the chief amount to just under a 20% reduction in SPD’s budget. Community members and advocates have repeatedly called for the police department to be defunded by 50% -- a move rejected by the mayor and embraced by most City Council members.

READ MORE DETAILS HERE.

--Kate Walters

Organizer of effort to recall Mayor Durkan says they can't wait until 2021

8 a.m. -- Elliott Grace Harvey is an organizer behind the effort to recall Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. They say the mayor endangered the public by allowing tear gas to be used on residents, and that they personally had to flee their Capitol Hill home because of the gas.

"We can't actually choose for her to be removed, we can only present the opportunity for the voters to decide," they said. "We just strongly believe that voters have the right to choose now, rather than next year."

Durkan is up for re-election in 2021.

The mayor can file an appeal to try to stop the recall, but she has said she thinks the courts will dismiss the claim.

Activists could start collecting petition signatures by the end of the week once they get the official petition language from the city clerk.

--Paige Browning

MONDAY, JULY 13

Protesters and relatives seek damages from Seattle and Washington state, citing excessive police force and negligence

6:06 p.m. —More than a dozen Seattle area protesters and their relatives have filed claims against various government agencies, after sustaining injuries — one fatal — amid ongoing local civil rights demonstrations.

Many of these were aimed at Seattle and Washington state, alleging excessive force by police against peaceful demonstrators, and failures to protect protesters from "reasonably foreseeable dangers."

"These protesters did not incite violence, they did not try to attack the police," said attorney Karen Koehler, who represents several of the claimant, during a press conference on Monday.

They were exercising their constitutional rights, Koehler said, "and just say what they had to say ⁠— and in particular regard to [Black Lives Matter] and George Floyd."

READ: A child pepper sprayed, a woman's eye severely injured. Protesters condemn Seattle Police's tactics

The injuries cited in the claims include:

  • The vehicle-ramming killing of Summer Taylor by a driver who evaded traffic barriers set up by the Washington Stater Patrol on July 4, and drove into Taylor and another protester;
  • A man shot in the arm by a driver as he attempted to stop the car from barreling into protesters on Capitol Hill on June 7;
  • The use of chemical irritants by Seattle Police against demonstrators, including a then 7-year-old boy who was hit with pepper spray on May 30. Those injuries also include chemical burns and respiratory issues;
  • A partially amputated thumb and shattered forefinger, sustained by a minor who was hit by police with a flashbang grenade on May 30;
  • Injuries resulting from police firing rubber projectiles, including a severe eye injury sustained by a woman during a May 30 protest;
  • A woman knocked unconscious by an officer amid a confrontation on June 8.

In addition to various injuries, the tort claims cite impacts to the affected demonstrators' mental health and capacity to sustain employment.

—Liz Brazile

Recall effort underway for Mayor Jenny Durkan

8:30 a.m. — Petitioners can start gathering signatures for a recall effort against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, according to a decision by a King County Superior Court judge.

The judge ruled Friday that the petition effort can go forward based on one of seven complaints which accused the city of using chemical irritants, such as pepper spray, on those who've been demonstrating against police brutality. The judge dismissed the six other complaints.

In a statement, the Mayors Office said Durkan has consistently acted to protect the city’s public health and safety and has respected the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters. The mayor also believes the remaining claim will be dismissed.

Petitioners need gather more than 50,000 signatures within 180 days to get the measure on the ballot.

—Angela King

Mental health day

Seattle NAACP holds mental health event amid stressful times

Seattle NAACP holds mental health event amid stressful times

8 a.m. -- Between the pandemic, social uprisings, and economic uncertainty, Black communities are dealing with a lot of stress. That’s why the Seattle NAACP hosted a mental health event on Saturday, focused on getting people counseling and testing.

The pop-up event featured free COVID testing. It also offered up to 60 Zoom sessions with a therapist.

"The trauma of violence can affect us and we may not even realize it," said Teri Rogers Kemp, one of the event planners.

"This period in time is having an effect on our mental and emotional well being. I know that I have felt the trauma."

She says Black and brown communities are impacted at higher rates by both police brutality and coronavirus. But they have a harder time accessing mental health resources.

The event is the first in a series the NAACP is planning for the coming months.

--Esmy Jimenez

FRIDAY, JULY 10

SPD officer involved in collision near protesters leaves force

6 p.m. -- The Seattle Police Department says an off-duty police officer involved in a collision during a Black Lives Matter protest no longer works there.

The July 4th incident involved allegations of protesters blocking the intersection at Boren and Olive Way the officer was attempting to drive through, when another vehicle struck the car. Police say no injuries were reported at the time.

The collision happened the same night a man drove a vehicle into another crowd of protesters on I-5 in downtown Seattle, killing one and seriously injuring another.

The Office of Police Accountability is reviewing the case.

-- Kim Malcolm

Seattle Councilmember Pedersen seeks details on SPD budget cuts

Councilmember Alex Pedersen doesn't entirely favor a 50% cut to SPD

Councilmember Alex Pedersen doesn't entirely favor a 50% cut to SPD

2 p.m. - Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen says he’s not ready to commit to defunding the Seattle Police Department by a specific amount. He says he wants to get more details from the seven council members who have promised to cut the police budget in half.

But Pedersen says he’s open to reallocating law enforcement dollars. “For me it’s the outcome of people feeling safe, people getting an appropriate response from the city that serves the communities asking for that response," he said. "Committing to a certain percentage or number is something that I think we need to do through the budget process.”

He said he supports shifting more emergency calls to mental health workers, for example. Councilmember Debora Juarez hasn't weighed in on the 50% cut to SPD that community groups are seeking, but said last month she supported the principle of defunding the police.

The council is currently looking at changes to this year’s and next year’s budget.

-- Amy Radil

Read previous updates here.