Jul 24, 2020
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Press Conference Transcript on Federal Agents
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan held a July 24 press conference with Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best on Donald Trump’s federal troops being on standby near Seattle. Read the news briefing transcript here.
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Mayor Durkan: (00:35)
Good morning. Thank you all for joining us. Chief Best and Chief Scoggins will shortly provide an operational update on this weekend’s efforts regarding planned protests. Before we begin, I want to remind people that we are in the middle of a pandemic that is getting worse. The number of infections in the city of Seattle and the county and the state is increasing so we are now back to where we were at the end of March and early April.
Mayor Durkan: (01:06)
I want to urge everybody, even in this beautiful weather, please do not have gatherings. If you are in a public place or a public park, don’t gather with friends, don’t have barbecues, don’t have swim parties. Make sure that if you are in public wear a mask, wash your hands regularly, and please limit your exposure to six feet from other people.
Mayor Durkan: (01:29)
We can still drive down the number of infections but as you yesterday, the governor had to take steps to dial this back. We don’t want to go back to where we’re closing businesses so small businesses can’t be open, workers don’t have jobs. We really need to do this together to keep each other safe and to make sure that our healthcare workers aren’t put back where they were in February and March.
Mayor Durkan: (01:54)
I also will address today my conversation with Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and the subsequent media reports about DHS landing here today, yesterday with agents who will be on standby. On Sunday and Wednesday of this week, we saw relatively small groups of individuals who were bent on destruction, cause destruction, start fires and cause damage in Downtown Seattle and on Capitol Hill. Since the beginning of July, we have had many peaceful protests in Seattle with limited incidents and community and government are working together to transform how we do policing, how we dismantle systemic racism and other inequities, and how we have concrete systemic changes moving forward. The collective voices in the streets are leading to transformative change, not just in Seattle but across the state and across this country.
Mayor Durkan: (02:59)
Peaceful demonstrations push government and elected officials to be better, but acts of violence, threats and destruction are not acceptable. What occurred in Seattle on Sunday and on Wednesday, officers hurt, small businesses damaged, fires started, that cannot continue. As a community, every one of us should denounce this type of violence and destructive behavior. It is happening from a relatively few individuals who are intent on destruction and remain intent on that. Social media shows that they want to continue that kind of fight, that kind of destruction, on the streets of Seattle, and for the businesses of Seattle. I’m urging everyone in Seattle, stand together to denounce that kind of activity, that violence and that destruction. It does nothing to further the cause of dismantling systemic racism. If anything I believe it distracts from the message which has been so powerfully raised here and across the country. We know there are protests planned for Saturday and Sunday on Capitol Hill and Downtown Seattle and the Seattle Police Department believes that some of these same demonstrations will draw some of those limited individuals who are bent on causing destruction as they did this past week.
Mayor Durkan: (04:35)
I ask everyone who’s protesting this weekend, please do it peacefully. Please make sure you raise your voices and challenge government, but do it in a way that is lawful. We cannot see a repeat of what happened on Sunday, Wednesday, or what we’ve seen in other places. What’s at stake here is significant. I’d like everyone to please consider their actions particularly in light of the president making good on his threats to send federal forces into American cities. Our residents should continue to peacefully demonstrate and make their voices heard, regardless of this president’s threat. I stand with you, but we can’t pretend that his comments are just bluster. Acts of destruction which we saw could serve as the fodder for the president’s attempts to somehow show there is a need for him to come into Seattle or other cities.
Mayor Durkan: (05:44)
This past week, the Trump administration has launched multiple efforts, one to send federal law enforcement to cities like Chicago and Albuquerque, without the request of those cities and sometimes over their direct objection. [inaudible 00:06:01] additional DHS law enforcement officers like we saw in Portland. I joined with other mayors across the country sending a letter to this administration and to Congress, demanding that they not send federal forces into cities over the objection of those cities. Yesterday I was able to speak to Acting Secretary Wolf of the Department of Homeland Security. He told me directly that DHS has no plans and sees no need to send federal forces into Seattle. He stated clearly that Seattle is not Portland and he sees [inaudible 00:06:42] differently. He committed to notifying Chief Best and myself should that change. I made it abundantly clear that deployments to Seattle like we’ve seen in Portland would undermine public safety and break community trust. What is happening in Portland has escalated things night after night.
Mayor Durkan: (07:05)
The Department of Homeland Security now says that they have a limited number of agents in the area on standby to protect federal buildings if necessary. Contrary to Secretary Wolf’s stated commitment, neither myself nor Chief Best were updated regarding the presence of these federal agents. I have worked previously with federal law enforcement. I was the chief federal law enforcement officer for Western Washington as United States attorney. I know the importance of the collaboration and partnership between federal law enforcement and local law enforcement. It is critical and it does many goods, from human trafficking to limiting the supply of heroin in our streets to limiting violence in our neighborhoods. But federal law enforcement cannot be an occupying force. To be successful, it must be a partnership with local law enforcement. Should federal forces intervene in Seattle like they did in Portland, we are prepared to take every legal step necessary. A federal judge in Portland has affirmed the ACLU’s lawsuit, and entered an order limiting the types of force that federal agents can use in Portland.
Mayor Durkan: (08:26)
Just this morning, one reason I’m late is I just got off a conference call with a county executive, the King County prosecutor, city attorney Pete Holmes and people from his office, as well as attorneys from Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office. We are united and will act together and are prepared to take whatever legal steps we need to to make sure that what happened in Portland does not happen in Seattle.
Mayor Durkan: (08:56)
I do want to take a moment and acknowledge that I know that there still is significant distrust in the community towards its government, in particularly in the way that policing is done in Seattle and America, but I also want to say as mayor, there’s nothing more important to me than the health and safety of Seattle residents. I know that we do not want to see an escalation like is happening in Portland. I am not one to escalate things myself by rhetoric or to overdramatize things. I don’t think that’s helpful. I think having a dialogue and a conversation about things that are happening is always important, but I can’t overstate it enough. What is happening is frightening to me. Seeing the type of escalation that has happened in Portland night after night is not good for America, it’s not good for any city. To me as a former federal official, it is frightening that you would use federal agents for political purposes and we know the president by his own words has stated he is doing that. He is purposely targeting cities run by Democrats.
Mayor Durkan: (10:18)
We’re better than that as a country. That is not the way we operate, and I’m just urging everybody who hears my words, please, don’t take the bait. Don’t buy into it. Be peaceful. If you come out in the streets and raise your voices, not only is it your right, but in many ways it’s our obligation. But for those who are bent on destruction, those who want the fight to come, I say to you stop. I truly believe that the events of the coming weeks could chart the course for what happens not just in cities in America, but in America as a country. I know that our chiefs, both our chief of police and our fire chief are prepared to do everything they need to do as are the men and women who work for them, to protect the residents and visitors of Seattle and the businesses of Seattle, but these are very challenging times. We need to be in this together. The only way we get through this is if we do it together, and with that, I will turn this over to Chief Best.
Chief Best: (11:36)
Good morning everyone and thank you for being here and thank you Mayor for your words. We have experienced weeks of demonstrations in the streets of Seattle. Many of these demonstrations have been peaceful and carried meaningful messages asking for police accountability and police reform. We hear those messages and we too are committed to re-envisioning public safety here in the city of Seattle. However, the messages of peace and change in honor of George Floyd’s murder and all of those who have suffered at the hands of injustice are being taken over by individuals intent on destruction and violence in our city.
Chief Best: (12:20)
Two events within the last week have included wide-scale property damage, destruction, arson, attacks on police that injured about a dozen offers, some significantly. This week, we know that several events are planned across the city. These events are expected to attract many of the same violent individuals from recent days, and I assume they will continue their property destruction, their arson, their looting and attempts to injure officers that are on duty.
Chief Best: (12:53)
People throughout Seattle need to be aware that the city council ordinance banning the use of less lethal tools including pepper spray which is commonly used to disperse crowds that have turned violent will go into effect this weekend. Yesterday, I sent a letter to city council members that clearly explained the foreseeable impact of this ordinance on upcoming events, and I think it’s important that you understand that as well. With the city council ordinance, we hear loudly and clearly that the use of these less lethal tools by SP officers to disperse crowds that have turned violent have been completely banned by the city council and the police department will abide by this legislation.
Chief Best: (13:37)
This week, some have asked why officers did not arrest individuals who participated in criminal activity. Our officers will always investigate crimes and will make arrests when suspects are identified. As the council’s legislation goes into effect this weekend, my hope is that it does not create more dangerous circumstances for our community and our officers should officers have to intervene and stop criminal activity.
Chief Best: (14:02)
… should officers have to intervene and stop criminal activity. For these reasons, the Seattle Police Department will have an adjusted deployment in response to any demonstrations this weekend. The council legislation gives officers no ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large and violent crowd. Allowing this behavior deeply troubles me. It deeply troubles me. But I am duty bound to follow the council legislation once it is in effect.
Chief Best: (14:34)
If the Council is prepared to suggest a different response, or a different interpretation of the legislation, I stand ready to receive it. And let me clear about this, we are not asking to use CS, also known as tear gas, at demonstrations. But we are asking for the ability to come with at least as many tools as we can to make sure that the public is safe. This weekend, because of this legislation, the entire police department, myself included, I’ll be taking this pepper spray off of my belt and putting a riot stick on there because that’s what we’re left with doing. So that’s what that legislation does for the city.
Chief Best: (15:14)
I ask people of Seattle to do what they can to be safe. Be peaceful, and help us keep the peace in our neighborhoods and in our city. I ask anyone planning on participating in the events to do so peacefully. We’ve experienced so much turmoil. We have experience so much violence. And honestly, my heart is breaking for those that have been killed at the hands of injustice. My heart breaks for the young black men who have been killed in our city in the last several weeks. My heart breaks for the officers who were just trying to do their job, and have had mortars thrown at them and have been injured in front of their precinct. And my heart breaks for the many businesses who will not be able to recover because of the pandemic and the continued property damage that they’re receiving. Like yours, our hearts are looking for a way to heal. I have said many times we are a part of the community, and not a part from the community. If you hurt, we hurt, and we have to move toward reconciliation together, and not divided by destruction and violence. And I ask all of you to partner with the Seattle Police Department as we work toward more equitable and more safe community efforts. Already the mayor and I have met with community leaders in West Seattle. My officers and I have walked through Ballard, and Chinatown, ID, to listen to the concerns of the people who live there, who work there, and who visit there. We will continue to engage the community through these walks, small meetings, and virtual meetings.
Chief Best: (16:49)
We are first responders, essential responders, showing up every single day throughout the pandemic because the work needs to be done, and we don’t have the luxury of sitting at home in a safe, COVID-19-safe, environment. We’re out here every single day, some of us throughout the weekend. We don’t get days off like everyone else. Our employees have been coming to work through this pandemic and the recent unrest. That work includes direct engaging the community. We are planning, we are working, and we are here listening to you. The Seattle Police Department is ready to work toward a future that is safe, that is equitable, that is fair, and we ask you to join us. Thank you.
Harold Scoggins: (17:40)
Good morning, everyone. Mayor, thanks or your leadership, and Chief, thank you for your leadership and partnership. My name is Harold Scoggins, Fire Chief for the Seattle Fire Department. Once again, it’s our goal to support people who want to go out and protest peacefully. And that’s really important that people are able to express their first amendment rights. But what we saw on Sunday and Wednesday night was really challenging for us as a community and us as a fire department. We saw a lot of damage and destruction, but we also saw fires being set. And for us, that becomes very concerning. And on Sunday and Wednesday when we saw those fires being set, there is a few challenges that happen there.
Harold Scoggins: (18:23)
Seattle Police Department came in, cleared one of the scenes so we could actually go in and put the fire out. That’s pretty significant when we have to have police clear a scene so we can actually go in and put the fire out. We know really bad things happen when small fires become large fires. Many of you may have been watching the feeds out there and you may have saw some of those fires being set. Many of you may have noticed that there were residential units over the businesses over the ground floor. That becomes very concerning for us.
Harold Scoggins: (18:55)
Just over the last couple of weeks we have had a number of fatality fires. Many of you may have seen the news last weekend at the Rivena house fire where we lost a life. Many of you may have seen on the news the Aurora Hillside Motel Fire where we transported six people to the hospital, three in critical condition. Two have since passed. Many of you may have seen the news on the vehicle collision over in Magnolia that resulted in a fire and a resulted in a person losing their life.
Harold Scoggins: (19:27)
So this is very real for us. We know what happens when small fires start to burn and we can’t get there in a timely manner. So my ask is while you’re out protesting this weekend do so in a peaceful manner. Do so in a place where you’re not starting fires, and you’re not destroying property. And also I want to remind you all that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. That’s still going on as we speak. So as you’re out in community, wear your mask, take hand sanitizer, wash your hands, maintain your physical distancing. We also expect this weekend to be a little warmer than normal. So we’re going to ask to make sure you stay hydrated. Make sure you take your sunscreen.
Harold Scoggins: (20:13)
If you do have a medical emergency get to the edges of the protest, get to the rear of the protest, so our fire fighters can actually get there and get you the care that you need. If you see people starting fires, call 911, let us know where they are. Our ask to business owners is this, if you have the large dumpsters and you can get them in the place where you can lock them up, do that. Some of the dumpsters, on the bottom wheels, they have a hole in the wheel where you can actually put a lock on those wheels. Some of you may have seen the dumpster in Capitol Hill spread across the street blocking access and egress to our streets. So if you’re a property owner or business owner take the necessary steps to remove some of the things that could be a hazard, that could be burned. That’s very important. Thank you.
Mayor Durkan: (21:09)
Thank you very much, Chief Scoggins. Be happy to take some questions, and it could be addressed to me or to either of the chiefs.
Speaker 1: (21:18)
Thank you, Mayor. Thank you, Chiefs. Our first question today will come from [Amy Morena 00:21:22] from Team Five, followed by Omari Salisbury, Converge Media. Amy, the floor is yours.
Yes, hi. Amy Morena from Team Five. Question, what are the specifics you know about the limited number of agents who are staging nearby. Do you know where they’re at and do you know how big their numbers are?
Mayor Durkan: (21:44)
Thank you, Amy. It’s a good question. No, we’re trying to seek clarification. I’ve spoken this week with the United States Attorney here, and as I said yesterday I spoke to the acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. We saw the pictures of the jets landing at Boeing Field and there’s been various reports. DHS did confirm that agents have been deployed here for standby. That’s not unusual in itself but in these days I think that all of us are very skeptical. So we’ve asked for clarification where those agents are, what deployment they think they’re going to have, and we’re hoping that we get confirmation, again, that there is not intent to unilaterally deploy those agents like we’ve seen in Portland.
Speaker 1: (22:26)
Thank you, Mayor. Amy, do you have a follow-up?
Yeah, a question for the Chief. What are you telling your office, what kind of interactions they should have if they come in contact with the Federal officers?
Chief Best: (22:42)
[crosstalk 00:22:42] Yeah. There’s two chiefs up here. I finally learned not to always answer to “Chief” when Chief Scoggins is in the room. So we don’t have any information. We have not asked for any federal assistance or the federal personnel to come into the city of Seattle, so there’s been no direction on that point. We are not in any way collaborating or working with any federal agents, and have no information about their intent or deployment in the city.
Speaker 1: (23:15)
Thank you, Chief.
Mayor Durkan: (23:16)
I want to just follow up on that real quickly. I just want to emphasize again how important that question was. As US attorney, every federal taskforce was under the direction of the US attorney here, and those taskforce, like our human trafficking taskforce, are only successful because of the collaboration between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement. It is really unprecedented for federal agents to be surged to a city without consultation with local law enforcement. Usually it’s done at the request of, but even if not at the request, it’s never done over the objection and not with deep collaboration. So I think it’s important that what we’re seeing in Portland, and what the President has threatened, is not the norm. In fact, it is contrary to how federal government usually works with local law enforcement.
Speaker 1: (24:10)
This question will be from [Omari Salsbury 00:24:13], followed by David [Gutman 00:24:14] of The Seattle Times. Omari, the floor is yours.
Omari Salisbury,: (24:20)
Hi. Good morning, Mayor Durkan. First question is that I walked in that protest on Wednesday, one of my colleagues was there on Sunday, and to be honest with you we’re not [inaudible 00:24:36] we’re not seeing the protestors or people from organizations that we’ve seen over the last two months. We’re seeing a lot of new people in the protests, we’re seeing… And it’s not even protest. They’re there for direct action. I think probably using the word protest is incorrect, because they’re there for direct action. And we saw a few people we’ve seen, [inaudible 00:24:58] a few people here and there, a lot of new people. How is your office working with community groups and organizations that have been peacefully protesting to make sure that what has been gained or achieved or what conversations have been started are now co-opted by a new group of people here who are bent on direct action in the streets?
Mayor Durkan: (25:20)
So I think, Omari, that is actually a really important distinction and I would tell you I’ve been struggling a little bit on what the right word is because I don’t think that that this is “protestors”, as you said, and direct action may be it. And it’s direct destructive action, let’s be clear, and I think that they are different individuals. I think we have seen them throughout the protests and demonstrations in various forms. They’ve been clearly the minority who have been there trying to instigate things, but now when you have people arrive at what was a very lawful and very righteous protest against ICE and some of its conduct, here and across the country. And then a different groups of people come and literally you can see from video on Twitter and other places, arrived with bags of baseball bats and other implements to just break into windows and start a fire. So, the first part is I think you’re absolutely right. There is a distinction. Many of those people are from here, some we believe are coming from Portland and other areas. There has literally been posted on the internet a call to the fight with pictures of burning police cars. That’s what we want to avoid.
Mayor Durkan: (26:29)
And so we will continue to reach out to, I’ll let Chief Best address it, but even now I’m asking for all protest organizers, please, if you’re coming out, protest peacefully, continue the dialogue with us. Do not stand for yourselves and denounce this kind of violence, because I think that it is different from what we’ve seen and it undercuts the very important message that continues to be raised on the street, and that is demanding. Demanding that we, as a government, actually take concrete steps to dismantle generations of systemic racism and inequities in our community.
Speaker 1: (27:13)
Omari Salisbury,: (27:14)
Yeah, I have a follow up for Chief Scoggins. So we saw when the [inaudible 00:27:19] actually had an actual barrier or barricade, it was like, “Hey, Medic One couldn’t come in for lots of different reasons.” One is because we had a barricade. But we’re talking about protestors are moving to the streets, what’s Medic One’s plan for people that might be injured out there, and if there’s an act of protest going on is Medic One going to deploy? Or is it going to be until SPD clears the scene totally? What’s Medic One’s strategy for tomorrow? Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but what’s your plan?
Harold Scoggins: (27:52)
Sure. Good morning, Omari. Thanks for the question. Our plans are to create a safe space for our fire fighters to get to the scene where they can help people. If it’s a peaceful protest, we respond to those all-
Harold Scoggins: (28:03)
… And help people. If it’s a peaceful protest, we respond to those all the time. We respond to people that are injured in and around protests all the time, each time there’s a protest. It’s only when there’s violence when we take a step back, make sure the scene is safe. And that’s when we coordinate with SPD to make sure the scene is safe. That’s why I communicate it. One, get to the edge of the protest or get to the rear of the protest. That becomes very key for us. The protest can keep moving. The person who’s injured can take a pause right there and we can come meet them where they are right there. So, that’s going to be very important. And yes, we’re going to respond, but we’re going to respond in a safe way because what we know is our firefighters can’t do anyone any good if they’re injured. They can’t help anyone if they’re hurt. So yes, we’re going to respond, get to the edge, get to the rear and we respond to protest all the time. Thanks.
Speaker 1: (28:56)
Thank you, Chief. Our next question will come David Gutman, Seattle Times, followed by David Kroman, Crosscut. David, the floor is yours.
David Gutman: (29:07)
This question is for both Mayor Durkan and Chief Best. Chief Best said a moment ago that the police know to ask for federal assistance, Mayor Durkan, you said that as well, the president of the Police Officer’s Union in Seattle has asked for federal assistance, I’m wondering, obviously, that’s not an official communication, but I’m wondering if either of you have spoken to him about that? If you find that helpful and if so, what was your conversation with him?
Mayor Durkan: (29:37)
I’ve not spoken with Mr. Solan to see if the Chief has, but make it very clear, he doesn’t speak for the Seattle Police Department, Chief Carmen Best does. And she has made it clear what she needs and what she wants, as have I as mayor. Chief, do you want to add anything to that?
Chief Best: (29:52)
No. There’s nothing to add, he answered his own question. I cover the department and Mike Solan has the opportunity to speak for himself.
Speaker 1: (30:04)
David Gutman: (30:06)
Sorry. Well, I do have a follow-up, but I couldn’t just hear what you she said. I apologize.
Mayor Durkan: (30:12)
No, no. That’s our fault.
Chief Best: (30:13)
Sorry about that. Yeah, you really answered your own question. The fact of the matter is that we haven’t asked and you know that we haven’t asked him anything. Mike Solan can ask for whatever he deems. He’s another person out in the community to make that request. It’s not an official request and as I’ve stated multiple times, we have not made that request to anybody. I routinely talk to the union president on union issues, which concern wages, benefits and working conditions and not deployments or responses to the City of Seattle.
David Gutman: (30:47)
Mayor Durkan: (30:47)
And David, I want to add to that, David, also. Again, these are unusual times and the federal government is acting in ways that I’ve never seen in my lifetime, particularly with the things the president is saying, but in the five years I was US attorney in my experience and knowledge of every other district in America, federal agents are never deployed at the request of an individual police officer in a jurisdiction.
Speaker 1: (31:13)
Hey, David. You have an opportunity for follow up.
David Gutman: (31:18)
I do. Thank you. What is the purpose behind the wall that was constructed outside the West precinct? Whose decision was that? How much did it cost and what’s the purpose?
Mayor Durkan: (31:30)
Do you want to come back?
Chief Best: (31:36)
Sure. Thanks. That’s a good question. We wanted to make sure that we have protection around our police facilities. This was a last minute request. And so, we were looking for fencing. There wasn’t the fencing that we needed available. They will be changing that out when it is available for a much less large structure that we have there. But we do want to make sure as you know, officers who were at the precinct, they had frozen water bottles, some road construction and mortars thrown at them. So, we wanted to make sure, particularly now that we don’t have any tools in our tool belt to protect the officers as we did before, that we had some protection around each of the facilities. So, that’s why it’s there. I don’t know about the cost to that, but we’ll get that information for you, make sure that you have it.
Speaker 1: (32:29)
Thank you, Chief. Our next question will come from David Kroman, Crosscut, followed by Simone Alicea, KNKX.
Mayor Durkan: (32:38)
And before David Kroman starts his thing, I just want to follow up with a question that David Gutman asked. The Chief was the person who made the decision on that fencing. I think it’s important for people to remember that we have to deal with the facts as we see them on the ground. Previously, the FBI had told the Seattle Police Department that there were specific threats against facilities. On Sunday, some of the graffiti that was written on the municipal buildings where all the windows were broken out was, “Burn this precinct down.” And we have seen night after night in Portland that there’s that kind of activity. So, the Chief in her judgment made the decision that protecting the facility would be a better way to proceed so that there wasn’t direct conflict between police and some of the people who are more bent on destruction like we’ve seen in Portland. So, David, I hope that helped.
Speaker 1: (33:30)
Thank you, mayor. David Kroman, the floor is yours.
David Kroman: (33:34)
Yeah. Mayor, considering the conversations with acting director Wolf, do you think you were lied to by him and considering some of the confusing nature of that conversation do you trust assurances that the federal officers will not and intercede in a way that they have in Portland?
Mayor Durkan: (33:54)
No. I, at this point have to presume that what is happening in Portland could happen here. It’s why weeks ago when the president first threatened to send federal forces in, implying the military, that Pete Holmes and I made a very clear statement and letter to them saying that we would go to court to stop that. It was illegal under Posse Comitatus and rules of federalism. Then when the rhetoric changed to they were going to be sending in agents, we again, said that we would not stand for that. We’ve seen it happen in Portland now. So, one reason I was on a call this morning with more lawyers than any mayor should have to be on a call with, was to make sure that we were ready to go, not just Seattle, but for the region. So, the County executive was there, representatives from the Attorney General were there, that if we also have to go to court immediately, like they did in Portland, we’re prepared to do that.
Mayor Durkan: (34:46)
Chief Best will continue to assess what’s happening on the ground. We’ll continue to have conversations with the US attorney here. I think Pete Holmes had conversations with him today. So, we will continue to try to get the level of insurances that we want, but we’re also going to prepare to prevent what happened in Portland. We have a president that has been very conflict oriented, and to be fair, I don’t trust this president. I trust him to say what he does when it comes down to conflict, but we’ve got to prepare for any scenario and that’s what we’re trying to do.
Speaker 1: (35:23)
Thank you, Mayor. David, follow up?
David Kroman: (35:29)
Yeah. Just quickly, do you feel like he lied to you in his insurance through the middle? So, if federal agents are present, are they bound by the similar restriction on use of tear gas and glass bottles as the Seattle Police Department is?
Mayor Durkan: (35:46)
Three great questions. So, number one is, I don’t want to say I was lied to, but I think that maybe there was semantics that weren’t forthcoming. I will say as US Attorney, it’s not uncommon to have agents on standby in areas where you think that the federal protective services, which are the people who protect the buildings, have limited resources. The U S Attorney here has said that they have limited resources because ironically, they deployed the resources from here to Portland. So, that wouldn’t be unusual, but I would have expected them to tell me that in the call. And it’s one reason why we went the extra yard today to make sure that we were prepared to do what we had to do in court if we needed to.
Mayor Durkan: (36:25)
The federal judge ruling here, Judge Jones’s ruling, does not extend to federal authorities. That was the same thing that happened in Portland. The TRO that was put in place there was put in place on the local police and law enforcement. And yesterday a judge extended that to federal law enforcement. So, it’s one of the avenues that Pete Holmes, Bob Ferguson and Dan Satterberg are exploring right now.
Speaker 1: (36:48)
Thank you, Mayor. Next question will come from Simone Alicea, KNKX, followed by Justin Carter, Capitol Hill, Seattle. Simone, the floor is … Okay. Looks like Simone is not on the call, so we’ll go straight to Justin Carter, Capitol Hill, Seattle, followed by Ranji Sinha, KIRO 7. Justin, the floor is yours.
Thanks. I’d like to go way back to Omari’s question and ask a little bit about reducing the number of people on the streets this weekends and things that could be done to help do that. And I’m wondering why there isn’t any effort to maybe more immediately address some of the demand from those protests and keep slashing the familiar times, why not just do something and start to really get something out there and immediately that these folks can react to and help them by not just doing the protest this weekend.
Mayor Durkan: (37:53)
That’s a great question. And I think you can help us get the message out that we have been and that we will continue to address people. For example, people are still chanting, “Release the protesters.” I sent a letter to Dan Satterberg and to Pete Holmes, who are the two people who decide what charges should be brought, and they’ve made it clear that they will not be charging any peaceful protesters. Similarly on, “Defund the police,” different organizations have different amounts that they want. I think the maximum is 50% of defunding although there’s a large block of people who are saying they want the police abolished. And I’ve made it clear that I don’t believe in abolishing the police and the Chief and I made clear that we think a 50% immediate reduction is not only not achievable, but would hurt community safety.
Mayor Durkan: (38:38)
So, we are already addressing a number of the things that they’re protesting about and we will continue to do that. I’ve met with a number of people, we’ll continue to meet with people, the Chief has been meeting with community and I’ve been talking with city council members and others to see how do we put in place the systemic change that people want? I’m glad to have Chief Scoggins here because we’ve been working on this for two years, before the protesters took to the street. For example, we knew that police responding to every event was not what was the right way to go. We saw time after time after time that somebody would call about someone experiencing behavioral health issues in the downtown core, they often would be someone experiencing homelessness, police would come to the scene and when police arrive, they really had only two options, either arrest the person and put them in jail, which is never a good option or take them to Harborview, which also just kept the whole cycle going.
Mayor Durkan: (39:39)
So, that’s when Chief Scoggins came forward and we started Health One. So, instead of a police officer going to the scene, a trained medic and a social worker go and they get the person stabilized, they see what they need. It’s a public health harm reduction model. We’re increasing that model so programs like that, I think we have to increase as quickly as we can. We’re also working with a lot of the community based organizations who do this work in the community and we want to work with them to see how do we get upstream to really prevent these issues from happening in the first place? I’ve committed to a $100 million dollars of new money to invest in the black and bi-pa communities so that we have better public health, we have better education, we have economic opportunity and affordable housing. If we make those kinds of investments, people will have to call 9-1-1 less and we’ll be more safe.
Mayor Durkan: (40:33)
And when they do call 9-1-1, we want to move to a place that people can get the help they need. And let’s be clear, sometimes that is a police officer. People need a police officer and they need them now. And we want to make sure that that can happen everywhere in the city, 24/7. But if they need some other kind of help, we want that to be able to go also 24/7 in every part of the city. Nobody has that capacity right now. So, it will take time to see who are the groups that can do it? What are the needs of community? And how do we actually make it available 24/7 like we have right now for police and fire?
Speaker 1: (41:12)
Thank you, Mayor. I’m was to offer Justin a follow up, but it seems as though he’s no longer on the call. So Justin, I hope you got all that. So, our next question will come from Ranji Sinha from KIRO 7, followed by Simone Del Rosario, Q13. Ranji, the floor is yours.
Thank you. Mayor Durkan, we’ve seen federal officers in Portland snatch people off the street and detain them. Some have said those detentions are illegal. If federal officers do something similar here in Seattle, are they going to face arrest, any legal penalty?
Mayor Durkan: (41:46)
So, that’s a great question. There’s been a lot of questions about what’s happening there and I will tell you that in order to detain someone, you have to have probable cause. And the procedures that local law enforcement are, they identify themselves, they tell the person-
Mayor Durkan: (42:03)
… procedures that local law enforcement are. They identify themselves they tell the person why they’re being detained and they arrest them in a very specific manner. None of that was happening in Portland. You had people dressed in essentially combat fatigues with no identifying name tag, not trained for urban policing, approaching someone and just hustling them into unmarked vans. That’s improper under local jurisdictions, but it’s also improper under federal jurisdictions. In all my time as a United States Attorney, I never saw a federal agency conducted itself in that manner. So number one is that should not be happening. Number two, the ability for local law enforcement to take action against federal law enforcement is very limited and again, spells out. The last thing we need at this moment in time is for the Seattle Police Department to have to spend its resources on policing federal agents. That shouldn’t happen.
Mayor Durkan: (42:59)
We have great working relationships with local federal law enforcement. They help us on a range of things, but those relationships become undermined if what is happening in Portland were to happen here. It’s why I reached out to DHS, it’s while the chief has great working relationships with all the federal agencies here. It’s why we insisted that if their posture changes, they need to contact Chief Best. She’s in charge of the public safety for the city of Seattle. She has great working relationships with people here and across the nation. And not just out of respect, but out of the ability to do your job, that’s the smart thing to do.
Speaker 1: (43:40)
[inaudible 00:43:40] followup?
Mayor Durkan, you speaking to DHS, has he given any assurances that what was happening in Portland and won’t happen here? That people won’t be snatched off the street and put in an unmarked van?
Mayor Durkan: (43:55)
My conversations were them is he had no plans to surge federal agents to Seattle. Gave us an assurance that if that changed, he would notify Chief Best and myself. And said that he did not see that the buildings here were under the same area of threat. After that, we learned that there were limited agents on a standby basis. So again, going back to David [Chromin’s 00:44:17] question, we can get assurances but as Ronald Reagan said, trust, but verify. And part of our verification was we have, Pete Holmes, Dan [Sadeburg 00:44:28] , and Bob Ferguson, looking at what legal relief we could have to make sure that if federal agents start to do what they’re doing in Portland, we can make sure that doesn’t happen here.
Speaker 1: (44:40)
Final question will come from Simone Del Rosario, [inaudible 00:00:44:44]. Simone, the floor is yours.
Simone Del Rosario: (44:46)
Thank you Mayor. I’m wondering if you believe that the presence of federal agents, whether they’re on standby or otherwise, would further antagonize the people you discussed that are bent on destruction, that you are coming here for a fight. And if that’s the case, who would you employ from the community to try to deescalate that so federal agents are not drawn to respond?
Mayor Durkan: (45:10)
I 100% believe that. I think that this is two sides bent on a fight, that could become a self fulfilling prophecy. What’s been happening in Portland has shown not just a hostile posture, but almost the desire to have it happen night, after night, after night. And it’s the small things to the big things. But for example, we try as quickly as we can after there’s the property destruction that we help a business get restored, that we remove graffiti, that we return things as normal as possible. You’ve noticed that federal courthouse night after night, they purposely are keeping it as it is covered by graffiti. They have the fights where they come out and they employ their tear gas, but they never arrest anyone. So I am very worried.
Mayor Durkan: (45:59)
And what I’m worried about is the people who are bent on a fight who I think Omari Solsbury put it, they’re not protesters. They want direct action. And I think they want direct, violent and destructive action. And if they don’t have anyone to fight, there is no fight. And that’s why I think it’s so dangerous to have this escalation with federal agents to inflame and escalate. I’d point out that here in Seattle, once we were able to clear that Capitol Hill area we’ve had a many protests, peaceful protest. We only started to have the property destruction activity when Portland started to escalate.
Mayor Durkan: (46:37)
And you can see the communications on social media with the people here who are bent on destruction, communicating with the people in Portland. Sometimes traveling to Portland and coming back. And their social media is let’s start the fight here in Seattle. So it’s actually what worries me the most. That by having that federal presence, it will escalate things at a time when his Chief Best says, “We need to heal. We need to find a path forward so that we can focus on those systemic changes for generational change.”
Mayor Durkan: (47:09)
As long as we are in this reactive mode, that can’t happen. So again, I urge everybody, if you are going to protest, do so peacefully. We’ve seen marches of 60,000 people where no property destruction occurred, where police weren’t even needed. But then we saw 150 people cause untold damage, injure officers, start fires. And what I want to say to Seattle is, “Raise your voices and protest, but do it peacefully.” And I asked everybody to denounce what we’ve seen. There’s some who suggest that, “Every form of protest is legitimate.” Property destruction, and fires, and injuring officers, and injuring people standing by, that’s not protest. That is direct, destructive and violent activity.
Speaker 1: (48:02)
Simone Del Rosario: (48:03)
Thank you, mayor. My followup is for Chief Best. You’ve made it pretty clear to the council you’re concerned about the tools they’ve left for your department to be able to protect life and property and your officers downtown this weekend. I’m wondering if things do the out of hand, do you need the federal agents for a proper response to the city given the tools that the Seattle Police Department has to respond?
Chief Best: (48:28)
Hi Simone, I think that question has been asked and answered multiple times today. We have not requested and are not going to request any federal assistance on these issues. We will work through the parameters as they’ve been set. I think it’s very clear to everybody that I think it is problematic to have a outright ban without relative consideration for when the tools might be appropriately used. I will say that. That said, we are not looking to call for any federal agents out here. As the mayor has noted, we don’t want to escalation of events so that we have a recurrence or what they’ve been seeing down in Portland.
Speaker 1: (49:09)
Thank you Chief. With that we have now concluded the Q&A portion of today’s press conference. I appreciate everyone’s understanding who did not get a chance to ask a question today. We will follow up with you if you just send me an email. Mayor, any closing thoughts?
Mayor Durkan: (49:22)
Yeah. I just I want to go back to that last question. A lot of people believe that a firmer response will result in the restoration of peace. And I think that what we’ve seen in Portland is that’s not the case. If we’ve seen what’s happened there night, after night, after night, it’s not made Portland any safer. It’s not made the protesters safer. It has not made their courthouse more secure. In fact, it has escalated the violence, not just at that courthouse, but in blocks around that courthouse. So I really again, just want to urge, we should go back to how these uprisings began and honor, the murder of George Floyd. And remember what that represented to people, not just in Seattle, but across this nation. And the reckoning that we’re having right now across this nation on the need to be honest about and acknowledge the system’s complicity in generations of systemic inequities and racism. And in order to change that you must change the systems. You must get to the point as asked before where we can actually make the changes that will make generational change.
Mayor Durkan: (50:33)
As long as we are responding to violence and protests, we are sapping the resources that we need to heal. So I urge everyone continue to challenge us, continue to make us be better, continue to demand what you think is right. But please, not just this weekend, but every day and every night, do it peacefully. Offer each other some love and some hope. Let Seattle be that city in the nation that can show how we heal as we make ourselves better. So I want to thank everyone for being here. I really want to thank Chief Best and Chief Scoggins and all the men and women who work for the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Fire Department. Who have been showing up every day in every part of this city in the most challenging circumstances, this city has ever faced. Starting with a global pandemic that is getting worse by the day and economic downturn and crisis that has hurt so many people. And now a civil rights reckoning on our streets.
Mayor Durkan: (51:39)
These are the toughest times our city’s ever had. There’s no one police chief, no one fire chief, no one mayor that’s going to change everything overnight. We’re going to do our best to respond in the right way to make the changes we need, but we need to do it together. We need the city of Seattle to come together if we really want to move forward.
Mayor Durkan: (51:59)
So I hope you all have a good weekend. Remember it is a pandemic and it’s getting worse. Please, please, please keep your physical distance, wear your mask, wash your hands. If you’re over the age of 60 to 65 or have a vulnerable condition, don’t go out unless you need to. And if you’re going to enjoy the beautiful weather, do it at a distance. Don’t have backyard barbecues with lots of people. Do frequent our small businesses, they are struggling and they have hung on. We need to make sure we can enjoy them. It’s one reason we opened up sidewalks and streets so people could enjoy restaurants outdoors. Support each other, love each other. I think we’ll get through the Seattle, but we got some tough days ahead. Thanks so much.