Cpt. Chris Fowler threatens to arrest two “anti-sharia” demonstrators for incitement. Screenshot via footage by Casey Jaywork

Muslim Advocates Allege Seattle Police Favored ‘Anti-Sharia’ Protesters at June Rally

The counter-protesters have asked for an investigation of SPD’s tactics.

On Thursday, many of the Seattleites who countered a so-called “anti-Sharia” rally in June submitted a letter to Mayor Ed Murray’s office, the Seattle Police Department, and the Office of Police Accountability alleging that SPD allowed violent demonstrators to repeatedly attack peaceful counter-protesters.

“Seattle Police Department on several occasions acted against the interests” of the counter-protesters and “treated them as the primary threat, instead of the armed militia and anti-Muslim hate group members,” the letter alleges. Signatories include Rich Stolz of OneAmerica, Estela Ortega of El Centro de la Raza, Jorge Baron of NWIRP, Arsalan Bukhari of CAIR-WA, and City Council candidate Jon Grant.

The letter—which refers to the counter-protesters collectively as “the Coalition”—demands an investigation, reform report, a meeting, and an apology. But first, it lays out a critical narrative of police deference on June 10.

“Even with repeated calls for help, the police did not intervene in a timely manner to protect Coalition members,” the letter says. It describes two instances by City Hall in which police failed to protect counter-protesters from aggressive “anti-Sharia” protesters, one on Cherry Street and another on the south side of the counter-protest crowd. Police were “asked to help but they did not intervene. Rather, the police were turned toward the Coalition crowd, seemingly ignoring the threat from the Proud Boys and Warriors [for Freedom],” the letter says, referring to two groups that took part in the demonstration.

Daniel Ojalvo of Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction (SAFE), one of the letter’s signatories, says he witnessed Proud Boys attacking peaceful counter-protesters. “The one case I saw directly was on Fourth and Cherry, in front of the City Hall,” he says. “Essentially, they were walking up and trying to go through the crowd, and someone else was standing there and they started punching.” Getting into a fight with leftists is said to be an initiation ritual for the Proud Boys. Ojalvo says he saw another Proud Boy walk up to a man and throw a punch. “He was walking into a gentleman, and I guess what happened was the gentleman didn’t get out of the way, all the sudden I just saw him punch the guy in the face,” Ojalvo says.

After the dueling rallies at City Hall had ended, both “anti-Sharia” protesters and counter-protesters wandered the streets. I tagged along with a group of Proud Boys and Warriors who were looking for a fight:

“The police failed to prevent some of the same Proud Boys involved in earlier confrontations (who the police had even warned) from marching right into the Coalition crowd, again, at Occidental,” says the letter. “One of the Proud Boys physically pushed aside a Coalition marshal who was trying to keep the Proud Boys out, and physically attacked the Coalition crowd in the southeast corner of Occidental Square. As Coalition participants responded in defense, the bicycle police then stepped in and pepper-sprayed the crowd, ending the Coalition’s rally at Occidental.”

“What I saw was these fights were being instigated in front of the police multiple time,” said Ojalvo, “and Seattle police didn’t do anything about it.”

As we reported, police did use pepper spray and coordinated bicycle charging to break up the brawl near Occidental Park, arresting three apparent counter-protesters in the process. That post has video of the brawl. No one in the “anti-Sharia” faction was arrested that day. Overall, the protests were less violent than I and others had feared ahead of time.

I witnessed two instances in which Seattle police threatened to arrest anti-sharia protesters for inciting violence:

The Coalition letter asks the executive branch for an investigation of SPD’s tactics, a report on how to improve in the future, a meeting with the signatories, and an apology to those arrested and pepper sprayed.

A spokesperson for OPA, which investigates specific complaints against Seattle police, confirmed that they received the letter and are processing it. OPA has 30 days to respond.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Mary Lynn Pannen, founder and CEO of Sound Options, has consulted thousands of Washington families on geriatric care for 30 years. Photo courtesy of Sound Options
Seattle Takes on Elder Abuse as Reported Cases Rise

Local agencies and geriatric care managers aim to increase public awareness about the epidemic.

The Ride2 transit app will offer on-demand rides to and from West Seattle starting on Dec. 17. Courtesy of King County Metro
Climate Action Coalition Urges City to Respond to Seattle Squeeze

MASS asks the city to prioritize reducing traffic and increasing pedestrian safety ahead of the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s closure.

State Supreme Court Strikes Down I-27; King County Will Pursue Safe Consumption Sites

The decision upholds a court ruling keeping the anti-consumption site initiative off the ballot.

Seattle’s Hockey Team And Stadium Are On Their Way

Key Arena renovations will be completed without the use of public funding

Andrea Bernard, Allycea Weil, and Phoenix Johnson (left to right) are Licton Springs K-8 parents who want their kids to stay in the Native-centered program. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Licton Springs K-8 Parents Dismayed by Potential School Move

The PTO says children have benefited from the Native-centered program, and that transferring the pupils would disrupt their progress.

Seattle Municipal Court’s warrant outreach event on Nov. 30, 2017. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Seattle Takes Steps to Quash Warrants

City Attorney attempts to address inequities in criminal justice system and enhance public safety.

The King County Courthouse. File photo
King County Council Acknowledges Report on Juvenile Solitary Confinement

Report also says youth of color face a disproportionate amount of disciplinary measures

Federal Way Megachurch Slapped With Another Sexual Exploitation Lawsuit

Lawsuit calls for removal of Casey and Wendy Treat, and CFO, from church leadership roles.

The Centralia Power Plant is a coal-burning plant owned by TransAlta which supplies 380 megawatts to Puget Sound Energy. It is located in Lewis County and slated to shut down by 2025. Aaron Kunkler/Staff Photo
National Report Outlines Climate Change’s Course For Northwest

More fires, floods and drought appear to be on their way for Washington state.

Mustafa Getahun and other Washington Federation of State Employees laundry workers picket University of Washington Medicine at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery on May 17, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Washington Federation of State Employees
University of Washington Laundry Workers Feel Hung Out to Dry

The Rainier Valley facility’s imminent closure leaves over 100 people looking for new jobs.