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.