Amid protests, some call for radical changes including defunding Seattle Police

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council held a special meeting to hear from residents and people involved in the protests so far.

Several council members are clearly not happy with the Seattle Police Department.

Some residents who spoke up during public comment asked the council for some radical changes, including defunding the police department.

For days and days, we’ve seen thousands march and demonstrate peacefully - and not peacefully - not only for George Floyd but to fight racial injustices playing out across the US for generations.

“Every day I feel like I walk around like a possible obituary,” Willard Jimerson of said.

Seattle police say they have had to use force when events turned dangerous.

But during Monday’s protest, some say water bottles thrown at police should not have lead officers to overreact with pepper spray and tear gas.

“You have the power to create actual actionable change. I am calling on the Seattle City Council to ban the use of tear gas, defund the police and break ties with SPD and fight the power of police union whenever possible,” one woman said.

Another woman who said she was a substitute teacher for Seattle Public Schools said she wanted the school district to cut ties with SPD.

There is no question that lawlessness, looting and rioting overtook Seattle on Saturday, leaving hundreds of businesses damaged.

“Two days in a row we saw the bad guys run free,” citizen journalist Omari Salisbury said.

Leaders in the African American community who marched for change say there is a difference between the thousands who peacefully came out and others who came to destroy.

Police Chief Carmen Best agrees.

“It’s a larger group than what we have ever experienced before, 300 to 500 committing property destruction,” Best said.

Best says officers were overwhelmed with call after call of violence during Saturday’s riots.

During Wednesday’s special meeting Best was also put on the defense by people who say officers are using excessive force against protestors who are doing nothing wrong.

Although Chief Best supports the demonstrations she says there are have been moments of violence towards officers.

In the past several days, multiple officers have been injured including one officer she says who had a concrete object thrown at him possibly hurting the officer’s eyesight.

“Officers are being pelted with rocks, fireworks and feces,” Best said.

Best says no one's job should require them to take a frozen bottled water to the face.

But she also said her force is listening to the community and willing to work on improving.

“I think there is much work to be done,” Best said.

“If I was in charge of putting officers into the middle of this I would be putting them into the middle of this to show compassion and empathy and build relationships that would diffuse everything,” Dominique Davis of Community Passageways said.

Salisbury also provided some perspective on how to deescalate the protests. He said officers should stand as far back as possible from protestors so there is less anxiety and less of a chance for things to escalate.

Meanwhile, one citizen called for Mayor Durkan’s resignation during public comment. The mayor was not present for the online meeting but Deputy Mayor Mike Fong spoke for the administration.

He basically said they were listening and learning and also willing to work on future policies with the council. Fong also said Durkan had a history of holding officers accountable.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, after Fong’s speech, called it a "charade."

Sawant says she plans on working on a bill to ban tear gas and other measures deployed by police to control the crowds.

Another issue that will get some attention will be the rule that requires officers to turn off their body cams during legal protests. The rule is in place supported by the ACLU and members of the city council. But the policy has now been questioned by demonstrators.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who led the meeting, at one point appeared emotional after hearing the experiences of black people in the community.