Black Lives Matter asks court to find SPD in contempt for violating restraining order (UPDATED)

This afternoon, attorneys for Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County filed a motion with U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones asserting that the Seattle Police Department violated his preliminary injunction last Saturday during the evening’s protests, and asked the judge to find the city in contempt.

Update 7/28/3:30PM:  see below

Update 7/29/20 9AM:  Judge Jones has moved the City’s filing deadline to 5pm Wednesday, and has set a hearing for 9am Friday 7/31.

Here is a reminder of what the injunction says (it was originally issued as a “temporary restraining order,” and later converted to a preliminary injuction with identical restrictions):

The City of Seattle, including the Seattle Police Department and any other officers, departments, agencies, or organizations under the Seattle Police Department’s control (collectively, “the City”), is hereby enjoined from employing chemical irritants or projectiles of any kind against persons peacefully engaging in protests or demonstrations. This injunction includes: (1) any chemical irritant such as and including CS Gas (“tear gas”) and OC spray (“pepper spray”) and (2) any projectile such as and including flash-bang grenades, “pepper balls,” “blast balls,” rubber bullets, and foam-tip projectiles. This Order does not preclude individual officers from taking necessary, reasonable, proportional, and targeted action to protect against a specific imminent threat of physical harm to themselves or identifiable others or to respond to specific acts of violence or destruction of property. Further, tear gas may be used only if (a) efforts to subdue a threat by using alternative crowd measures, including pepper spray, as permitted by this paragraph, have been exhausted and ineffective and (b) SPD’s Chief of Police has determined that use of tear gas is the only reasonable alternative available. 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. To the extent that chemical irritants or projectiles are used in accordance with this paragraph, they 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.

Today’s motion, which includes twenty separate declarations from individuals attacked by the police, argues that SPD targeted peaceful protesters, legal observers, and journalists, and fired crowd-control weapons indiscriminately into crowds, in violation of the restrictions on the use of such devices that Judge Jones imposed upon them. It asks Jones to to issue an “order to show cause” as to why the Court shoudl not find SPD in contempt of court for violating the preliminary injunction.

Here are the declarations filed by those attacked and/or injured during SPD’s response to the protests, which at times were violent. Several include photos of their injuries.

Jessica Bonafilia

Kathryn Forest (a member of hte “Wall of Moms”)

Sophia Bruce

Cass Bunting

Jessica Butler

Tyler Sill

Jessica Trimble

Sam Sueoka

Richard Smith (a reporter)

Renee Raketty (a reporter)

Adam Oberstadt

Chloe Merino

Joshua Matney

Kira McGieson (a nursing student giving aid)

Muraco Kyashna-Tocha

Corinne Arnold

Colter Arnold

Alexandra Chen

Cloie Chapman

Elise Barrett  (a nurse trying to give aid)

Dusty Baker

The motion also points to multiple social media video footage of police attacking peaceful, retreating protesters, as well as legal observers and journalists being attacked:

Mike Baker

Patrick Malone

Dae Kim

Omari Salisbury (jump to 3:24:00)   also here where they attack him

Heidi Groover


I encourage you to read through the declaration and watch the video — together it gives a deeper understanding of exactly what SPD officers were doing at times on Saturday evening.

The motion concludes:

In many ways, what happened on July 25 was worse than the events that led to the Court’s June 12 order. In a vengeful outburst, the SPD deliberately targeted peaceful protesters, medics attending to those protesters, journalists chronicling those protesters, and legal observers sent to ensure those protesters’ rights are protected. This conduct is wrong even in the absence of a court order. But here, it is especially troubling given the Court’s clear guidance that peaceful protesters must not be targeted, and that projectiles cannot be deployed indiscriminately into the crowd. The City willfully violated the Court’s order, and should be held in contempt. Plaintiffs’ proposed order seeks not only to clarify the injunction already in place but also to sanction the City for these blatant violations. The City must be held accountable.

A “two sides to every story” response isn’t good enough when peaceful protesters, medics, journalists, and legal observers are getting shot in the ribs, head, legs, and face. Finding the City in contempt, and sanctioning this conduct will go a long way towards ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

The plaintiff proposes an order for Judge Jones to issue that amends his earlier preliminary injunction, adding some additional restrictions:

  • it specifically prohibits using force against medical personnel, members of the media, or legal observers;
  • it prohibits using chemical weapons or projectiles against any individuals at a protest without specific reasons to believe that the force is necessary to stop the target in the commission of an act of violence or property destruction or they pose a specific imminent threat of harm to themselves or others;
  • it prohibits using chemical weapons or projectiles to re-route a protest or to cause protesters to retreat, except to prevent imminent hard to a person or property;
  • it prohibits using chemical weapons without first issuing an audible warning and giving sufficient time, space and opportunity to leave;
  • it prohibits using chemical weapons or projectiles on persons in retreat;
  • it prohibits using non-direction canisters of chemical agents, blast balls, or projectiles infused with pepper spray or other chemical agents  “which are, by their nature, indiscriminate”;
  • it prohibits “using any more force than is necessary” to prevent an imminent threat of property destruction or physical harm;
  • it requires a supervisor to determine that the use of projectiles or non-discriminate chemical weapons are necessary at a protest.


The City will have an opportunity to respond before Judge Jones considers whether to sign the proposed order — either as-is or modified to his liking.

A spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan referred me to the City Attorney’s Office for a response. The City Attorney’s spokesperson said, “We’ll review the claims, investigate the assertions, and respond accordingly.

UPDATE 7-28-20  3:30PM:  Judge Richard Jones has ordered the city to respond by noon tomorrow (Wednesday).

UPDATE 7-29-20 9:00AM: Judge Jones has extended the city’s filing deadline to 5pm, and scheduled a hearing for 9am Friday.

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