A Seattle Budget Committee Meeting held on Wednesday to discuss a proposal to cut the Seattle Police Department funding in half saw over 300 community members in attendance and 90% support among those community members for the proposal.
Seattle City Councilmembers and community members attended electronically due to COVID restrictions. In-person attendance has been prohibited until August 1st. Community members were encouraged to access and participate in the meeting by phone or online.
In order to allow for as many people to speak as possible, each person was given 45 seconds of speaking time. Speakers repeatedly referenced police brutality, the use of teargas and other non-lethal weapons during the George Floyd protests, and the overall racism they claimed was inherent in law enforcement.
The first speaker, identified as Samuel, said he was “absolutely disgusted and ashamed of our city’s police response.” He accused the SPD of being “dedicated toward serving their own needs of white pride and white supremacy” and called them a “fundamentally flawed and racist institution.” Samuel urged the Committee to defund the SPD by at least 50%.
Another speaker by the name of Jocelyn said she had witnessed “unconscionable terror at the hands of the SPD” and called their equipment “weapons of war.” She also urged a 50% budget cut.
A third speaker, Sean, identified himself as a member of Socialist Alternative, which is a self-described Trotskyist political party within the United States. Sean called the SPD’s behavior “f—ing perverse,” referencing their use of flash bangs and tear gas. Like the other speakers before him, he also urged the Committee to approve a 50% budget cut.
This was all in the first 10 minutes of a meeting that lasted over 3 hours.
The current budget for the Seattle Police Department is $408 million.
Seattle protests over the killing of George Floyd began on May 30th. Any peaceful intentions were quickly overcome by the violent actions of many protestors, which necessitated both police and National Guard intervention.
In that first weekend of protests alone, hundreds of buildings and businesses were damaged and set on fire. Protestors threw rocks, bottles, and other projectiles at police officers.
The city of Seattle has since seen the establishment and removal of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (or CHAZ, later re-named CHOP), and continued violence during protests. In the protests over this past weekend, protestors continued to throw explosives, rocks, and bottles at officers. 47 people were arrested and 59 officers injured.
In addition, the SPD found explosives, stun guns, and spike strips in a van they confiscated over the weekend that had been distributing weapons to rioters.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday that federal officials who had been sent to Seattle last week are now withdrawing from Washington State. In a Twitter statement, he celebrated that Washingtonians would no longer have to worry about the White House’s attempt to “undermine peaceful protests.”
Despite the violence that has overtaken the city at the hands of protestors, community members and Council members continue to advocate for a 50% budget cut to the Seattle Police Department.
Wednesday’s meeting concluded by deferring the action on the budget proposal to August 10th since amendments had not been prepared for the defunding.