Police Unions Push Bill to Regulate Protests
Washington Police want to ban late night protests and stop them from blocking traffic
During the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, Seattle Washington became a flashpoint in Trump’s campaign against protestors. He held up the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, an area in the city where protestors had taken over and police had been ordered to leave by the Mayor, as a sign of the city descending into anarchy. With the protests dying down and police regaining control over the entire city, law enforcement unions are pushing a statewide ballot initiative that require cities and counties in the state to create and enforce detailed plans regulating free-speech demonstrations.
The group, which is calling themselves Team Blue, is made up of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), the Kings County Corrections Guild, and the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS). They argue that by forcing local governments to have a detailed plan before the protest happens, the city will be able to better distribute assets across the city and prevent areas from becoming understaffed.
“Clearly, police officers protect the public and this effort protects the public,” SPOG President Mike Solan said. “When you look at politicians trying to defund the police, where you remove officers from communities — particularly in Seattle, at a time when 911 response times are through the roof — having less officers on the street will cause only more problems.”
According to the Seattle Times, during the height of the protests, response times increased to as high as 9 minutes. Seven minutes is the city’s targeted response time.
Under the act, jurisdictions could adopt their own plans, but they would need to meet some minimum standards. The standards include banning loud demonstrations after 10 PM in residential neighborhoods (12 AM in non-residential), and not allowing loud demonstrations before 7 AM. Protestors would also be prohibited from possessing “riot agents,” such as fireworks, flammable explosives and laser pointers at gatherings that have been deemed unlawful. Finally, it would outlaw street blockades which are a common civil disobedience tacit used by protestors, property destruction and the setting of fires. Many of these things are already illegal, including destroying property and blocking traffic.
Each community’s plan would also have to require that officers wear observable identification, detail what types of force and crowd control devices they plan to use and declare what parameters would need to exist for the police to declare a protest a riot or unlawful. If a community failed to enforce the plan, they would be liable for damages to citizens and businesses or the state could institute a fine of $1,000 or more.
However civil liberties groups and groups that were involved in the protests believe that the initiative is unnecessary. “This unnecessary initiative duplicates existing permitting processes, exposes cities to lawsuits, and distracts the government and its agents from their number one priority, which should be protecting people’s constitutional rights — including the freedoms of speech and assembly,” said the Washington ACLU in a statement.
The group said that they are beginning the process of getting the initiative onto the ballot and that they hope to collect the 250,000 signatures that are needed by July. A similar ballot initiative is being pushed by police unions in Oregon and is being led by the Portland Police Association.