A federal judge has overturned a Seattle ordinance that prohibited police from using crowd control weapons. The last-minute decision comes hours after the city’s police chief said the force would be powerless to stop mob violence.
US District Judge James Robart blocked the ban, which was put in place by the Seattle City Council, during an emergency hearing on Friday night. The Seattle ordinance, which was set to go into effect this weekend, would have prevented police from using pepper spray, blast balls, and other crowd control weapons.
The temporary restraining order on the legislation was made after the US Department of Justice argued that prohibiting Seattle police from using crowd control weapons could actually result in more deadly force being used in situations where law enforcement need to intervene.
The city is expected to see large protests in the coming days. In a letter to business owners and residents released hours before the ruling, Police Chief Carmen Best warned that the legislation passed by the city council gives officers “NO ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large, violent crowd.”
Seattle Police will have an adjusted deployment in response to any demonstrations this weekend – as I will never ask our officers to risk their personal safety to protect property without the tools to do so in a safe way.
Seattle has seen numerous protests since the death of George Floyd in May. The city hosted the now-defunct ‘autonomous zone’ in its Capitol Hill neighborhood, which was later disbanded following a string of violence and several deaths. Over the last week, protesters have smashed up and vandalized several businesses in the city.
Large protests are expected over the weekend, with a tactical unit of federal agents on standby if the protests spiral into violence or rioting.