SEATTLE (AP) — As Seattle prepares for more protests, the city's police chief said Saturday that officers are carrying pepper spray and blast balls in accordance with a contested department protocol that was cleared by a last-minute emergency court hearing.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best disclosed the information in a statement Saturday morning ahead of a rally and march over racial injustices that was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. near downtown. Best promised officers would not use tear gas and urged demonstrators to remain peaceful.
“In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence,” Best said.
At an emergency hearing on Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons.
The temporary restraining order now halts the law that the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month after protests confrontations that have largely been peaceful but were occasionally marked by violence, looting and highway shutdowns. The law intended to de-escalate tensions between police and demonstrators was set to take effect on Sunday.
But the U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, successfully argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.
Robart, who is presiding over a 2012 consent decree requiring the city to address allegations of excessive force and biased policing, said the issue needed more discussion between the city and the Justice Department before that law could go into effect.
Best said Robart's order allows officers to use the less-lethal crowd management tools.