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BLM protestors sue city for cost of their own 'riot gear'

Activists claim that Seattle's aggressive crowd control measures forced them to purchase expensive protective gear, "pricing" them out of exercising their rights.
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA

Rioters who claim to have participated in Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Seattle, including the armed takeover of Capitol Hill and other locations where riots and looting took place, are suing the city. Activists claim that the Seattle Police Department's aggressive crowd control measures forced them to purchase expensive protective gear, essentially "pricing" them out of exercising their First Amendment rights.

In the lawsuit, five plaintiffs allege that they had to undertake "the purchase of helmets, gas masks, protective clothing, goggles, gloves, boots, umbrellas and other gear... needed to fend off police pepper spray, less-lethal projectiles and other crowd-dispersal tools which have impinged on their civil right to peacefully protest."

The five women also claim to have been involved in the militant occupied Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) where police were not allowed. That occupation resulted in a 250 percent spike in crime including five shootings which and the deaths of two black teenagers. While the suspects remain at large, video from the final shooting in the CHOP shows activist security people claiming to have shot a 14 and 16 year old.

The plaintiffs claim that "repeated use of force by SPD during more than six weeks of civil unrest over systemic racism and police brutality against people of color has made it impossible to exercise their right to gather and protest without personal protective gear, which isn't cheap."

All five plaintiffs, Jessica Benton, Shelby Bryant, Anne Marie Cavanaugh, Alyssa Garrison, and Clare Thomas — say they were the victims of "indiscriminate" police violence during protests.

Unedited video has shown that rioters continued to attack police officers with rocks, bottles and explosives before SPD responded with tear gas. Demonstrators  targeted and vandalized businesses, minorities, city council member’s homes, the home of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and most recently the home of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

Meanwhile, the battle over defunding the Seattle Police Department continues. As of today, the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) has collected over 150,000 signatures in support of the police, and cracks are beginning to show in the super majority the Seattle City Council once claimed to have in support of defunding the SPD. There has also been pushback against the defunding from minority communities claiming that defunding SPD will leave them exposed and at risk.

The defunding of SPD has gained national spotlight from people who do not live in Seattle and do not understand that crime has been on the rise in the area as hundreds of SPD officers have left the force over the past few years. Two thirds of the force cites the demonization of officers by politicians as their reason for leaving.

Conversely, according to SPOG, well over 90 percent of the signatures opposed to defunding SPD are from Seattle zip codes.

Courts are already weighing in on the practices of SPD. According to the Daily Wire: "The ACLU of Washington filed suit in early June alleging that Seattle police exceeded their authority when they used tear gas, flashbang grenades, and rubber bullets to handle ongoing protests that, at the time, were threatening to become riots."

Seattle is facing multiple lawsuits from the fallout of the CHOP. Spokesman Dan Nolte for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office told the Seattle Times that he will "look into these new claims and intend(s) to defend the City in this matter."

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