SEATTLE — As court proceedings for the Minneapolis cop in George Floyd’s murder begin, protests are planned around the country, including a rally and march demanding justice at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.
Jury selection was supposed to start Monday for Derek Chauvin, one of the officers charged in George Floyd’s death, but it was delayed.
The group rallying in Seattle said they want to see more community control of Seattle police.
Seattle Police said they are monitoring the events and are prepared for the potential upcoming protests. So are local security firms.
“We have 10 right now and they will probably been working longer shift today,” said Joseph Spiro of Iconic Global Security, a private security firm based in Kent.
Spiro said his company had 10 plainclothes security officers working Capitol Hill all day Monday and even more security staffers on standby.
“We are prepared for the possibility of something happening today,” Spiro said.
He said the proceedings underway are having an impact in Seattle.
“We’ve seen some tweets that have indication of violence,” Spiro said. Verdict day — that’s going to be a bigger day. Now there is concern this is the beginning of the culmination of what we’ve been dealing with this whole time here.”
Spiro, who co-owns Iconic Global, said many Seattle businesses are worried rallies here could lead to violence, fires, and property damage. That’s why his team will be in Westlake Monday as well for a rally to remember George Floyd.
“We were in Westlake Park when the riots broke out and every day since then,” Spiro said.
The Seattle police operations center is on it too. They will remain hands off unless peaceful protests turn unlawful.
Assistant Chief Bryan Grenon with the Seattle Police Operations Center said SPD is finalizing plans for upcoming potential protests. Officials started full department refresher training for crowd control and are incorporating lessons learned from prior incidents and feedback from the office of police accountability, the office of inspector general and the community police commission.
Spiro said his officers do what they can to help law enforcement.
“We kind of help fill in the gaps,(for police) this was a learning curve for law enforcement as it was for us,” Spiro said.
Spiro said his team is keeping an eye on capitol hill’s Cal Anderson park too – Deboragh Pryor is too – she lives nearby and is worried not only about the start of the trial but even more – the verdict.
“It saddens me this will turn into something ridiculous i see it coming,” said Pryor who lives across the street from the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct.
CALLING FOR JUSTICE
Protesters used the timing of the Derek Chauvin murder trial to stage an anti-police demonstration in downtown Seattle Monday night.
Members of Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression gathered in Westlake Park to call for more community control over police departments. They said justice for George Floyd is something that likely won’t be achieved as the trial for Chauvin gets underway in Minneapolis.
“We see these murders in the streets and we see officers get off and we’re not holding our breath for a guilty verdict,” said Zane Smith, one of the speakers at the rally.
That same lack of accountability is part of the system here in Washington state, Smith said. What he suggests is a top to bottom reorganization of how police departments are run, starting with the formation of a civilian police accountability council to oversee all aspects of operations.
“Full control over budget, policy, hiring and firing of top level staff and street level officers, oversight. full access to investigations,” Zane said.
The problem with current police watchdog agencies is that the people who run them are appointed, demonstrators said. Unlike Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability, or OPA, the proposal by the alliance for a civilian council would be an elected board. In that way, it would answer directly to the community.
“There’s a lot of cops on board on the OPA so it’s cops watching cops which isn’t great for accountability,” Smith said.
The demonstrators don’t have a specific timeline to introduce legislation to form these civilian oversight boards. They plan to hold more rallies to get their message out peacefully.