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February 27, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Protesters occupy City Hall to protest Seattle police chief

About 40 protesters calling for the resignation of Seattle Police Chief John Diaz occupied City Hall outside of the Mayor’s Office Monday. The protesters, who said they were part of the Occupy Seattle movement,  voted earlier in the afternoon to remain at City Hall until Diaz steps down as chief.

The protesters first interrupted a regularly scheduled City Council meeting a little after 2 p.m.  Several addressed the Council and said that Diaz did not have the mandate of Seattle citizens and should be removed. The group left peacefully within about 10 minutes and headed up to the 7th floor. At 5:30 p.m., they were occupying the public waiting area outside the Mayor’s office.

The protesters unfurled a red banner from a 7th floor balcony that said “Bring Diaz Down” and sat on couches and the floor outside the mayor’s office.  Mayor Mike McGinn was not in the office.  About a dozen uniformed Seattle police officers waited in the ground-floor lobby of City Hall. City Hall is usually locked and closed to the public at 6 p.m.

Phil Neel, one of the protesters, said the protest was not specifically against McGinn, who hired Diaz in 2010 and has stood by him through several highly publicized incidents of police use of force against minorities. Neel said the group chose the mayor’s 7th floor offices because it is “the seat of power” and that the city’s politicians had been complicit in failing to prosecute officers for excessive use of force.

The protesters called for the prosecution of Ian Birk, the Seattle police officer who resigned after a review panel found that his shooting of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams was unjustified. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded in December that the Seattle Police Department had engaged in a pattern of excessive use of force and is now negotiating a settlement with the city that could lead to changes in the department.

“All officers who engage in a pattern of excessive use of force should be prosecuted,” Neel said.

City Councilman Nick Licata said that the protesters probably were in touch with young people who had had negative experiences with the police. But he said, “We’re going through a DOJ review. We have a process in place to as how do we do better policing. That’s the way to go about it.”

Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: John Diaz, John T. Williams, Mike McGinn

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