June 21, 2012 at 1:21 PM
Arrests follow heckling at mayor’s town hall meeting
A man who was convicted of assaulting Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn in 2001 was arrested Tuesday night after hecklers shut down a town hall meeting with Mayor Mike McGinn in the Central District.
James Garrett, also known as Omari Tahir-Garrett, was arrested with three others on suspicion of trespassing after they refused a Seattle police officer’s order to leave the African-American Museum around 7 p.m. Garrett told officers that he did not recognize the authority of the museum director to tell them to leave, according to police charging documents. The names of the other three weren’t available.
McGinn spoke at the 5 p.m. meeting at the museum but walked out after hecklers repeatedly interrupted what was supposed to be a question-and-answer session with residents. The mayor’s office described the hecklers as anarchists, but in a KIRO-TV video of the meeting, there seemed to be a number of people shouting at the mayor, including one who complained about the Seattle police use of force.
McGinn tried to talk over the hecklers, and then asked the audience if they wanted him or the protesters to answer questions. He finally said, “We’re done. This is not a productive meeting,” and walked out of the Museum.
The mayor tried to continue to talk with some neighbors outside, but was interrupted by a woman who said he wasn’t talking to her because she was black and he was white, according to the KIRO video.
It wasn’t clear whether Garrett was with the group of hecklers during the Town Hall meeting. Police say they gave him a verbal warning that the museum was closed and that he would be arrested for trespassing. After about 40 minutes, the four were arrested, the police documents say.
In 2001, Garrett was heckling Mayor Paul Schell during a Central District community celebration when he attacked the mayor with a 5-pound megaphone. The assault broke several bones in Schell’s face. He was convicted in 2002. After the verdict, he told reporters, “This was a European, colonial, settler, terrorist jury … This wasn’t a jury of my peers.”
Garrett was sentenced to 21 months in prison for the assault.
Garrett was a long-time community activist who occupied the former Coleman School in 1985 to force the city to build a cultural center there. He objected to plans by the Seattle Urban League to develop the museum and apartments in the historic building.
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