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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

December 7, 2014 at 9:01 AM

‘I have to be mayor on more than one issue,’ Murray says of absence

Mayor Ed Murray is not in town this weekend to personally oversee the city during street protests.

But in an interview Friday, Murray said he was confident that the city’s policing strategy would be successful in his absence.

“We have spent hours and hours, a significant amount of time, preparing our response and getting our policing ready and deciding the strategy we need,” the mayor said.

Murray left Friday for a multiple-day trip to the East Coast. He is in Washington, D.C., this weekend for an annual conference of LGBT elected officials.

Murray will be in New York City on Monday for a summit of mayors on immigration and will return to the nation’s capital on Wednesday for an event with President Obama about early education, he said.

“If something goes wrong, I will come back. But I believe there are numerous issues I need to work on,” he said.

“I have to be mayor on more than one issue,” Murray added. “We’re in constant contact. We have various things that are available to a mayor to stay in touch with the police force, and I can make it back there pretty quickly.”

The mayor said he’d been satisfied with the Seattle Police Department’s reaction to street protests that began last week after a white Ferguson, Mo., cop was cleared of criminal charges in connection with the fatal shooting of a black man.

As of Friday afternoon, there had been 12 arrests related to the mostly peaceful protests.

Police said they made seven additional arrests Saturday after a group of about 150 protesters broke away from a larger march organized by University of Washington students.

“I think we’ve had a measured response,” Murray said Friday. “The numbers (of protesters) are not massive and I think the police have handled it well. When actions have stepped over the line from exercising freedom of speech and political protest, the police have stepped in and acted appropriately and arrested people and will continue to do that.”

Some protesters have complained about police, by blocking westward routes downtown, causing crowds to march east onto Capitol Hill.

“That’s not happening,” Murray said Friday. “The protesters themselves change where they go.”

“I’ve been in command headquarters almost every night,” the mayor added. “The attempt I see is … How do you keep traffic flowing? How do you make sure the city can function?”

During the World Trade Organization protests of 1999, protesters were herded onto Capitol Hill, Murray acknowledged.

“The police know that that was a mistake,” he said. “That’s not a tactic now. For some reason the protesters have chosen to hang out in the area of Capitol Hill and downtown. For some reason they’re not protesting in Bellevue or other parts of the city.”

Times reporter Paige Cornwell contributed material for this article.

Comments | More in General news, Government | Topics: Ferguson, mayor, protests

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