The city of Seattle must pay $81,997.12 to attorneys for Black Lives Matter to cover their fees and costs in pursuing contempt-of-court violations against the Seattle Police Department for the improper use of pepper spray and blast balls against peaceful protesters.
The amount arrived at by U.S. District Judge Richard Jones was significantly less than the nearly $264,000 in fees and costs being sought by lawyers for BLM-Seattle and King County after Jones found police had violated his injunction prohibiting unnecessary force. The order was issued after Jones found SPD officers had violated the rights of thousands of protesters earlier this summer during numerous protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
Jones declined to place “coercive sanctions” against the city, sought by BLM, which would have required SPD officers to provide BLM with use-of-force reports and other information within days of every incident in which an officer uses force against a protester. The judge found those kinds of sanctions were not appropriate in this case.
The judge also rejected the city’s efforts to have him reconsider his contempt finding.
“We are pleased that the Court rejected the City’s misguided attempt to reverse the Court’s contempt finding, and that the Court issued sanctions against the City,” said David Perez, one of the attorneys representing Black Lives Matter. “Our goal is to ensure greater safety for protesters through compliance with the Court’s orders, and this decision will help in that regard.”
Jones said that while BLM was successful in pursuing a contempt-of-court order against SPD, just four of 122 incidents submitted by BLM and reviewed by the court rose to the level of violations of his earlier injunction. In the remaining cases, the court found that the force was either appropriate or that there wasn’t enough evidence to say one way or another.
“If the Court had more evidence, many of these ‘remaining uses’ may in fact be ‘clear violations,’ making the City’s contempt even more grave than previously thought,” Jones wrote in his order.