Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant issued a statement Saturday calling on Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign, describing her as responsible for “violence and brutality” in the city’s response to “overwhelmingly peaceful” protests against institutional racism and police killings of Black people.
A harsh Durkan critic long before the current demonstrations, Sawant also called on her council colleagues Saturday to remove the mayor, if necessary. In reply, a representative said Durkan would not be “distracted from the critical work that needs to be done” on police reform and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past week, Sawant said in a news release, the mayor “has repeatedly unleashed Seattle police to use ever-escalating violence against ordinary people protesting the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other black and brown people.”
“The police have inflicted tear gas, mace, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, curfews, arrests and other repressive tactics on Seattle activists and residents — including children — in an attempt to bully and silence the protest movement,” the council member said.
Since the protests began, Durkan has condemned Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis and praised protesters for speaking out against injustice. Along the way, she has mostly stood by Seattle’s police response and attributed chaos in the city’s streets that peaked downtown May 30 to a relatively small number of wrongdoers bent on destruction and attacking cops.
Under mounting pressure in recent days, Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have altered certain crowd control tactics, ordered officers to display badge numbers that had been covered by mourning bands and banned the use of tear gas for at least 30 days. City Hall has withdrawn a court motion meant to help wrap up Seattle’s federally mandated police reform process.
Durkan chief of staff Stephanie Formas didn’t directly address the resignation question. The mayor “believes that SPD can lead the nation on continued reforms and accountability, but knows this week has eroded trust,” Formas said in a statement.
“Seattle is facing its most challenging time in its history,” she added, mentioning COVID-19 and “the pain and trauma relating to the murder of Mr. Floyd and the generations of systemic racism in our city and country.”
“The city has so much healing and work to do — that is where Mayor Durkan will continue to spend her focus … We cannot fan division when we need to come together to make actual steps on policing, invest in community, safely reopen our city to get workers back to work and address the inequities in every system.”
Several other council members have questioned the Durkan administration’s response to the demonstrations. No council members other than Sawant have called on the mayor to resign.
“If Mayor Durkan refuses to step aside, it will be the responsibility of the City Council to remove her, by introducing articles of impeachment,” Sawant said.
Sawant also denounced the mayor Saturday for not raising taxes on businesses like Amazon and for removing homeless encampments. “This past week has been the final straw,” she said.
In her news release, Sawant cited an online petition, launched Friday night by some Democratic Party leaders, also calling on Durkan to resign. The petition had collected about 4,000 signatures as of midday Saturday.
Durkan was elected in 2017, defeating Cary Moon with 56% of the vote.
Sawant was the second council member, after M. Lorena González, to call for then-Mayor Ed Murray to resign in 2017 amid multiple allegations he had sexually abused children decades earlier.