King County Labor Council removes Seattle Police Officers GuildcloseVideo
Seattle installs new concrete barriers in 'CHOP' zone after negotiations with protesters
Seattle's protest area has been shrunken to make it safer for occupants; Jonathan Hunt reports from the scene.
A Seattle-based labor council voted Wednesday to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) from the organization amid demonstrations against police brutality and racism and calls for greater police accountability.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council held an hourslong vote to pass a motion approved May 20 by its executive board to remove the police union, with 45,435 delegates voting in favor of the removal against 36,760 in opposition, the Seattle Times reported.
“As a union movement, it’s our responsibility to fight for all forms of justice. In the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, we believe that there can be no justice without racial justice," MLK Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant told Fox News in a statement. "Any union that is part of our labor council needs to be actively working to dismantle racism in their institution and society at large. Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild has failed to do that work and are no longer welcome in our council.
"Since the killing of George Floyd, communities of color in Seattle and around the United States have spoken loud and clear that the status quo will no longer be tolerated," she added. "We have listened to our community and responded by doing the right thing.”
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Some delegates opposed to removing SPOG cited concerns over possibly isolating the union, saying they preferred to keep engaging with the group, the Seattle Times reported.
“Why are we engaged in union-busting from within? … We need them at the table, we can talk with them, discuss with them, so then we can hold them accountable,” said Karlena Allbery from IBEW 46. “Again, it’s not an overall … ‘only police are racist.’ We’re all fighting this."
The council initially threatened to remove SPOG on June 4 unless it admitted that racism was a problem in law enforcement and agreed to address the issue in the next round of labor negotiations with the city. The labor council's executive board passed a resolution that same day saying systemic racism exists in the Seattle Police Department and that recent events were not because of a few "bad actors."
"Our police are over-armed with weapons but provided no real tools to dismantle the racism in their own Department or provide the services our community needs," the resolution read. "Labor can play a critical role, along with community and our elected leaders, in redefining the role of law enforcement in our society."
The police union recently wrote two letters — one to the city and another addressed to Mayor Jenny Durkan. In the letter to the city, SPOG promised to train and to seek training to manage situations similar to the one involving George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody. The union also vowed to repair the loss of trust between its officers and the public.
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"Officers must treat every citizen with respect, and should be held to the very highest standards of conduct," the letter read.
In the letter to Durkan a few days later, union President Mike Solan informed her of the sometimes violent clashes between protesters and police officers.
"As the situation on the ground devolves into more violence, singularly perpetuated by a group of criminal agitators on the west side of the barricade on Pine Street and 11th Avenue, I’m fearful that further exposure to SPOG members from these criminal violent acts will have drastic repercussions for public safety," he said.
Seattle has seen some of the most defiant behavior since nationwide demonstrations over Floyd's death began last month. Some protesters continue to occupy a portion of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, dubbed the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP.
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Some business owners and residents within the occupied area have voiced concerns over safety. The police department's East Precinct, which is located inside the cop-free area, was abandoned amid tense demonstrations.
Organizers and city officials recently agreed to reduce the size of the zone from six blocks to three.