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Port Commission Meeting Ends W/ Police Pushing People Out

Port of Seattle, Tukwila, and Auburn police guard the Port of Seattle building entrance after pushing activists out of the doors. Photo by Sydney Brownstone

This afternoon’s public port commission meeting started with a peaceful die-in staged by Filipino climate activists on the steps of Port in Seattle headquarters. It ended with police officers aggressively pushing people—including one person with a cane who was looking for a disability ramp—out of the building.

After the die-in, a group of environmental activists filled most of the chairs in the port commission meeting room, holding signs and waiting for their turn to speak. A couple of people in the room commented loudly and cursed during staff briefings. In response, port commissioners adjourned the meeting before the public comment period.

Things quickly escalated from there. At least a dozen police officers—some port police, some from the Tukwila Police Department—filed into the room. One visibly upset activist took a seat at the dais before police came over and pushed one of her arms behind her back. Protesters and police argued loudly at the entrance to the room. Police ordered people to leave or face arrest.

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Police grabbed one protester who was sitting at the dais. SB


Most protesters ended up in the lobby, though one activist refused to leave the meeting room. (It was difficult to see, but I tried to snap a picture of what appeared to be him being led away.)

Soon after, police cleared the lobby, forcefully pushing people through the building’s front doors. I got stuck in a group of people being ushered out of the building, most of whom were moving as quickly as they could in the foot traffic. I watched one police officer shove an activist up against one of the front door frames, though it was unclear why. Another line of police blocked part of the entrance, and police moving out from the lobby continued to push people out and into that other line of officers.

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One activist who refused to leave the meeting room was led away by police. SB

At the entrance, cops further clashed with protesters trying to get down the steps. One activist with a cane, Lizz A. (this person did not want their* last name used), said they were slowly moving through the bottleneck of bodies and trying to find a disability ramp when they say a cop pushed them back.

“There’s only one ramp into this [part of the] building and it’s at the entrance over there. So because of the line, I couldn’t get to that entrance,” the 23-year-old activist said. “And they kept pushing us farther and farther back. And I’m like I have a cane, stop pushing me, I need to use that entrance. I need to use that ramp, you’re being inaccessible. And they didn’t say anything to that. They kept pushing and I almost got pushed down the stairs.”

Some of that interaction was caught on video here. (Apologies for the vertical video framing.)

Bob Barnes, 69, a genial guy with a long white beard, said a police officer “violently” pushed him down the stairs, but he was caught by someone—he didn’t know who—before he hit the ground. His shoulder hurt when I spoke to him, and he said he was considering pressing charges.

The Port of Seattle did not respond to the specific allegations from Lizz A. and Barnes. In response to a question about whether the port considered shoving people out of the building appropriate, port spokesperson Peter McGraw said “our police did their job today clearing out the commission chambers after issuing a lawful order to disperse.” McGraw also referred me to Washington State’s use of force policy here.

*Preferred pronoun.

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