The Seattle Police vs. Preston from Capitol Hill
On the way home from the art show i today was on the approach to I-5 north on Denny, facing an extremely steep hill. In fact it’s really the hill in Capitol Hill. I noticed a man in a powder blue zuit suit and a black vest mortally struggling with his shopping cart full of his possessions, a common sign of a homeless person in Seattle. He was strugglng so hard i couldn’t tell if he had a disability that affected his walking or was just at the edge of what he could handle, so i decided not to get on the freeway, but instead to turn around and help him.
It took a few minutes. i had to drive up into Capitol Hill, turn around on the one way streets, and wait for at several lights. I got a little turned around, and by the time i was coming back down the hill looking for a place to park i saw that he didn’t need my help anymore, there were two cops there, lights flashing, making a big scene. They were out of their cars. The woman officer from patrol car #109 was engaging with the man directly, and the male officer from patrol car #156 was standing less than a car length away behind her, posturing with his billy club out, casually swinging it and spinning in it like he’s prepared to use it at a moment’s notice. this cop was either living in a bad 70’s movie or simply making a blatant attempt to intimidate the man. I was shocked. traffic was horrible, and I again got routed in circles, but i decided to go back and try to get the scene on camera.
When I turned around to go back up the hill again, the cops were gone. The man was gone, too. I kept driving, went looking for him, and found him at the top of the hill. he was exhausted. I pulled over and parked beside him and spent a few minutes talking to him. his name is Preston Terry, and he’s probably in his late twenties or so, fresh-faced, clean, looked like he could be working in any random theater on the hill. I asked what the cops were saying to him, and he indicated they must have gotten a lot of calls about him, because they stopped him at the edge of downtown and demanded he return to Capitol Hill. He claimed he must have been “doing too much scarf dancing” and that they knew he normally hung out in Capitol Hill and they wanted him to go back there. they demanded him to return and would not let him cross into downtown. I asked him why the male cop had his billy club out, if he was threatening him. He said “i noticed that, too. He just wanted to be a badass. he wanted to intimidate me. He wanted me to go back to my box”. This overtly friendly man, who indicated he was a musician and a “scarf dancer”, gave in to the pressure and clear threat of violence, and struggled to get his cart back up the hill, alone.
I’m so disgusted with these cops that I’m going to read this post on this week’s Rangounmuzzled. I’m also going to contact the Seattle Police Department and ask them for a full accounting of what i just witnessed, and please share it with theACLU Nationwide, ACLU of Washington and the The Seattle Times. Because i think the officer from car #156 was way out of line, and i think the officer from car #109 was negligent in her duty for not telling the other officer to stand down, put his weapon away, and stop trying to intimidate this young man.
They both failed. From this witness’s perspective the proper thing to do here for anybody with a sense of moral rectitude was to help that man with his cart. I’m really interested to hear their accounting of the stories, and I wonder if the officers would like to be identified, and tell us why they felt they needed to demonstrate physical force to coerce and corrale somebody who seemed capable of breaking out into a song and dance routine at any minute, nothing more menacing than that. It’s possible they had a legitimate reason to do so, and I think we’d all love to hear it. For the moment I’m simply disgusted.