Seattle police will start cracking down on rioters who damage businesses, the city’s interim police chief warned Saturday.
Chief Adrian Diaz’s pledge came days after anti-Biden rioters left Pike Place Market’s original Starbucks coffee shop with its windows smashed and numerous downtown business owners feeling abandoned by the city, according to reports.
Like his predecessor, Carmen Best — who departed last September, claiming a lack of support for police from some city officials — Diaz said he doesn’t believe rioters who smash windows and tag businesses are promoting a cause.
“On January 20th, the events at a variety of locations had no meaning. There was no discussion about what they were fighting for, or what type of social justice message. That cannot happen,” Diaz told reporters at a news conference, according to the Seattle Times.
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He added that rioters seeming more focused on “lighting fires” and “breaking windows.”
“These are things we need to work on,” he added.
On Wednesday, left-wing militants vandalized numerous buildings, used smoke canisters and moved objects into the roadway to create barriers, authorities said. At one point, a group dressed in all black set a large American flag ablaze and smashed several windows. The first Starbucks at the famous Pike Place Market also had its windows smashed.
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Three rioters were arrested for crimes that included burglary, assault and property damage.
“Over Wednesday’s events, it doesn’t matter who is in the presidential office, it really is a matter of understanding that people are just out there for destruction,” Diaz said, Q13 FOX reported.
While he said around 600 protesters and rioters have been arrested since the unrest started last summer, many of the misdemeanors haven’t been prosecuted mainly out of concern of spreading the coronavirus, the Times reported.
“I have been in conversation with the city attorney’s office, Pete Holmes, and he will be prosecuting these cases, from now on,” Diaz said. “He has actually allowed us to have the support of his staff, to assist and review of those cases as they occur, so they can be prosecuted to the fullest extent.”
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However, Holmes, in a statement, said the city attorney’s office wasn’t aware of the new policy and said through a spokesperson that misdemeanor policies would stay the same, the Times reported.
He said the department will take an especially hard line with vandals arrested more than once.
“When we don’t have any form of accountability for people — and many of them that are coming from outside the city — they will continue to do that destruction, and we can’t have that,” he said.
Downtown residents and business owners had voiced their frustration over the lack of consequences for vandals.
“To me, it’s a complete mystery why we’re not having more response,” Stephanie Tschida, of the East Precinct Advisory Council, told KOMO-TV.
Diaz’s news conference came before a planned protest at a nearby park that ended up being peaceful.
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He said the new policy would go into effect Saturday.
In September, then-Chief Carmen Best stepped down, following incidents that included a hole being blown into a wall of a police precinct by an explosive device.
“What we saw today was not peaceful,” Best said at the time, according to the Seattle Times. “The rioters had no regard for the public’s safety, for officers’ safety or for the businesses and property that they destroyed.”