The Seattle City Council unanimously voted Monday to ditch an ordinance allowing police officers to arrest loiterers if they’re suspected of drug dealing or prostitution, citing its racial origins.
The rejection of the loitering bill, which reportedly affected black communities at a higher rate, has moved to Democratic Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s desk for final approval before the law is no more. The law has been used to arrest about 300 suspected criminals since 2009, according to The Seattle Times.
“These laws were never appropriate, they were wrong when they were enacted and they are wrong now,” said Councilman Andrew Lewis, the lead sponsor, according to The Seattle Times.
“I have long questioned the use of loitering crimes as a law enforcement tool, and am grateful that the 2018 Reentry Workgroup helped shine a light on their racist origins,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement.
City Council unanimously repealed from the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) the problematic ordinance regarding “prostitution loitering,” as requested by Councilmember Alex Pedersen, @CMAndrewJLewis and @CMTammyMorales. NEWS RELEASE: https://t.co/cFrHiVPWeu
— Seattle City Council (@SeattleCouncil) June 23, 2020
Some local activists said the city should not only end the idling ordinance, but also completely end the prosecution of misdemeanor crimes.
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“The City Council should defund and end the prosecution of most misdemeanors,” Anita Khandelwal, director of the King County Department of Public Defense, said in a statement obtained by The Seattle Times. “Councilmember Lewis’s bills suggest that he and other members of the council are beginning to recognize that racism and oppression define the entire criminal legal system.”
The city has not yet disbanded the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), which has claimed a police-free, six-block zone around Seattle’s commandeered East Police Precinct. CHOP has continued to proliferate and multiple shootings have been reported in the area, according to Newsweek.
Durkan on Monday said “it’s time for people to go home” in reference to the mass city encampment during a press conference.
The mayor has not specified when and how she plans to dismantle the compound, UPI reported.
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