Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Spokane: Police video shows anarchists did not provoke attack

July 17, 2007 A police video of the July 4 arrests in Rivefront Park shows no evidence of criminal behavior by protesters before arrests began, a city attorney’s review of the incident says. In a report delivered Monday to Mayor Dennis Hession, City Attorney Jim Craven said his review of video shot by a police officer does not depict events described in police reports written after 17 people were arrested in the park. “It does not show an assault on an officer,” Craven wrote. “It does not show any obviously criminal behavior on the part of anyone, other than resisting arrest once the trouble started.” Craven said the incident would be appropriate for review by an ombudman or someone else with the responsibility for police oversight. Hession has said he supports hiring such a person, but must first wait for negotiations with the police union. In a meeting earlier in the day, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick also said the controversial incident would be appropriate for review by an ombudsman if the city had such a position. Because it does not yet have such a system, Kirkpatrick told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee that she reviewed police reports and “I’m at least telling you what I know.” She said protesters were arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct and refusing to disperse, laws she said they broke in front of officers. “If there was no crime, we have no authority or power to make arrests,” Kirkpatrick said. But the evidence of those crimes is not on the police video, Craven wrote in his report to the mayor. Police have said one of the protesters, Zach St. John, assaulted Officer Jay Kernkamp by grabbing him around the throat, and was arrested. St. John has pleaded not guilty to assault, and other demonstrators have said that St. John was first knocked off of a bucket he was seated on. But neither the police video nor photos available on The Spokesman-Review web site or other places show a “physical altercation,” Craven said. “Neither the video nor the still photographs shed light on this occurrence,” he wrote. There are photos and video of the people standing and sitting on a large American flag, which protesters had spread on the ground as a picnic blanket. “It is reported that many holiday celebrants were very offended by this use of the flag and made their feelings known to demonstrators and to the police,” he wrote.

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