April V. Taylor
History professor and activist Jesse Hagopian was peacefully walking down the street after speaking at a local Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration about why Blacks should not be subjected to violent treatment by the police. Hagopian was talking on his cell phone, having a conversation with his mother about his son’s birthday party when things took a drastic turn.
Video of the incident shows a group of people walking past officers who had set up a barricade police officers had set up with their bicycles in an attempt to keep protesters from marching. Some people passed through the makeshift barricade, but Hagopian was not one of them. As he continues his phone conversation, a female officer hoses him and a woman down with pepper spray before screaming, “Seattle Police Department.”
Hagopian describes the incident, stating, “I felt the piercing pain shoot through my eye, my ear drum and my nostril, all over my cheek and face. I yelled out. My mom was in distress as she heard me yell.” Hagopian has hired attorney James Bible who states that his client, “was pepper sprayed irrationally by a police officer – no provocation and no reason. We view this as a challenge to free speech.” Hagopian is an outspoken educator and activist who is the co-advisor of the Black Student Union at the high school where he teaches. Bible and other community advocates report that police have been heavy-handed at recent rallies and protests. Bible has filed a lawsuit against the city on Hagopian’s behalf.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray released a statement through email that said in part, “We ave worked to create and implement a comprehensive and transparent police accountability system that will be the most robust in the nation. Under the accountability system that we’ve set up, the uses of force that occurred during the MLK protest are currently under review and being investigated.” The Seattle Police Department has declined to comment regarding video that was released by Hagopian’s attorney.