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Perkins Coie Joins Black Lives Matter in Seattle Lawsuit (2)

June 9, 2020, 9:51 PMUpdated: June 10, 2020, 12:01 AM

Perkins Coie is representing Black Lives Matter in a new lawsuit against the City of Seattle, accusing local police officers of using “unconstitutional” force during recent protests.

The Seattle-founded global law firm, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington Foundation and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, filed suit on Tuesday on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle and six individual plaintiffs, including one journalist.

The complaint comes as large law firms across the country have expressed support for social justice in the wake of the recent killing of George Floyd, a black man who died while being arrested by police in Minnesota, and a deluge of protests that followed. Some firms have pledged to take specific action, including by supporting civil rights groups in court or pushing for changes in the criminal legal system.

It also follows a Black Lives Matter lawsuit against President Donald Trump and other members of his Cabinet. Attorneys from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer and civil rights groups allege Trump and his administration violated the Constitution in the handling of protests near the White House.

In the new complaint, Black Lives Matter says Seattle allowed police officers to “deploy unnecessary violence” against demonstrators, who have been taking to the city’s streets in recent weeks, following Floyd’s death. Officers have used tear gas and other chemicals as well as projectiles like flash-bomb grenades, according to the complaint.

Perkins Coie partners David Perez and Joseph McMillan are leading the case for the firm. They’re joined by associates Mallory Gitt Webster, Carolyn Gilbert, Nitika Arora, Heath Hyatt, and Paige Whidbee.

After a week of watching images of the protests “that were increasingly horrific and harrowing,” Perkins Coie partner David Perez said he emailed attorneys at the ACLU and the Korematsu Center late Saturday night. They held a conference call Sunday morning and “haven’t stopped” working on the lawsuit since, he said.

Through social media, Perez and his team gathered statements from witnesses about what they experienced during the protests.

“Protesters were met with just unbelievable violence,” Perez said.

Mayor Promises ‘Complete Review’


Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best “are committed to a thorough and complete review and report of the Seattle Police Department’s response to the protests and have already implemented a series of changes,” Kamaria Hightower, a spokesperson for Durkan, told Bloomberg Law.

“Today’s lawsuit represents another step by the community to hold the city accountable for its response to the recent events,” Hightower said. “The Mayor and Chief Best have acknowledged that the city can and must do better for crowd management.”

Black Lives Matter is asking the court for a temporary and permanent order prohibiting Seattle from using “less-lethal weapons” in response to protests as well as a declaration that the city has violated protesters’ First and Fourth Amendments rights.

As protests following the death of Floyd continue, lawyers can help ensure the rights of those protesting are protected, Perex said.

“We can do our part to make sure that they have their platforms, in this case the streets of Seattle and the parks of Seattle to protest and make their voices heard,” Perez said.

The case is Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County v. City of Seattle, W.D. Wash., No. 20-cv-00887, complaint filed 6/9/20.

(Updated with comments from Durkan spokesperson.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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