One of the more amazing responses to the Seattle Police Department pepper-spraying an 84-year-old woman came from, naturally, SPD communications:
Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel said he didn’t have specifics on the Rainey incident, but he said pepper spray is “is not age specific. No more dangerous to someone who is 10 or someone who is 80.”
(Note that Kappel’s upper age cut-off still excludes an 84-year-old.) Pronouncing pepper spray “fun for the whole family,” comedian Stephen Colbert picked up on the tone-deafness of that statement by staging a trial to test the harmlessness of pepper spray on a distinctly dubious 10-year-old.
In SPD’s recap of the incident–protesters were illegally occupying the intersection of 5th Avenue and Pine Street–the department emphasizes that: “Pepper spray was deployed only against subjects who were either refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers.”
“Refusing a lawful order to disperse” is sometimes known as “protesting,” which differs significantly from assaulting a police officer. You wonder if SPD really wants to insist that they make no distinction in response to the exercise of First Amendment rights and assault.
Still, leave it to Occupy Seattle to strain any sympathy gained, yet again. After Mayor McGinn apologized yesterday for the police’s use of pepper spray, Occupy Seattle released its own statement, saying in part: “On this particular night, we had informed the police of our march and route in advance so as to assure public safety.”
Well, no, crazy people. “Informing” the city of your plans to march in traffic does not “assure public safety.” Blocking traffic is a disruptive form of protest that certainly gets people’s attention, for better or worse, but that does not absolve the police of their responsibility to try to get you out of the street as soon as possible. Emergency services aside, there’s no guaranteeing someone in a Lexus SUV won’t snap and try to run you over.