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Seattle Councilmember Sawant says her property is being vandalized, criticizes police investigation

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks at a rally at Westlake Park against the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade on May 3 in Seattle.  (Jennifer Buchanan/Seattle Times)
By Sarah Grace Taylor Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant criticized the city’s police department Wednesday for its response to repeated “disturbing incidents” at her home.

According to Sawant, bags of human excrement have been thrown on the lawn of her private residence six times, including as recently as last week, and the Seattle Police Department has failed to properly investigate.

“The material used in these repeated attacks is classified as biohazardous waste. The police informed me the material can’t be sent to their lab for further investigation due to its hazardous nature. That seems quite odd considering that hospital labs do tests on human fecal matter all the time, but it does speak to the danger of having it repeatedly thrown in one’s yard,” Sawant wrote in a letter to police and city leadership on Wednesday, noting she had to call poison control on one instance after her dogs got into the bag of waste.

“Most concerning is the very high likelihood that this extreme and hostile behavior is politically motivated and could turn into more serious and dangerous harassment,” she added, noting past threats made against her.

According to Sawant, the police have failed to seriously investigate the incidents reported by her and her husband, including ignoring two witnesses, refusing to test the fecal matter, not taking video evidence collected by a neighbor and not investigating a recent email sent to Sawant in which the sender callsher the “the queen of (expletive)” andtells her to “sit on (her) throne of human excrement.”

The police department would not release any reports related to the incidents on Wednesday, citing the investigation as ongoing, but said it is doing its due diligence to investigate Sawant’s claims.

“The department takes incidents involving public officials seriously, and investigators have canvassed for evidence, gathered information from witnesses and reviewed everything collected thus far,” a statement from the department read. “At this time, the department has not found any evidence this case would meet the city or state standards for hate crime laws, but SPD will follow available leads should new information arise. The department encourages anyone with additional information about this case to contact police.”

Seattle police Detective Patrick Michaud said Wednesday the report doesn’t meet state or city standards for a hate crime, but the department would continue to investigate.

Michaud did not share whether any other local elected official had any open harassment complaints or complaints related to incidents at Sawant’s house, citing a policy against identifying victims.

Last month, the council unanimously passed a resolution “condemning harassment, threats, and political violence against elected officials, election workers, those seeking elected office, and other public servants,” in step with the Metropolitan King County Council passing similar legislation. The resolution followed an incident this summer in which the Rev. Cary Anderson of Seattle’s First AME Church was reportedly shot with a BB gun while campaigning for a vacant seat in Washington’s 30th Legislative District.

Harassment or provocation of local elected officials came to the forefront in Seattle during protests against police violence in summer 2020 when activists went to the homes of several City Council members and some, including Councilmember Alex Pedersen and now-President Debora Juarez, reported intimidating behavior like written messages left at their homes. Then-Mayor Jenny Durkan was the subject of significant protests at her home and enough reported threats and harassment that she had SPD staff round-the-clock security detail at her home for her last year in office.

As a socialist and the furthest political outlier on the council, Sawant has faced opposition from the community ranging from a failed recall attempt in 2021 to death threats during the first months of her time on the council in 2014 and as recently as last winter.

Mayor Bruce Harrell, who is in Buenos Aires for a summit of international mayors, spoke to Sawant on Wednesday after being named in her police complaint letter, according to the mayor’s office.

“These incidents go against our core values as a city. Elected officials should not be harassed at their homes. While Mayor Harrell does not direct individual investigations, we have been assured that SPD will follow all standard protocols and practices regarding these incidents in the appropriate manner,” a spokesperson for the mayor wrote Wednesday. “The mayor has spoken directly to Councilmember Sawant to discuss and understand her concerns.”