A federal judge earlier this week issued an injunction blocking Seattle police from making arrests related to graffiti under the city's property destruction law, reports KOMO News.
"The criminalization of free speech significantly harms the public interest in far greater measure than the public might benefit from criminalizing property damage," U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman wrote in the injunction.
Seattle Police said its department "cannot take action on damage to property under this law."
"This is not a matter within SPD or City discretion; we are bound by the court order as it is written," the SPD said. "We understand and share the concerns that are being relayed to us by our community, businesses, and residents alike.
"We know, as evidenced by the thousands of calls for service we receive each year reporting acts of vandalism and other forms of property damage that property damage is, in fact, a crime that is of significance to community members."
Pechman's order came in response to a lawsuit filed by four people arrested in 2021 for writing anti-police slogans in chalk outside a police precinct. The messages included, among other slogans, "peaceful protest" and "BLM."
It was unclear initially what the injunction covered: the city ordinance covers many types of property crimes, including smashing windows or destroying personal property. Pechman clarified that the injunction is related only to the city's graffiti laws.
A spokesperson from the City Attorney's Office said Thursday that "as a result of the court's clarifying order, the Criminal Division of the City Attorney's Office will immediately resume charging cases of property destruction."
"On its face, the Ordinance sweeps so broadly that it criminalizes innocuous drawings, from a child's drawing of a mermaid to pro-police messages written by the Seattle Police Foundation that can hardly be said to constitute 'visual blight', and which would naturally wash away in the next rain storm," Pechman wrote.
The law, she added, could allow police to arrest people for "attaching a streamer to someone else's bicycle or writing a note of 'hello' on a classmate's notebook without express permission."
Solange Reyner is a writer and editor for Newsmax. She has more than 15 years in the journalism industry reporting and covering news, sports and politics.
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