(This article was originally published by the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and has been reprinted under an agreement)
Speaking to a massive protest march in front of her Northeast Seattle home was apparently the final straw.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has escalated her ongoing political war with Kshama Sawant to a new level with a call for the Seattle City Council and Council President Lorena Gonzalez to investigate end expel its longest-serving member.
“The City Council may choose to ignore and dismiss her actions, but I think that undermines public confidence in our institutions,” Durkan writes. “This letter requests that the Council exercise its Charter duties and fully investigate Councilmember Kshama Sawant and determine if action should be taken…”
The letter from Durkan’s office levels five allegations against Sawant including “using her official position to lead a march” to the mayor’s home Sunday night, Durkan says, “despite the fact that it was publicly known I was not there, and she and organizers knew that my address was protected under the state confidentiality program because of threats against me due largely to my work as U.S. Attorney.”
“All of us have joined hundreds of demonstrations across the City, but Councilmember Sawant and her followers chose to do so with reckless disregard of the safety of my family and children,” Durkan writes.
In a blistering response, Sawant says she is proud of her activism.
“Socialist Alternative and my Council office are proud to have marched, rallied, and organized with thousands of community members and activists in recent weeks to demand #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, #BlackLivesMatter,” she writes. “Our movement is demanding racial and economic justice, long withheld by a pro-corporate political establishment, whose leader currently is Mayor Durkan.”
Sawant concludes her letter saying she does not take the attack “personally.”
“While her words are directed at me and my elected office, I don’t take it personally,” she writes. “In reality, this is an attack on working people’s movements, and everything we are fighting for, by a corporate politician desperately looking to distract from her failures of leadership and politically bankrupt administration.”
“Our movement will respond accordingly: we will fight with even greater unity and determination,” she concludes.
The full response from Sawant’s office is at the end of this post.
The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported on the Sunday march for Black Lives Matter goals including a 50% cut to the Seattle Police budget organized by the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America and including Socialist Alternative, the Sawant-led political group that has helped the veteran politician build a deep and active support base in the city and beyond.
Durkan’s roster of allegations stretch back beyond the weekend. They begin with issues first reported in early 2019 of documents showing the power of the Socialist Alternative organization in Sawant’s City Hall dealings. “According to the documents, the National Executive Committee and the Seattle Executive Committee of the Socialist Alternative party had authority over staffing decisions for the City Council office,” the Durkan letter reads.
The mayor also attacks another Sawant action during the BLM protests when she provided access to Seattle City Hall for a massive demonstration to briefly occupy the building. “Our fight is not just against the police, our fight is for systemic change,” Sawant said that night during the rally inside the building. Sawant used “her official position” to give “access to City facilities to admit hundreds of individuals at night into City Hall when it was closed to the public because of COVID-19 and failing to follow the City’s COVID-19 precautions for the visitors,” Durkan, a former federal prosecutor, alleges. “Her actions put the safety of individuals and City workers at risk, and it led to janitorial staff making complaints about the incident because of safety concerns.”
The mayor alleges Sawant has used her “official office and equipment to promote and raise money” for the Tax Amazon ballot initiative and to encourage people to “to illegally ‘occupy’ City property” at the East Precinct. The letter comes as city workers began removing some barriers Tuesday morning around the camp.
The letter dated June 30 now sits with Gonzalez’s office. The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog has asked for details on any response or next steps.
Sawant’s office has overcome past complaints including a complaint dismissed last year by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Committee over the Socialist Alternative influence allegations. She also faced a similar complaint earlier this year over the Tax Amazon initiative.
Sawant is in the midst of her third term leading District 3 serving Capitol Hill and the Central District on the council. The Socialist Alternative incumbent posted another victory for the movement last fall as Sawant overcame historic spending by the business community and large companies like Amazon and Expedia to unseat progressive candidates in Seattle. “Our movement has won our socialist office for working people,” she said. “The election results are a repudiation of the billionaire class…and the relentless attacks and lies…and working people have stood up and said Seattle is not for sale!,” Sawant said in her victory speech.
A copy of Durkan’s letter is below.