Federal Agents Confirmed in Seattle — But No One Knows Where

by Carolyn Bick

After several days’ worth of confusion, city officials today confirmed that federal agents are here in Seattle — but nobody seems to know exactly where they are, or what they are planning to do.

In a press conference on the morning of July 24, Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters that she and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best had checked repeatedly with acting Secretary of Homeland Security of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf to make sure there were no agents either on their way or already on the ground in Seattle. 

Federal agents appeared last weekend on the streets of Portland, Oregon, where they scooped up people off the streets into unmarked vans and tear gassed peaceful protestors.

Durkan said that in her conversation with Wolf on July 23, Wolf had directly told her that he saw no reason or need to send in forces, and that he was “committed to notifying Chief Best and myself should that change.”

But today, Durkan said, “the Department of Homeland Security now says that they have a limited number of agents in the area on standby to protect federal buildings, if necessary — contrary to Sec. Wolf’s stated commitment, neither myself nor Chief Best were updated regarding the presence of these federal agents.” 

Durkan said neither the city nor the police department knows where the agents are, or any other specifics about their presence.

“We’ve asked for clarification where those agents are, what deployment they think they are going to have, and we are hoping that we get confirmation again that there is no intent to unilaterally deploy those agents like we’ve seen in Portland,” Durkan said.

Durkan also said that she has coordinated with the King County Executive’s Office, the City Attorney’s Office, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, and attorneys from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office to form a legal response to federal agents, should they take action in Seattle in a similar manner as they did in Portland. However, Durkan also said that the ability for local law enforcement — the Seattle Police Department — to intercede on citizens’ behalf against federal agents is “very limited.”

The Emerald was not immediately able to ask questions, but has followed up with the Mayor’s Office, and will update this article, as more information becomes available.

Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You can reach them here and here.

Featured image from the Emerald archives.