A federal judge found the Seattle Police Department in contempt of court for the indiscriminate use of pepper-filled “blast balls” and pepper spray during Black Lives Matter protests this fall, reports the Seattle Times. The judge also cited instances where police were justified in using force against demonstrators. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones found four “clear violations” of the injunction: one involving pepper spray and the other three involving blast balls, grenadelike devices that explode and spew pepper gas. Jones said Seattle police “often hurled blast balls into crowds of protesters” when no immediate threat to the officers’ safety or public property could be identified.
In issuing the contempt order, Jones rejected the police department’s argument that the department was in “substantial compliance” with the injunction and that it could not be held responsible for the actions of individual officers. Jones asked lawyers for BLM to submit a motion for proposed sanctions by the end of next week. Jones said the incidents he highlighted were more than technical violations of the injunction, which he issued after finding that police use of tear gas, pepper-spray and other crowd-control weapons during demonstrations after George Floyd’s death were unconstitutional and that the department had likely violated the rights of thousands of peaceful Seattle protesters.