Footage Shows Police Pepper Spraying Seattle Teacher At MLK Rally

Video footage surfaced yesterday depicting Seattle police pepper spraying Seattle high school teacher Jesse Hagopian on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, unprovoked, just after he’d finished making a powerful speech about racial equality. That day, a rally had been held in Seattle in honor of Dr. King. Hagopian marched and spoke to participants about the importance of Black lives. When he was sprayed shortly afterward, he was on the phone with his mother planning his two-year-old son’s birthday party. In the video, he can be seen walking past police holding his phone before rushing out of the frame in shock.

In addition to teaching, Hagopian is a powerful author, speaker, and human rights activist. He co-advises the Black Student Union at the high school where he educates. Hagopian was several feet onto the sidewalk (rather than blocking traffic on the street) when he was sprayed. He described his experience on Facebook:

“I was marching for Martin Luther King day today–amazing march! At one point after the big main march, group of bike cops set up a line to keep us from marching. Some people walked through the line, but I didn’t. When my phone rang, I turned away from the cops and began walking away to answer the phone. A cop then pepper sprayed me right in the face…Wish we had a better world.”

Police reportedly also sprayed protestors in other areas of the demonstration, and in this video, at least one other bystander appears to have been hit by the spray. Hagopian is now working with the NAACP to seek justice. His mother filed a complaint with the Office of Police Accountability, but because there’s little faith that the OPA will act on the situation, the NAACP filed a claim yesterday at Seattle City Hall against the city and Seattle police. The city has 60 days to respond before the NAACP files a lawsuit. Not surprisingly, the Seattle Police Department has refused to comment, as has the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.

[The Stranger]

[USA Today]