In an effort to make Seattle shine during All-Star week, the City moved several hundred Seattle Police Department officers to 12-hour shifts and successfully lobbied for the King County Jail to lift booking restrictions for arrests related to stadium events, according to Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, who talked about the changes at a press conference Friday. Over all, people can expect an increased police presence around the Stadium District and downtown until midnight Tuesday. The announcement comes after a week with multiple sweeps in SODO and mounting criticism that the Mayor cares more about sports tourists than the City’s most vulnerable community members.
In preparation for the MLB All-Star game at T-Mobile Park next week, the City increased trash pickup around the Stadium District and tried to scrub away graffiti, all to dazzle the 100,000 people projected to visit Seattle.
Meanwhile SPD, in conjunction with the King County Sheriff’s Office, helped prepare the King County Jail for any problematic game attendees by lobbying the jail to lift booking restrictions for people arrested at the stadium. The lift also applies to other areas in the “All Star Event Zone,” such as the Chinatown-International District Station, King Street Station, and Stadium Station. Existing jail booking restrictions prioritize incarcerating people for violent or sexual offenses, DUIs, or domestic violence related arrests.
King County Public Defender Director Anita Khandelwal said Friday that lifting booking restrictions based on geography seems “deeply arbitrary.” The jail continues to struggle to hire enough people to keep it safe for the people inside, she said.
“The presence of national media in Seattle should not contribute to implementation of ineffective and racially disproportionate policies,” she added.
Meanwhile, the City so highly prioritized the removal of unhoused people around the stadium that on Friday morning SPD had two detectives from the department’s Special Victims Unit—one of whom investigates domestic violence cases—standing around waiting for one man to pack up his tent and move along. A police lieutenant with SPD’s Directed Outreach Unit, which typically works with the City’s Unified Care Team, stood around waiting as well.
Diaz said the detectives helped with the removal because some of the officers who normally work with the City’s Unified Care Team didn’t work Friday due to SPD’s switch to two 12-hour shifts. However, Diaz’s answer didn’t explain the urgency to move the man, because, as Hannah reported yesterday, the Mayor’s office denied any connection between the All-Star Game and the push to get unhoused people out of SODO.
People should remember the example of three police officers moving one man in a tent when the cops appear before the Seattle City Council soon to request more dollars for police overtime, said Angélica Cházaro, an assistant professor at the University of Washington Law School and organizer with Decriminalize Seattle.
Cházaro said the sweeps and increased use of criminalization represents the typical thinking of Mayor Bruce Harrell’s administration. Rather than think about what could actually be good for both the unhoused person and the overall community, the administration relies on “the most harmful tool in their tool box,” she said.
Beyond the jail’s current problem with high rates of suicide and deaths in custody, Cházaro argued that jailing people generally destabilizes them. And any kind of criminal record makes it harder for someone to access services, secure housing, and find a job.
“It’s about deciding to mark an entire class of people as disposable,” Cházaro said. All for a four-day event. But, again, that sort of policy is typical of the Harrell administration, where downtown interests trump all, she added.
With the 2026 World Cup scheduled to come to Seattle, Cházaro said the All-Star Game should serve as an example of how sports tourism causes the City to start ramping up criminalization, and she encouraged people to start organizing now to prevent the same actions ahead of that event.