At 2 p.m. Monday (June 1), Mercer Island Mayor Benson Wong, City Manager Jessi Bon and Police Chief Ed Holmes announced an evening curfew in response to police-brutality protests in neighboring cities.
“This has been an emotional and difficult time for our region and entire nation,” Wong said during a briefing in the city council chambers.
As a public safety precaution, Mercer Island’s curfew will last from 7 p.m. June 1 to 5 a.m. June 2. The decision was made in consultation with Holmes and other cities, Bon said.
Wong signed a civil emergency proclamation beforehand. The curfew, which will be enforced by police officers, applies across the Island to all residents except essential infrastructure workers.
Businesses are expected to close. Holmes noted that closing earlier than 7 p.m. is up to the business.
Bon said that it is unknown as of June 1 whether there will be subsequent curfews on Mercer Island.
Over the weekend, Seattle and Bellevue were among numerous American cities that saw protests over the Minneapolis murder of George Floyd, a black man who was killed last month by white police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin, who was accompanied by three officers who stood by silently as the event unfolded, had kneeled on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes before he died. Chauvin was charged May 29 with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Before the incident, Chauvin was the subject of 18 previous complaints with the Minneapolis Police Department’s internal affairs department.
There has been controversy surrounding demonstrations nationwide over the associated looting of stores, destruction of property and fires, and force exhibited by police officers.
“The city of Mercer Island is concerned that those rioting and looting in nearby cities will consider coming to Mercer Island to do the same,” Bon said.
“I join fellow Islanders in peacefully grieving, remembering and honoring Mr. Floyd and those in our community who acutely feel pain over racial bias,” Wong said. “Coming together is a right we all cherish as we commit ourselves to the cause of justice.”
Wong added that the city council and the government respect the voices of community members using their First Amendment right to protest peacefully. However, he condemned “lawless and senseless looting and rioting,” stating that he believes the rule of law applies to all.
“The death of George Floyd should have never happened,” Holmes said. “His death was absolutely inexcusable and [Chauvin] does not represent the ideals of law enforcement.”
Holmes said that he has been in regular contact with other police chiefs in the region about how to address the protests, discussing what lessons have been learned and what can be done to help one another.
Holmes said that Mercer Island police are “ramping up staffing to the extent we can,” and that some community resources have said they would be willing to help if need be. He said Washington State Patrol has offered assistance.
Holmes said that the city’s police department has made tactical plans for possible protests, but he did not offer details.
“We want to be prepared and want to do what we can do to keep this community safe,” he said. “We do have plans, but I hope you can understand why we don’t advertise.”
Bon said community members can assist public-safety efforts by following curfew, and that if they have a source or lead they believe the police should follow up with, they should call 911. She said residents should be cognizant of what they post on social media.
The city’s press release confirmed that Mercer Island detectives are working to validate rumors of planned gatherings.
Wong characterized what is happening as “a very severe crisis,” but finished the briefing on an optimistic note.
“After this crisis is over, let’s join hands,” he said. “Let’s move forward together.”