A federal judge says Seattle cannot enforce its anti-graffiti law after a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge said that the city’s property destruction law was too vague and a possible “threat to censorship.”
On The Gee and Ursula Show, host Gee Scott was upset with the ruling and said that the city’s graffiti problem was already out of control with police being unable to make arrests for graffiti.
Property damage still illegal in Seattle after judge clarifies decision
“Nobody does it better than Seattle, always throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” Gee said. “We need to get into felonies. I know I’m a little drastic on that, but I think our graffiti problem is off the hook.”
U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman said the ban, which makes graffiti crimes punishable by a year in jail, is “vague” and “overbroad.”
This stems from a lawsuit filed by four people who were accused of using chalk and charcoal to write political messages on a temporary wall at the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct in 2021.
The law, which is being challenged, said that police have the power to arrest anyone who writes, paints, or draws on any building structure or property that they don’t own, even if they have the owner’s permission.
Even though the messages contained expletives and messages some called “anti-police,” the judge said it falls under free speech.
City Attorney Ann Davison’s office said in a statement they are immediately filing a motion asking the judge to reconsider.
Producer Andrew “Chef” Lanier pushed back against Gee, saying that the law gave too much discretion to the police about who they arrested for graffiti, and the law needed to be challenged.
“Was this a graffiti problem? Or was this a problem of law enforcement officers who are frustrated at the time, for good reason,” Chef said. “If I have permission to write on the window of your business ‘Black Lives Matter’ and a police officer take exception to that, they can arrest you for that, and the prosecutor [is] gonna have to sort that out later.”
Gee said that while that may be true, the city needs to be able to stop people from defacing property and something needs to be done soon.
“Ursula, Chef, we sit here and go round and round. You made some good points but here’s the bottom line,” Gee said. “If I come to your house right now, and I spray paint your crib, can I get in trouble? No, thank you. I can go and spray-paint a building right now. I can go across the street right there to that business spray painted and say, ‘Gee Scott was here’ and nothing’s gonna happen.”
Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.