Eight days after a man allegedly tried to rape a public employee inside a King County Courthouse restroom, more than 250 people — mostly county workers and their supporters — rallied and marched around the downtown Seattle landmark, demanding that local elected officials take immediate action to make the building and its surroundings safe.
“This has been going on for several years now,” said Erica Conway, a 21-year courthouse worker and one of more than a half-dozen speakers to address the crowd. ” …We demand you make a commitment that we are safe while we do our jobs.”
Dubbed the “March for a Safe Workplace,” many participants wore teal shirts and some carried signs calling for safety, as they gathered across Fourth Avenue at the King County Administration Building during the noon lunch hour for a series of speeches followed by a march around the courthouse.
Speakers emphasized the fear and frustration of courthouse employees, jurors and visitors, and what they described as the failure of city and county elected officials to protect them by addressing a long-running problem that disproportionately has victimized women.
“I was working here, in the 1990s, when the women were shot,” said paralegal Kris Bridgman, a participant in the march, referring to the 1995 slayings of three women in a courthouse hallway, including the killer’s pregnant wife. “And I’ve used the bathroom where the woman was attacked last week. I don’t think it’s gotten any better.”
Timothy Blackwell, convicted of three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the 1995 shootings, was sentenced to life in prison. Clint James Jory, the man accused of last week’s courthouse attack, has been charged with second-degree attempted rape and is being held at the King County Jail in lieu of $750,000 bail.
Mary Laskowski, a training and outreach coordinator in the prosecutor’s office, told the crowd Friday that workplace violence against women is a pervasive problem that ranges from unwanted gestures to homicide, but is typically dealt with as an afterthought.
“King County is only intervening after people have already been harmed,” she said. “Even when the system works the way it should … it cannot undo the damage that already has been done. We deserve better.”
In light of last week’s reported rape attempt, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, which provides legal advocacy for sexual assault victims at the courthouse, announced Friday it would allow its employees and clients to opt out of attending in-person meetings and hearings in the building.
Earlier this week, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, citing safety concerns, ordered all noncommissioned office staff to return to remote work.
Last week’s reported rape attempt is the latest incident spurring calls to improve safety at the courthouse, which has been a site of physical assaults, open-air drug dealing and other crimes. The problems have only seemed to get worse in recent years, several participants at Friday’s rally said.
The blocks surrounding the courthouse, situated between Third and Fourth avenues on James Street, host many of the city’s homeless-shelter beds and social-service outlets. That has drawn both those in need of help, and the people who prey on them, to the area for years.
Lately, the grounds of City Hall Park next to the courthouse have become a tent encampment sheltering dozens of people. Social service workers who spoke at Friday’s event said many of those now living in the tents next to the courthouse were displaced from elsewhere after recent encampment sweeps.
Unsheltered people “are not the problem” causing the safety concerns, said Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amy Freedheim, who has worked in the courthouse for more than 30 years.
“The problem is elected officials that give lip service but are not making this a safe workplace,” she said.
Again and again, courthouse employees, jurors and others have reported attacks and other safety issues, she said. But rather than make investments and specific workplace safety plans, officials have offered hollow warnings for employees to “be aware of your surroundings,” Freedheim said.
“We are — and we are still not safe,” she said.
In recent years, judges, sheriff’s employees and others who work in or regularly visit the courthouse say they’ve witnessed or encountered assaults, confrontations and other incidents. In turn, jurors and others have increasingly reported being afraid to go to the courthouse, they say.
In mid-2017, King County judges Jim Rogers and Laura Inveen joined then-Sheriff John Urquhart to recount to County Council members various assaults on jurors and employees at the courthouse. Less than two months later, a homeless man was arrested after he charged at Urquhart and his chief of staff with scissors outside the courthouse.
In late 2019, Rogers, the King County Superior Court’s presiding judge, ordered the temporary closure of the Third Avenue entrance, a week after the Sheriff’s Office said a man attacked an attorney and bus driver outside the courthouse, punching them and knocking them to the ground.
In June, after 31-year-old Bradley Arabie was fatally stabbed at the park immediately south of the courthouse, Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn proposed condemning the city-owned park — known colloquially as Muscatel Meadows — as a public safety hazard or nuisance property.
Several speakers said Friday efforts to address the courthouse safety problems in recent years have been all talk and no action.
Manka Dhingra, a senior deputy King County prosecutor and Democratic state senator from Redmond, said the Legislature last year prioritized funding for several social services and housing programs for local communities to address problems now evident around the courthouse.
“Now, it’s up to the city and county to implement them,” she said. “The plan already should be there. It’s long past time.”
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Both employees and visitors should feel SAFE in that Courthouse ! What are the Leaders of that city planning to do to SOLVE the problem ?
It’s bad enough when the inmates of the prison take over the asylum, but when the rapists take over the courthouse in broad daylight, and do it right in the places where they are expected to face justice, it’s way past time to remove the incompetents, fire the whole crew and bring in a new team. You don’t negotiate with people with no remorse or hesitation to take your life. You remove them from the planet. Permanently. You definitely don’t let more of them sneak in across the border, or pay off the politicians with the dime, that allows them to feely do the crime. Elect the party run by criminals, the very people doing the molesting and murder, and there are NO safe places to hide. Just ask Jeffrey Epstein.
IMO. NOt a damn thing!
Of course they will do ‘something’ that LOOKS like its good.. BUT in reality, NOTHING will actually get done, to STOP this happening.
They will hire more social workers and assign them to the court house, of course.
“protect them by “addressing a long-running problem” that disproportionately has victimized women.”
?? What exactly is the long-running problem and what exactly do these woemen want done?
Maybe defunding the police more might be the answer?
Seems to me that Seattle was the ones who wanted a defunded police force.
Maybe they can get their Black Lives Matter and Antifa-affiliated groups to protect them.
?? What exactly is the long-running problem and what exactly do these woemen want done?
The problem is rape, attempted rape, crime.
If you aren’t safe in the courthouse why the hell not??? Somebody needs to pay for this situation and I would start with the judges and the DAs and be quick about it.
Businesses and decent people are moving out of Seattle. Pretty soon it will just be the degenerates, the socialist/communists and maybe Amazon. Guess who the degenerates will turn on next.
That’s why for years, i have been saying EVERY TIME A JUDGE, DA and State AG, works to ‘help get a REPEAT CRIMINAL released”, whether on bail, parole, or the like, THEY SHOULD BE HELD EQUALLY AS CULPABLE when said criminal REOFFENDS!
Just saw news video of Seattle man severely beaten & robbed in broad daylight & a citizen commented this type criminal violence is common in street & stores.
So, all you Seattle ladies, gents & whatevers need to buy some common sense & vote / kick out of office all the existing members of the snotty “no bail bond, no prisons, we have tax paid security & to hell with you peasants” Marxist tyrants of the Dem Party
Or, quit whining & complaining about the proud to be criminally corrupt Dems you keep voting for who are enriching & protecting themselves at public expense.
Dem Party politicians have made it very clear they could care less if citizens are beaten to a pulp, robbed, raped & murdered or if vagrants & degenerates set up tents & takeover public areas to use drugs & alcohol & create toxic health & safety hazards for the public at large.
The Dem Party politically powerful elite use their elected positions & your tax $ to benefit only themselves & would never tolerate the dangerous & filthy conditions they force law abiding working class citizens to endure.
More and more, i’d just love to take a full on Forcefield, and SEAL UP TIGHT, every damn one of these libtard crime ridden cesspool cities.. AND LEAVE SAID field in place, even AFTER everyone inside is worm meal..
I’m sure BLM will step forward, after all they are a visible force in helping Chicago stop the shootings!!
How many of these cows marching around with signs demanding safety in the work place were out throwing bricks at the police the night before?
Almost 2 million people live in King County. Not all of them belong to Antifa. Not all of them live in Portland and vote for the mayor and the demented city council. Not all blacks belong to Black Lives Matter and not all whites are members of the KKK.
IMO, it’s good that these women are speaking out and demanding something be done about that miserable hellhole.
They may have not been out there WITH BLM/ANTIFA. BUT since i didn’t see much in the way of COUNTER protests, or actions done to STOP WHAT antifa/blm did all last year through this year, IMO THEY ARE JUST as complicit by their INACTION.