EXCLUSIVE: Mayor, city manager point fingers at police after anti-Israel activists allowed to block intersections in Bellevue, WA

Feb 1, 2024 | Political News

Local officials are pointing fingers in response to community backlash following anti-Israel activists blocking intersections in downtown Bellevue, WA on Sunday in their attempt to protest inside a mall after police were allegedly prevented from stopping them.

According to Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Choe, the agitators “used a car and bike brigade to block 4th and Bellevue Way for nearly an hour.”

He added, “A lot of these FAR-LEFT activists are the same folks who took over I-5 in Seattle earlier this month.”

Three weeks ago, anti-Israel activists bragged on social media after vandalizing a local Starbucks and blocking the I-5 freeway in downtown Seattle for almost 6 hours.

The Bellevue Police Department reportedly monitored the situation from a distance but did not attempt to stop the activists from blocking roads and intersections.

A BPD spokesperson recommended people find alternative routes and said, “We understand that this demonstration may be an inconvenience.”

“Our goal is to safeguard the constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest while ensuring the safety for all and not escalate this situation.”

Sources with knowledge of the situation told The Ari Hoffman Show on Talk Radio 570 KVI that Bellevue Mayor Lynn Robinson & Acting City Manager Diane Carlson were “holding back” police from stopping the terrorist supporters from blocking intersections.

According to the sources, the decision was made in advance of the action.

Choe added that the “pro-Hamas activists tried to enter Bellevue Square Mall,” but private “security took a stand at the entrances and prevented them from going in.”

According to Bellevue Police, the roads were reopened around 3 pm. No arrests were made.

Multiple Bellevue residents and Eastside neighbors told Hoffman and Choe that they reached out to the mayor and acting city manager, shocked by the lawlessness in the streets of Bellevue and furious that there were no arrests made and that charges had not been filed against the antisemitic activists.

In a statement to Choe, the mayor questioned his “motivations” in reporting on the story and questioned if the Emmy-winning journalist was “hoping that we go back to Alabama in the 60s with our police response to protest.”

Even though protestors broke the law by blocking traffic for an hour and fifteen minutes, she claimed that she supported “our chief's plan and police actions; we can identify every driver of every car and prosecute for disorderly conduct, at the least this is what I'm pushing for.”

Robinson was in her first year of serving as mayor when Antifa and BLM activists ransacked the mall during the riots in the Greater Seattle area following the death of George Floyd.

A spokesperson for the city manager told Choe that “Neither the city’s mayor nor the city manager directs police tactics during an operation. Those decisions are up to the Chief of Police or designated incident commander. The incident commander has a variety of factors to consider when managing a large crowd, always with the safety of the community as paramount. Every incident is unique and incident commanders use their best professional judgment with the information at hand to manage moment by moment. They work to limit disruptions to the community and maintain order without escalating the situation.”

The mayor and city manager did not return Hoffman's requests for comment.

Bellevue PD Public Relations officer Seth Tyler contradicted the sources who stated the mayor and city manager were involved in the decision, claiming “that at no point was the City Manager, Mayor, or Deputy City manager involved in the police tactic decision-making process during this event,” and that Chief of Police Wendell Shirley or the designated incident commander was “responsible for directing police tactics during any operation.”

He later specified that the incident commander was Captain Ryan Parrot and that the chief had approved of his calls. Also on site was Major Alycia McKinney who was “acting as PIO” and “collaborating on the decisions” with Parrott.

Tyler did acknowledge that the Bellevue Police Department did know about the event in advance “and made the proper notifications, and we developed an incident action plan as we would with any planned event of this type,” but still claimed that the “Mayor and City Manager were not involved in any way in police department planning for this event.”

He also dismissed concerns that activists would be emboldened by police inaction and stated, “The outcome of the police operation speaks volumes: no one was hurt, emergency response was not affected, and there was minimal disruption to travel. This positive result is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Bellevue Police Department. Also, in every incident, our officers and incident commanders always consider de-escalation tactics when making their decisions. The decisions made during the protest were guided by our commitment to achieving a peaceful resolution, which was the case in this incident. Each incident is unique and our response is dictated by the situation on the ground at the time.”

Despite the pro-Palestinian activists not having a permit and blocking traffic for 90 minutes, Tyler said, when asked why no arrests were made, “The decision to make any arrests rests with the incident commander, who makes those decisions with their best professional judgment and the information available at the time. A variety of factors are taken into account by our commander at the scene, including available police resources, the use of de-escalation tactics, and ensuring the safety of all persons.”

Complicating matters was that there were only 17 officers available to deal with approximately 100 pro-Hamas activists due to staffing shortages.

The department said in a statement following the exchange with Tyler, “As with every event, we will learn from this experience and apply this knowledge to our approach in the future to ensure lawful and successful demonstrations,” and despite traffic being blocked by terrorist supporters, added, “Chief Shirley wants to assure the community that the officers who responded to the protest on Sunday worked diligently to ensure a minimally disruptive and peaceful outcome for all.”

Bellevue was the first city in the Pacific Northwest to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which defines anti-Zionism as antisemitism.