Update: Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s trial has been dismissed. You can find more information here.
Original story below:
Socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s trial for disorderly conduct began Thursday, April 30. Sawant was arrested last November 19 during a $15 minimum wage demonstration in SeaTac. The arrest occurred after Sawant—along with other activists—refused to leave the middle of the street outside the headquarters of Alaska Airlines.
Sawant admitted to disobeying the police and blocking the street during her opening remarks. Though the self-avowed socialist quickly reverted to the “I am above the law because…” line of argument we’ve come to expect—after being charged, Sawant compared herself to the civil rights activists of old and blamed the “flawed” justice system for her arrest. Via the Seattle Times,
“‘I refused to leave the roadway after being asked to do so,’ she told jurors Thursday. ‘Throughout the course of this trial, though, you will learn the reasons why three law-abiding citizens decided to block the roadway and remain there.’
“She added: ‘We have fought hard to make $15 an hour a law in the city of SeaTac and now we are being forced to work even harder to ensure that corporations like Alaska Airlines follow the law.’”
Much of yesterday was spent picking jurors for the trial. According to the Seattle Times, Sawant asked potential jurors questions such as, “Do any of you have any particular points of view about the $15 minimum wage?” She received mixed responses.
SeaTac Assistant City Attorney Cindy Corsilles said police had to arrest Sawant and other activists. Sawant was warned and refused to disperse as traffic was backing up. Additionally, “SeaTac Police Chief Lisa Mulligan, a witness, said her department’s job was ‘to ensure the safety of everyone involved’ and she testified that the activists didn’t have a permit.”
Sawant and her supporters began targeting Alaska Airlines after the airline and others sued to block SeaTac’s $15-an-hour minimum wage from applying to their contract workers at the airport. In 2014, the airline “negotiated for its contract cabin cleaners, baggage handlers and aircraft fuelers to make at least $12 an hour — more than before though not $15.”
Sawant faces a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine if she is found guilty.