On January 19th of this year–Martin Luther King, Jr. Day–I was pepper sprayed in the face by an officer of the Seattle Police department. Now, we are filing a lawsuit in a federal court to seek justice.
At this year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration, I was deeply honored to be asked to deliver the final address to the largest assembly of the year of social justice seekers. Little did I know that my rally cry at the microphone for police accountability would have such an immediate application, as it was only a short time later that a Seattle Police officer released a hot blast of mace directly into my ear and eyes, scalding my face.
As you can clearly see in the video footage that was captured by an onlooker, I was on the sidewalk at the time I was the victim of this pepper spray attack. I was also on the phone with my mom because she was coming to pick me up to take me to my son’s 2-year-old birthday party. As I wrote for The Nation magazine soon after the event,
My mom soon arrived and took me back to the house. I tried to be calm when I entered so as not to scare my children, but the sight of me with a rag over my swollen eyes upset the party. I spent much of the occasion at the bathtub, with my sister pouring milk on my eyes, ears, nose and face to quell the burning. My heart began to pound, and I could feel a rising panic when my older son asked me what happened and why I was pouring milk on myself. I didn’t want him to have to learn, at the age of 6, to be afraid of the police on our own city’s streets. I still don’t know how to talk to my kids about what happened.
Here now is the press release from my attorney James Bible, the past president of the Seattle/King County NAACP:
JAMES BIBLE LAW GROUP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 29, 2015
JAMES BIBLE LAW GROUP FILES FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT ON BEHALF OF JESSE HAGOPIAN
On January 19, 2015, Jesse Hagopian was a participant in Seattle’s annual MLK Jr. Day March. Mr. Hagopian, a local human rights advocate and teacher, was a featured speaker at the event. After giving his speech he began to head home. While heading home he was on the phone with his mother. They were attempting to coordinate where she would pick him up and take him to his two-year-old child’s birthday. Mr. Hagopian was pepper sprayed by a Seattle Police officer while he was walking on the sidewalk and talking to his mom. There is video documentation of Mr. Hagopian being pepper sprayed by a Seattle Police Officer. Mr. Hagopian spent the rest of the day treating his injuries.
As a direct result of being pepper sprayed, Mr. Hagopians eyes were burning and he had difficulty breathing. His eyes were red, watery and swollen. Mr. Hagopian’s injuries had a severe impact on his ability to participate in and enjoy his son’s birthday party. The injuries that Mr. Hagopian received as a result of this incident have had a significant impact on his physical and emotional health.
We are concerned that the Seattle Police Department continues to maintain a pattern and practice of using unwarranted and excessive force against law-abiding people. This has to stop.