Police in the state of Washington have apologised after video emerged of an officer telling his team, which was preparing to clear out protesters in Seattle: “Don’t kill them, but hit them hard.”
The footage was taken by Krystal Marx from an office window above the scene and posted online.
“(Washington State Patrol) is aware of the video and apologises for the poor choice of words by one our team leaders preparing his troopers for a possibly confrontational situation,” the police said.
“We hope the public will accept that apology and we ask for grace and understanding as our troopers are serving in tense situations of danger and difficulty.
“They are doing so with courage, commitment and compassion, but not always with perfection. As disappointed as we are that a word choice might obscure that work, we are proud of how our agency and others have worked to protect the rights of free speech and peaceful demonstration throughout this unprecedented period of statewide demonstrations.”
Ms Marx had stopped by her office but got trapped inside because of the heavy police presence.
“I had my window open in my office so I could hear what was going on and when it would be safe to go home,” she said.
“I heard officers beneath me saying, ‘Hit ’em hard, hit ’em hard.
“I remember shaking. Why not say, ‘Restrain them, calmly’?”
Marx’s video went viral on Twitter, with some people praising the police aggression.
Others were horrified.
Washington State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said the officer was trying to motivate, reassure and prepare his team for a difficult task.
He said officers were getting ready to conduct a “push technique” designed to force “aggressive, non-compliant, and threatening protesters away from a designated area”.
“The team leader’s intent of motivating and reassuring his troopers was commendable but his word choice, especially when considered outside of the context of his team’s immediate challenges, was not,” he said.