Seattle police staged sightings of Proud Boys in conversations on public police radio frequencies during last year’s protests over George Floyd’s murder, just after protesters had taken control of a police precinct and the police had left the “autonomous zone,” according to a scathing report released Wednesday by Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA).
The “misinformation effort,” as the report dubbed it, “improperly added fuel to the fire” of the already tense protests, wrote OPA Director Andrew Myerberg.
“The use of the Proud Boys when it was known that the transmissions would be monitored took a volatile situation and made it even more so,” he wrote.
For more than two hours on the night of June 8, officers made remarks like “It looks like a few of them might be open carrying” and “Hearing from the Proud Boys group… They may be looking for somewhere else for confrontation.” In their radio transmissions on an open channel, cops fabricated reports of a brewing fight between the Proud Boys and protesters in Pioneer Square and a police response to it.
The precinct captain who ordered the ruse, Bryan Grenon, told OPA that he was looking for “an innocent way to just throw out some distraction” at a time when the police department was short-handed and under pressure.
According to the report, an unnamed journalist who was with protesters that night told OPA “that, in his perspective, things were going fine in CHAZ/CHOP until people in the crowd heard reports that the Proud Boys were coming. The journalist stated that, when this occurred, it seemed like everyone in the crowd who owned guns went to get theirs and the event went from being peaceful to something entirely different.” CHOP stands for “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest,” the site of last summer’s racial justice protests.
Captain Grenon told investigators the purpose of the faked conversations was to “get [protesters] into other areas” because “we were overrun with, you know, forces or protesters.” Grenon said, “It was never my intent to cause alarm,” adding that “Hindsight is 20/20.”
Then-Chief Carmen Best told investigators that she had not been informed about the tactic.
The OPA report found that Grenon, who later ascended to the rank of assistant chief, violated departmental policies, as did the two officers involved. All three had already left the department by the time of the report’s release, so they will face no discipline from within Seattle PD.