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Olympia council crowd protests arrest of mute man

OLYMPIA — About 100 people came to Tuesday’s Olympia City Council meeting to protest what they say is police brutality in the arrest of a mute man last week.

About 30 people signed up to speak, and even more spoke during a public comment session that lasted 90 minutes.

They were protesting the treatment of Scott Yoos, who they say was thrown to the ground and arrested late last Wednesday night after discarding a paper towel in a trash bin. His pen and paper were confiscated, rendering him unable to communicate, said Grace Cox, a friend.

“Together we are strong, and we demand a community safe from police brutality,” she said.

Yoos cannot speak, but he told a reporter in writing that he’s been advised by attorneys that he should “probably save the details for the courtroom.”

Yoos was arrested at 2302 Fourth Ave. E. on charges of criminal trespassing and obstructing justice, according to a citation Yoos showed. Yoos wrote that he will be arraigned this morning in Olympia Municipal Court and that he plans to plead not guilty.

Many who spoke said they were Yoos’ friends and that he is a peaceful community volunteer. They demanded accountability and suggested forming a citizen review committee for police.

“If the police are not being handled by the police chief, then we need a new one,” said Terry Zander of Olympia.

Mayor Doug Mah and Councilwoman Jeannine Roe were absent. Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Buxbaum told the crowd he met with City Manager Steve Hall and Police Chief Ronnie Roberts about the situation Monday and talked about starting “a very deliberative process” on the police issue, preferably a structured forum.

Hall and Roberts did not address the situation at the meeting Tuesday.

Councilwoman Rhenda Strub suggested the city reinstate a police auditor, a position that was cut in recent years for budget reasons. She said forming a citizen review committee would be difficult because state law does not allow the council to direct city staff, including police, and the council has only two employees – the city manager and a hearing examiner.

Councilwoman Karen Rogers said she was sorry about the situation.

“First off, I apologize,” she said.

In other business, the council voted on first reading to adopt an ordinance that would reduce permits for food carts and mobile vendors to $180 per year from $720. The council is expected to take a final vote on the proposal at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com