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Originally published February 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 19, 2008 at 12:20 PM

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School officials seek protection order

Seattle schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and School Board President Cheryl Chow are seeking permanent court protection after...

Seattle Times staff reporters

Seattle Channel video

On Nov. 14, 2007, Omari Tahir-Garrett refuses to leave the podium, leveling heated comments and demanding to be arrested. (Beginning at about 1:00:40.) See video

On Dec. 5, 2007, he can be heard shouting "Get your hands off of me" when attempting to enter the school board's meeting room. (Beginning at about 32:30.) See video

Seattle schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and School Board President Cheryl Chow are seeking permanent court protection after saying they were threatened by Omari Tahir-Garrett, who went to prison for striking then-Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn in 2001.

Goodloe-Johnson and Chow allege that Tahir-Garrett has disrupted School Board meetings with threats, obscenities, racially charged remarks and, at one point, pushed a school administrator to the floor. Chow and Goodloe-Johnson say they fear for their safety.

At one meeting, Tahir-Garrett allegedly warned Chow, an Asian American, that the Wah Mee Massacre could happen again, a reference to the 1983 fatal shooting of 13 people at a Chinatown International District gambling club.

"I understood this to be a threat to my life, as well as to the lives of my fellow directors," Chow said in papers filed in King County Superior Court.

Tahir-Garrett could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

After the most recent outburst in December, Tahir-Garrett was charged with criminal trespassing and disrupting school activities and is due in court on those charges Tuesday.

In 2001, Tahir-Garrett, a longtime activist in the African-American community, was convicted of felony assault for hitting Schell in the face with a megaphone, breaking several bones, at a Central Area community event. Tahir-Garrett was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Early last year, Tahir-Garrett was warned that he could be banned from School Board meetings.

Then in November, police were called because he refused to leave the speaker's podium and made racial comments about Chow and Goodloe-Johnson, an African American. He collapsed onto the floor and was dragged out by officers.

After that meeting, Tahir-Garrett was banned for a year from school-district headquarters, but he returned the following month, pushing his way into the meeting room, and, officials say, knocking down an administrator who attempted to block his path.

After being removed from the meeting, he pushed past several school-district security officers and burst back into the room yelling: "Get your hands off of me!"

Court papers say it took three police officers to subdue him. Since that meeting, school officials have hired police officers to monitor entrances during School Board meetings.

Racially charged comments by Tahir-Garrett captured on video at one meeting included telling Goodloe-Johnson: "We have two types of black females in our history. We have Harriet Tubmans and we have Aunt Jemimas ... ."

When Chow attempted to cut him off, Tahir-Garrett told her to "go back where you came from" and he threatened a federal lawsuit.

Earlier this week, school officials published legal announcements in The Seattle Times summoning Tahir-Garrett to appear in Superior Court Tuesday, where they will ask a judge to sign permanent restraining orders against him.

Temporary restraining orders have been in place since shortly after the December incident.

Those orders bar him from coming within 500 feet of any Seattle Public School building, within 500 feet of Goodloe-Johnson or Chow, and within 1,000 yards of either woman's home or workplace.

Shannon McMinimee, a school-district attorney, said the newspaper notices were published because Tahir-Garrett "evaded" attempts by police to serve him with legal papers.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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