Black Lives Matter and Community Members Demand City Council #Block the Bunker

by Clifford Cawthon

Wednesdays are not usually seen as exciting but this morning 112 people packed into the Seattle City Council’s Gender Equity and New Americans Security Committee meeting to oppose the infamous new North Seattle Police Precinct or the ‘Bunker’. The committee meeting was meant to discuss safety issues and provide an update on budget and designs for the installation.  The Block the Bunker campaign, however, came out in force in order to make sure that the design and plans didn’t go forward.

The proposed precinct building has been characterized as a symbol of racism and a ‘military-style bunker’.  This wave of opposition organized by Block the Bunker came from all over the city and included the Black Book Club, residents from District 4,5, and 6, social service workers, doctors and others who work with homeless and drug-dependent populations here in the city.  Councilor Lorena Gonzalez, the Chair of the Committee, noted there were ’43 and counting’ signed up to speak at the meeting.

Palca Shibale, one of the Block the Bunker organizers warned the ‘Bunker’ would put the city in debt in order to “give the Seattle Police Department a precinct that they haven’t justified, at a time when we are talking about police brutality against Black and Brown bodies in the country”.  She also echoed a common theme that many of the speakers had during the meeting, “this is not just what we’re spending money on but, what we’re not”.

Kirsten Harris-Tally, a Black resident who was there with Black Lives Matter and Block the Bunker issued a statement highlighting the fact that, “88% of Seattle police commute into the city”.  She went on to share her own personal anxieties over being Black in a climate of police militarization: “I’m a person of color and a Microsoft employee, I’ve worked really hard for what I have and I’m afraid every day that one bad interaction [with the police] would undo all the work that I’ve done”.  Her final comments were directed to Councilor Juarez, who has previously characterized concerns as ‘changing the narrative’ away from ‘brick and mortar’ costs, by saying that, “this is not a new narrative, this is about people’s lives”.

The reoccurring theme in opposition to this new facility is clear: the money spent on this building is evidence of the council’s lack of commitment to tackling institutional racism in policing and not funding vital services. All of the speakers offered alternatives for the money being raised and allocated for the new Police Precinct, such as: housing, transportation, drug-treatment, aiding the homeless and education.

Ian Mosher, a resident who deals with homeless people in Seattle, said “we’re making a choice what to prioritize…at $10,000 per year, we could provide housing to all homeless people in Seattle”. One speaker, Dr. Kristen Hansen Day, found it “appalling” that comparable monies weren’t going to address homelessness and addiction treatment.  Priya Rai, who spoke for API Chaya, suggested that the council, “take a step back and look at what you are funding, and at service providers [who] are fighting for pennies to provide basic services”.

Supporters of the new Police Precinct felt the new facility was necessary for the safety of their neighborhoods. One white north Seattle resident, Kristen McKinney stated, “I support the Police Precinct and I support Black Lives Matter”.  Another Northern Seattle resident, Rudy Rissler spoke in support of the building as “a part of infrastructure improvements”.  Resident Rudy Petrova said intervention by the officers of the North precinct saved his daughter’s life from a heroin overdose.

Despite, the call to change priorities and cancel the bunker project – or at least freeze it – the council did no such thing.  Councilor Harrell, while expressing support for Councilor Gonzalez, still supported the installation and said that “we [the council] are not tone deaf”.  Similarly, Councilor Juarez shared her own personal experiences with racist policing while supporting the installation as necessary. Councilors Herbold, Johnson, and Councilor Gonzalez followed suit emphasizing the importance of minimizing the racial impact of the facility and fiscal prudence.

Suffice to say, Block the Bunker campaigners felt that the City Council was completely deaf to their concerns today.  Councilor Gonzalez moved to push a resolution put before the full council on Monday for a racial equity toolkit assessment and support a new budget for the facility at $149 million – instead of the original quote of $160 million. Gonzalez also noted that money from the sale of the old northern police precinct would be used for affordable housing as a show of understanding the concerns of the opposition campaign and the community.  According to Block the Bunker, the original $160 million quote would pay for half of the recommendations from the pivotal Habitability Affordability and Livability Assessment (HALA) study.

On Monday August 15th at 2:00pm, the Full Council will be meeting to vote for or against the resolution to approve the Bunker’s new budget and findings from the update. The Block the Bunker campaign is committed to keeping on the pressure, attending meetings and urging community members to call the city council from its Facebook page of the same name, “Block the Bunker”.

4 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter and Community Members Demand City Council #Block the Bunker”

  1. There’s still time to make your opinions known before Monday’s vote!
    First: Contact the city council NOW, especially council members Gonzalez, Harrell, Herbold (and if you’d like thank Lisa Herbold for proposing the use of a Racial Equity Toolkit), and Johnson to demand the following (you can even copy/paste this in your email!):
    1. Black lives, and lives of people of color generally, actually begin to matter in Seattle when it comes to city policies and projects.
    2. Vote against the resolution being pushed in favor of allocating 149 million dollars to the police bunker and/or call to postpone voting on the resolution until Councilmember Sawant returns from India.
    2. Use the Racial Equity Toolkit (…/RacialEquityToolkit_FINAL_August20…), before any further action is taken in favor of the bunker. You need follow the city process before doing this extremely racist action.
    3. Do not make any money allocations at this time. The community is forced to wait until September-October of each year to present any funding requests, often much smaller in scale. The SPD should NEVER have priority over the community.
    4. Defund this bunker project completely. There are viable public safety alternatives that cost far less in taxpayer dollars and Black lives.

    Second: Attend Monday’s City Council Resolution Meeting!
    Monday, August 15th, 2pm – 3:30pm at Seattle City Council Chamber

  2. Just so you know. James Brown said “say it loud I’am black and I’am proud.”That means black race that is. But I was very disenchanted to see Pong manhandled by security in the council chambers. Then we have Lucie a transvestite state that Seattle Housing Authority management is abusing her. I say get those protestors down to that building and require all top heads to be swept. Begin the sweeps there in management find out why and how can they abuse the disabled and get away with it. Enough is enough. Seattle Housing Authority is used as a housing resource for the homeless they also are listed under the City of Seattle. Seattle Office of Housing as a major resource. Look at their brochure. Forget this mess demand Andrew Lofton leave now. Stop the oppression of black people.

  3. This is some scary stuff going on down there in those city council chambers. I mean come on how much more of this stuff. And people say don’t call names. They are just despicable. Passing these itty bitty things and leaving racism on the back burner. It’s only because no one has stopped the destruction of black folk. Change that and see how fast the world changes.