by Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County
Last week we cautioned our communities to not participate in protests due to COVID-19; which Black and other people of color are disproportionately impacted by. However, while we didn’t want to encourage people to risk their health protesting, we understood the need and demand for direct community support. This is why our organization has donated to bail funds across the country, and soon after created our own bail fund to provide local support. Members of our board have been at county jails every day, supporting those who have been arrested at these protests. We have also created a protestor safety guide to encourage further community safety while demonstrating.
With that, it is also important to understand that Black Lives Matter is for everyone. Anyone can take action on behalf of BLM as a cause. This goes both ways, as it would be irresponsible to take credit for the demonstrations that have taken place simply because they are in the name of BLM.
As an organization, however, Black Lives Matter Seattle, and Black Lives Matter Seattle King County are one and the same. Both are incorporated and run by a Board of Directors with rules, bylaws, and policies.
So, to clarify, Black Lives Matter Seattle King County is not involved in the coordination or planning of any public, in-person gatherings, meetings, or protests, which includes any events planned for June 14th. And to clarify, neither Black Lives Matter Seattle nor Black Lives Matter Seattle King County has met with any leaders or elected officials. Anyone representing themselves as Black Lives Matter Seattle to the Mayor, or the Chief of police during this past week has done so without our knowledge or consent — we do not know who those people are and they do not represent Black Lives Matter Seattle.
Our leadership is listed on our website, and all communications and meetings require board and board chair approval. Our chapter sent an official communication to Mayor Durkan and Chief Best on June 2nd when we learned of claims that BLM had met with the Mayor and the Chief. We are the representatives of BLM Seattle and we were not a part of those meetings, despite having direct lines of communication with the Chief and the Mayor for over two years; why the Mayor represents she met with Black Lives Matter Seattle given these facts undermines the integrity of any meetings or discussions that have excluded this chapter.
We welcome meeting with local leaders; the Mayor, Chief of Police, and the King County Executive have all engaged with us in the past and have our direct contact information for any future communications. We are currently in the process of scheduling meetings with Chief Best, and Senator Murray. We would also hope to speak with the King County Executive and Sheriff, Congressman Smith, as well as Governor Inslee.
It’s important to remember that people can support the protection and liberation of Black and brown lives and not necessarily be a member of Black Lives Matter Seattle King County, and it is the responsibility of leaders, the media, and other community groups to make that distinction.
This is a message to those who support Black Lives Matter Seattle King County, but more importantly, this is a direct message to our communities here in the Seattle area:
We have heard your calls for action in response to the murder of George Floyd and other recent victims of police brutality. We’re hurting, frustrated, scared, and enraged just like you. We understand the need to be together, to collectively mourn and rage.
Our board of directors was initially conflicted about whether to boost these demonstrations, as your safety is of utmost importance. Ultimately, we decided that the situation is too dangerous for us to encourage greater attendance at these in-person protests. While we have not led or organized direct protests at this time, we understand why people are marching for Black Lives. We see you. We hear you. We appreciate you. We need local and state officials to feel you and hear you, too. This demand is simple. Stop killing us. Do whatever is required to save our lives and to prevent the next murder by excessive force.
We recognize that protesting is a tool, a powerful demonstration of collective communication. When using this tool, we must also consider the question, what will we gain from protesting? We want to be strategic, leveraging every ounce of effectiveness from the investment of time, talent, treasure, and risk to physical safety. Although we are not opposed to exercising our right to protest, we know that when Black bodies gather, a dangerous pattern of violence emerges — violations to Black bodies, to the physical structures around us and violations from those who are sworn to protect us. We do not condone these acts and demand that peaceful protests remain peaceful for everyone, by everyone.
We live in a country that has lost more than 100,000 people to COVID-19. This virus has ravaged our communities in a way that largely mirrors the existing inequities and structural racism inherent in our healthcare systems. We refuse to encourage our community members to needlessly risk their lives and their health during this time when other avenues of action are available. We reserve the right to take to the streets in the future, but we encourage those who are most directly impacted by this fight, to put your safety and health before anything else.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. The victory is hollow if we’re at the finish line alone.
We are all currently living through dark and challenging days: we’re enduring a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and the relentless, ongoing crisis of American racism. As a chapter, we asked ourselves: what are the most immediate and urgent needs of the community right now? The answer is: direct community support and assistance. We must support the families who have had their loved ones taken from them by law enforcement. We must support the demonstrators in Minneapolis whose efforts successfully led to the arrest of George Floyd’s killer and who are still fighting for justice. We must support the protesters in Louisville who were attacked while demanding justice.
We also created a bail fund, known as the BLM Seattle Freedom Fund, in order to help the protestors here in Seattle. In just a few short days, BLM Seattle has raised well over a quarter of a million dollars specifically for the Freedom Fund. Your generosity has empowered us to not only get people out of jail but also to provide much-needed support for people’s basic needs, such as food and hygiene. These funds also allow us to continue our bail relief work as an ongoing service to the community, long after the events of this particular week. We want to thank everyone who has donated to the bail fund and to our chapter.
For these reasons, last week, our organization donated $3,500 to various organizations across the country who are providing this direct support. Since then, BLM has raised well over a quarter of a million dollars through the organization’s own bail fund which empowers us to not only get people out of jail but also give them much needed support for their basic needs. We want to thank everyone who has given to the bail fund and who has supported the organization.
We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we have received. And as a result, we are responding to messages and emails as quickly as we can. So, we will take some time to answer a few common questions and concerns that have been coming up a lot:
First, our chapter does not currently sell shirts, banners, or other merch. If it’s not on our website, then it’s not from our chapter, and the proceeds from those sales are likely not supporting BLM Seattle-King County.
Second, no one is authorized to accept donations on behalf of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. We are not currently partnering with or running joint fundraisers with any other groups, organizations, or BLM chapters at this time. So, if you want to donate to BLM Seattle-King County, be sure to use the link on our website: blacklivesseattle.org/donate. There is also information on that page about how to mail us a check, which can save us money by avoiding credit card transaction fees.
Third, we received many messages from people asking us what they can do to help Black Lives Matter. Above all, we ask for your unwavering persistence in this fight. We are entering a new decade this year, and unfortunately, the previous decade was defined by an unproductive routine in which Americans would get angry about racism for only a few weeks at a time before moving on with their lives. The result of this routine was that politicians learned that they simply had to wait out these temporary storms of anger, because their job security ultimately did not depend on how committed they were to dismantling the racism that has been built into our institutions by prior generations. We all need to challenge each other to see this fight through to the end. We simply cannot and should not move on if nothing’s changed.
Here are some of our immediate demands from the City of Seattle:
- We demand that the city rescind its motion asking to end the consent decree. How can the City promise to improve our trust in its police department while simultaneously telling a court that this trust has already been restored? If the Mayor wants to restore our trust, she should be proposing new systems of accountability, not proposing to remove such systems.
- We demand that the Mayor end the curfew immediately. The curfew sends a clear message to both demonstrators and law enforcement that all protestors are presumptively bad. This emboldens police to use force even when unnecessary, and it undermines the City’s stated goal of rebuilding the community’s trust with policing. As a result, the curfew has created a feedback loop, where each day’s protests are driven by animosity created from police violence from the previous day’s protest. In other words, this curfew is distracting the City away from conversations of systemic racism in policing and instead draining everyone’s energy on a continuously escalating First Amendment dispute.
- We demand that all law enforcement at demonstrations turn on their body cams and leave them on throughout the entirety of their shift. We also demand that each officer’s badge number be unhidden and on full display. These backwards policies simply embolden officers to behave more recklessly and violently, and they obviously undermine the public’s trust. Again, one cannot promise demonstrators increased accountability, while deploying countless officers in a state of decreased accountability.
- We demand that the City establish a de-escalation team. Our demands so far are common sense means of de-escalating the recent violence. Unfortunately, after seeing several years of Black Lives Matter activism, it appears that “de-escalation” is still not in the City’s vocabulary or operating mindset. In fact, every decision that the City has made this week seems intent on escalating the violence. A team dedicated solely to de-escalating tensions will be much more effective at remedying the current situation.
- We demand that the City Council, the state legislature, and Congress all consider efforts to decrease funding for police and instead increase funding for health and social services. In the recent days, we’ve seen the consequences of when taxpayer money goes towards stocking up on weapons of war rather than stocking up on PPE. Police departments across the country have long complained about unfairly bearing the burden of our weak social safety net. As a result of these poor budgeting decisions, certain individuals in a health emergency are more likely to be sent help in the form of someone with a gun rather than someone with medical expertise. It’s time to stop talking about this problem and to finally get to work to fix it.
Featured image by Marko Lus.