by Emerald Staff
(Updated 6/6/20 at 6:59 pm)
Black Lives Matter Seattle/ King County (BLMSKC), and others with firsthand knowledge of the situation have informed the Emerald that the social justice nonprofit has had tele-meetings with both Washington State Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee over the past 48 hours to present a list of demands.
According to sources, the list contains issues that BLMSKC considers non-negotiable, especially on matters in the city of Seattle that the organization believes are immediate and pressing. The issues range from COVID-19’s impacts on the Black community to the city’s lawsuit against King County regarding inquests (inquiries into the circumstances surrounding a person’s death). There was also mention of possible demands at the federal level.
Senator Murray offered her support and commended the organization, according to the sources, and encouraged them to continue their efforts. BLMSKC has asked to meet with the senator again in 3 weeks. A spokesperson for Murray confirmed the conversation.
BLMSKC then had two tele-meetings in 24 hours with Gov. Inslee and his staff about issues related to racial disparities in the state of Washington. Gov. Inslee’s spokesperson, Mike Faulk, confirmed the meetings.
Topics brought up by BLMSKC and other stakeholders in the meeting included I-940, the measure that removed a 32-year-old barrier in state law that had made it virtually impossible to bring criminal charges against police officers believed to have wrongfully used deadly force The groups also called for the state attorney general’s office to create and control the implementation, oversight, and management of statewide police accountability, including storage of all body camera footage from all law enforcement agencies in the state.
According to sources, Inslee called for the additional meetings because of concern about gaps in I-940 that many stakeholders brought up on the first call. Inslee asked for the second call to be scheduled immediately to flush out specifics.
In the later tele-meetings held on Wednesday, Inslee raised the issue of whether the state should conduct its own investigations of county sheriffs’ offices. Several people on the call raised concerns about the forthrightness of Ed Troyer, the Public Information Officer for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, over the sheriff office’s recent handling of the case of Manuel Ellis, a Tacoma black man who died in police custody. Troyer is currently running for Pierce County Sheriff. Concerns were also expressed about the King Co Sheriff’s office treatment of communities of color.
Inslee asked for a joint statement between his office and attendees to urge that all protests remain peaceful but all the attendees on the call, led by BLMSKC, objected to such a statement. Sources say the parties were very far apart on the definition of “peaceful” and reiterated that local law enforcement are intentionally escalating conflict, and city law enforcement is not addressing the harassment and harm caused by outsiders trying to derail the purpose of the protests. There was also a lengthy conversation about President Donald Trump’s threat of military use, and whether or not activated national guard personnel are currently armed. The governor said they weren’t. Others on the call claimed they were.
BLMSKC asked to meet again with Inslee in three weeks and requested updates on certain issues from his staff prior to the next meeting. Inslee agreed he’s committed to the work but did not personally agree to meet with any of the attendees again. In a radio interview Friday morning on KRIZ, BLMSKC board member Marlon Brown described the meeting as “pretty good.”
In related developments, the Seattle Police Department contacted BLMSKC directly several days ago. A meeting has yet to be set, but sources indicate BLMSKC has a direct line of communication with SPD Chief Carmen Best.
BLMSKC has also heard from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, with a meeting scheduled to take place this Saturday. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said in an email that BLMSKC was invited to a Tuesday meeting, with demonstrators and community leaders, but that BLMSKC declined to attend. Sources with BLMSKC say the issue over Tuesday’s meeting had been the mayor trying to keep out people BLMSKC says are mandatory attendees.
Last week, the organization met with King County Executive Dow Constantine to begin addressing issues around reporting hate and bias crimes, particularly against Black, trans, femme, queer and other POC. Sources report that this work has advanced. Constantine’s staff is working with BLM to schedule a meeting to talk about the group’s current demands and a previous commitment that Constantine made to BLMSKC to end cash bail in King County. The organization says that King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has been a barrier to that goal.
Featured image by Johnny Silvercloud