by Elizabeth Turnbull
Thousands of community members and protesters, led by organizers of the campaign King County Equity Now gathered on Friday, June 5 for a George Floyd Rally and “teach-in” in the Central District, where speakers listed off specific demands pertaining to land use and the Seattle Police budget, among other issues.
“Black people, we deserve to be on the frontline of our movement!” activist and former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver said while speaking to crowds in front of the decommissioned Fire Station 6 on 23rd Ave. and Yesler Way.
Of the multiple demands raised by Oliver and the coalition behind King County Equity Now – including Black Dot, Black Elephant Party, Black Health & Wellness Network, Black Star Line African Center Education, Coalition for Inclusive Development, Def Chef Kitchen, Equity Now Coalition, Federal Way Youth Action Team, Flourish Financial, Give Me Exclusive, The Postman Seattle, Presidenta Media, Replanting – one demand specifies the need for community-based organizations to use “underutilized public land for community benefit,” including turning Fire Station Number 6 into the William Grose Center for Enterprise.
Earlier in the day, at roughly 4 p.m., K. Wyking Garrett of Africatown Community Land Trust, spoke to crowds about the damage caused by gentrification in Seattle and the need for community land.
“They got their knees on our necks in the Central District, in the South End. We can’t breathe, all these predatory developers,” Garrett said. “We’re gonna show that this land now has to come to the community!”
“We’ve been here for almost 140 years. We want another 140 years!” Garrett said.
King County Equity Now is an 18-year campaign aimed at bringing members of the African Diaspora in King County to equity in areas such as wealth, homeownership, birth rates, and mortality rates.
Some organizers and supporters of King County Equity Now’s events include Africatown Center for Education and Development, Africatown Community Land Trust, Africatown Preservation and Community Development Association, Artist Coalition for Equitable Development, Black Community Impact Alliance, and Black Dot, among others.
After Garrett’s speech Friday, Oliver also spoke to crowds about defunding the police. In particular, Oliver talked about the second demand listed by Equity Now: reducing the Seattle Police Department budget by half. Oliver insisted that these funds be used instead to cover the City of Seattle’s budget deficit due to COVID-19, and that this change be maintained even after the financial impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic pass.
$180 million from the Seattle Police department budget should be redistributed, Oliver argued, in order to avoid scaling back on social services and defunding education as well as providing increased investment in community organizations in the Black community. The list of demands included directing $50 million of this money to Black-led community-based organizations and into property acquisitions for those Black-led community-based organizations.
“We want to see those dollars not going to some organization that the city believes is going to distribute it to Black people,” Oliver said. “We want to see it go to the hands of organizations that are accountable and transparent, that we already know we can trust.”
Such money would also go toward helping the Black community’s fight against COVID-19, according to the list of demands, since Black people have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
In addition, the final demand argues that the Seattle Public School Board and Seattle Public School Superintendent Denise Juneau should “immediately sever all existing contracts and all financial ties, with the Seattle Police Department.”
Following Oliver’s remarks and those of other community leaders, the group marched to the parking lot on the corner of 23rd Ave. and Jackson St., where community members gave more speeches, rapped, sang and performed spoken word.
Most notably, the crowd sang happy birthday to Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by police in Louisville, KY three months ago on March 13, and who would have celebrated her 27th birthday on Friday.
Following the gathering at the corner of 23rd Ave. and Jackson St, the rapper Raz Simone led the march back in the direction of Capitol Hill, as protestors walked behind his van and listened to more community members speak.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a recent journalism graduate with a passion for writing human-centric pieces. Some of her most recent work includes writing for the Jordan Times where she highlighted issues faced by refugees.
Featured image: During the June 5th BLM teach-in, K. Wyking Garrett, President of the Africatown Land Trust speaks to a crowd of people outside Fire Station No. 6 on the corner of 23rd and Yesler. The former Fire Station is no longer in use and the community would like to turn it into an Innovation Hub. (Photo: Susan Fried)