Kent Youth Organization and Community Members to Rally at Kent Police Department

by Jack Russillo

Youth speakers will rally in front of the Kent Police Department Monday, August 17 to demand that the City of Kent and the Kent School District address issues of systemic racism.

The rally is organized by ForFortyTwo, an organization of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) youth who are combating systemic racism in Kent. The rally will bring together Kent community members to list demands that involve defunding the police, invite local youth to tell stories of their experiences with police brutality, and offer tables where attendees can contribute ideas for community and school programs that uplift and support BIPOC groups instead of funneling them into systems of punishment and oppression. Community-funded food and water will also be provided for attendees, as well as a full medical team. The rally will begin at 5:30 p.m.

ForFortyTwo’s first demand is for the City of Kent to drop the lawsuit against the King County inquest process. This process allows for families to gather important evidence and other information after their loved ones are killed by police, but the lawsuit has brought this process to a halt. Twenty-year-old Giovonn Joseph-McDade was killed by Kent police officer William Davis in June 2017, and his case is one of many around South King County that is being held up by the lawsuit against the inquest process. 

“Effectively, these lawsuits by the cities in South King County are re-traumatizing the impacted families who have already experienced this unimaginable loss of their loved ones being killed by the police,” said Nica Sy, a 21-year-old organizer for ForFortyTwo. “And now, they’re being re-harmed and re-traumatized by the system. Our hope is that by dropping the lawsuit, the families will be able to better know the truth about what happened to their loved one … our communities can better know what’s happening behind these closed doors and [we can] create some transparency in the ways that police are harming our communities.”

ForFortyTwo’s next demand is that the City of Kent and the Kent School District defund the Kent Police Department by at least 50 percent. The group asserts that the police do not protect BIPOC youth and communities, and that in reality, Kent’s elected officials should not use tax dollars to fund institutions that actively harm those communities. More specifically, the group will demand that no new officers be hired, that the budget no longer include the purchase of military-grade weapons or military-based training, and that the Kent School District ends its Security Resource Officer program with the Kent Police Department, which hires police officers to work inside public schools.  

Additionally, the rally will call for the City of Kent to invest in BIPOC communities, such as by creating a participatory budget process and supporting alternatives to community safety that do not involve the police force.

Lastly, ForFortyTwo will demand that the City of Kent and the Kent School District invest more in their students and youth. To do that, the group says, Kent must divest from systems that hinder growth, such as the Security Resource Officer program, and invest in systems that cultivate growth instead, like providing mental and physical health professionals and school administrators from diverse backgrounds in schools.

After listing the group’s demands, an open mic session will allow any person attending the rally the opportunity to speak in front of the crowd and share their own story.

The rally will be the first that ForFortyTwo has organized, but the group is hopeful that this could be the beginning of an ongoing dialogue with Kent’s elected leaders.

“I hope that we wake up tomorrow with more young BIPOC people mobilized toward this cause,” Sy said. “I think we are all about building people power within our city and we know that the thing that we can count on most is each other, so my hope for this rally is to continue building community and momentum together toward this cause and that we can continue moving toward these demands that we know will help us as a young BIPOC community to thrive.”

Jack Russillo has been reporting in Western Washington since 2013. He covers the environment, social justice, and other topics that affect a sustainable and equitable future. He currently lives in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Featured Image provided by ForFortyTwo.