by Elizabeth Turnbull
On Monday night, the cold streets surrounding Westlake Park transformed into an echo chamber of drum beats, footsteps, and chants of “No good cops in a racist system! No bad protesters in a revolution!” as roughly 500 protesters marched to where the protests began in Seattle roughly 150 days before.
After an anticipatory drumroll, several protesters stood up on the park’s stage and unfurled a banner that read, “You Can’t Stop This Revolution” on one side and “Montgomery Bus Boycott: 381 Days, Seattle BLM Protests: 150 Days” on the other.
“This is history right here,” said T.K., one of the leaders of the Every Day March group. “We’ve fought with everything we have for the past 150 days, literally, and we have just gotten started. That 150 days is just the beginning.”
Ever since one of the first Seattle Black Lives Matter protests in Westlake Park on May 30 — specifically in response to police brutality in 2020 and the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — the Seattle protests have reached many audiences, from neighborhoods and local government to national media and even the White House.
Over the course of the summer, the protests assumed various forms: from the initial marches, organized by local activist organizations, to the former Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), to emergent protest groups such as The Engage Team, the Every Day Marches, the Black Action Coalition, and the Antifa Equity Outreach, who all organized Monday’s event.
Thus far, efforts on the part of the Seattle City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan have failed to meet the protester’s demands of defunding the Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget by 50% in 2020 and investing that money in the Black community. Instead, the City Council passed measures to get rid of 100 police positions and slash the SPD budget by 1%.
Many city council members indicated over the summer that they were committed to working toward ultimately defunding the SPD budget by 50% and investing this money in the Black community while working toward alternative public safety measures. The mayor, however, has been against the council’s plan though her veto of the budget was overridden by the council. In the meantime, Durkan has instead pledged $100 million for BIPOC communities, but the funding source has come under scrutiny.
Although SPD managed to emerge from the 2020 budget cycle comparatively unscathed in terms of budget cuts, more police officers have left or retired from the Seattle Police Department this year than any year since 2012. Chief Carmen Best also announced her retirement this year in response to the council’s cuts.
Of the protester’s demands, an SPD budget cut of 50% remains, as does the proposal to use this money to directly benefit the Black community.
To reiterate support for those demands, Monday’s protest began at Cal Anderson Park at roughly 6:30 p.m. and following a series of speeches, protesters marched to the West Precinct in Downtown Seattle, arriving at roughly 8:30 p.m. At least two officers were positioned on the roof of the precinct and the protesters below heckled the officers, some raising a middle finger while some yelled for them to quit and join with other of their fellow officers in leaving the department this year.
According to the Seattle Police Department, officers “located graffiti and some bottles that were thrown at the West Precinct by some individuals in the group.” SPD did not provide any further details about the graffiti or bottles, although some protesters did write in chalk on the pavement opposite the precinct.
A while after the march arrived at Westlake Park, a small group of protesters, mostly wearing all black, broke off from the rest of the group at 10 p.m., and travelling east on Pine Street, reportedly threw trash cans and construction signs into the street, later throwing objects at the East Police Precinct and tagging a wall in connection with the precinct, according to the SPD.
While the size of the crowd was fairly large earlier on Monday evening, more than one organizer spoke about the lack of consistent attendance in weeks past and what they described as “performative allyship” on the day of the event.
Trae, an organizer with the Black Action Coalition, spoke about how, despite struggling with an auto-immune condition and the dangers of the pandemic for Black people in particular, she has continued to protest, and she encouraged those present to do so consistently.
“This is a Black woman telling you that we are tired, and we have no other choice but to show up,” Trae said. “We have Black mothers out here crying every day about their sons getting killed. We have Black grandmothers praying for all their family, literally taking up collection plates to bury their family members that are killed by the people that are supposed to serve and protect them.”
Recent data shows that since May, the month when Goerge Floyd was murdered by police in Minnesota, 84 Black men and women have since been killed by police officers in the U.S. as of August 2020.
While Monday marked the 150th day of Seattle protests, it also marked Walter Wallace Jr.’s last day of life. Philadelphia police fatally shot Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, earlier on Monday, sparking protests in the Pennsylvania city later that night.
While at Cal Anderson Park, a member of The Engage Team spoke to the urgency of the protests and the need for such advocacy to never stop.
“It’s another 150, and another 150,” an organizer with The Engage Team said. “If you’re not fighting for equity, you don’t care about the people. And if you don’t care about the people, then I want to nurture you and protect you and help and remind you right now, care about each other more than we’ve ever cared about each other before!”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based reporter.
Featured image by Alex Garland