As Seattleites Rally to Support Ballot Counting and Racial Justice, One Protester In Serious Condition

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Mirroring rallies across the nation, various groups marched throughout Seattle on Wednesday night, demanding a fair count of ballots while also maintaining a strong focus on the continued fight against police brutality and systemic racism. This was the second night of demonstrations across the city in the wake of an undecided election.

Beginning at 5 p.m., organizers from various Black Lives Matter (BLM) groups and coalitions such as King County Equity Now, The Every Day Marchers, The Engage Team, and the Black Action Coalition stood in Pioneer Square’s Occidental Park in front of banners reading, “Protect Every Person” and “Every Vote Counts,” referring  somewhat to the inconclusive election results, but primarily focusing on future racial equity and justice.

“If you came out here for this election rally, I need you to be out here for Black Lives Matter protests,” activist Nikkita Oliver said at the event. “Count every vote, protect every person. If you really mean those things, you will keep showing up.”

Demonstrators participate in a rally held in Pioneer Square’s Occidental Park on Nov 4. (Photo: Alex Garland)

Among both protesters and speakers at the event in Pioneer Square, several voiced that they were pushing for a fundamental change in the U.S., far beyond a potential Biden presidency. 

Colby, a member of the Tsimshian First Nations peoples, has been marching for Black and Indigenous lives in Seattle since the George Floyd protests began in Seattle in late May. While the election has added greater speculation to any protest events, he felt that the reasons for the protest in Pioneer Square on Wednesday, compared to others throughout the year, were not much different. 

Demonstrators march in Pioneer Square Nov. 4. (Photo: Alex Garland)

“It’s not a win just because Biden gets into office,” Colby said, being careful to clarify that he did not speak for his people. “As far as the reasons, I don’t think anything’s really changed. Everyone is still upset that there’s still so much racial injustice and that is on so many levels: education, healthcare, housing, mental health, homelessness, access to resources and job opportunities.” 

Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the organizers led several hundred people in chants of “Who Has The Power? We Have the Power!” and through the streets of downtown Seattle, ultimately passing City Hall and the Seattle Police Headquarters. At about 7:30 p.m. the march returned to Pioneer Square, and following a few speeches, this specific protest concluded.

Other demonstrations, meanwhile, continued elsewhere in the city, focused primarily on advocating for a fair election. A “count every vote” rally of roughly 50 individuals emerged in Mt. Baker on Wednesday afternoon and another small rally organized by various socialist groups gathered in Westlake Park to advocate against Trump stealing the election, according to a Seattle Times article

Rally in Pioneer Square’s Occidental Park Nov. 4 (Photo by Alex Garland)
Rally in Pioneer Square’s Occidental Park Nov. 4

While legal observers were present at the Pioneer Square protest on Wednesday, several protesters and speakers cited how the police presence—only a few vehicles—was much smaller than at protests hosted on Tuesday and Wednesday nights by the Every Night Direct Demonstration (ENDD) protesters and the Every Day Marchers. At those demonstrations, there were much more intense interactions between protesters and police, including arrests and injuries.

On Tuesday night, ENDD protesters marched from Cal Anderson Park to downtown and the South Lake Union area, where they were joined by the Every Day Marchers and followed by roughly thirty police officers on bicycles, several SPD vehicles, and at least one armored SWAT vehicle at different intervals.

As ENDD protesters marched from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union on Tuesday, some knocked over parking signs, hit metal utility boxes, and smashed at least one parking meter. 

The Seattle Police Department arrested eight individuals associated with the protests following property damage on Tuesday night. As protesters marched away from South Lake Union, a Seattle Police Department officer punched the windows of at least one ENDD car brigade vehicle and arrested one driver, according to several protesters at the scene.

The ENDD protesters, who have nightly protests which begin at Cal Anderson Park and are in favor of defunding SPD, also took to the streets Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. Later that night, SPD arrested seven people following property damage associated with protests on Capitol Hill. Three of these arrests were made in front of the East Precinct at roughly 10 p.m. 

Eyewitnesses saw SPD tackle one of these individuals to the ground. Shortly thereafter, the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) transported this person to Harborview Medical Center. Although an SFD spokesperson said the individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition, a Harborview spokesperson said that a “woman” [sic] who was transported to the hospital was in critical condition.

Several eyewitnesses to the event and individuals on social media have expressed concern over the protester’s condition and the circumstances surrounding their arrest. Although SPD said that the protester experienced a medical issue following the arrest, they have not yet specified if this medical issue was caused by the arrest and potential use of force.

The protester is now in “serious” rather than critical condition, according to a Harborview Spokesperson and people who knew the protesters say that he did not have a chronic medical condition.

While the victim remains at Harborview, he is now being represented by Cedar Law PLLC and Stritmatter Law Firms as a member of their Protester v. Seattle litigation.

“Our legal team is upset and appalled by this incident,” the Law Firms wrote in a statement regarding the incident.  “On his behalf we demand immediate answers from the City.”

Editor’s Note: Based on the information available at the time, this article originally stated that a female protester had been tackled to the ground in an arrest by SPD Wednesday night and was hospitalized for injuries associated with the arrest. The Emerald now has more information about this person, who we have now identified as a 30-year-old trans masculine man and who is currently on a ventilator at Harborview. This article has been updated to reflect the fact that this man’s gender was not known at the time of its original writing.

Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist.

Featured image by Alex Garland.

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