Celebrations on Capitol Hill and Continued BLM Protests After Election Results

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Dancing, forceful chants, and a plethora of honking cars marked the morning of Saturday, Nov. 7 as Seattleites on Capitol Hill celebrated the start of a new American era following the announcement of a Biden victory and the election of the first Woman of Color as vice president. The monumental day was also an occasion for continued protests for BLM marchers across town. The day’s combination of revelry and activism took a dark turn in the evening, however, with a fatal shooting in the early hours on Sunday.

Hundreds of Seattleites converged on Capitol Hill at roughly 11 a.m., and many remained until long after sunset. Some waved signs celebrating Trump’s defeat that read “You’re Fired” and “Bye Don,” while others waved “Biden-Harris 2020” flags. 

All of the individuals the Emerald spoke with were celebrating both an end to the Trump administration and also the beginning of a new Biden-Harris administration. However, each person voiced different points of celebration.

Some said they were looking forward to a better handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, others a hopeful repair of international relations, and more than one person said they felt better about the future treatment of immigrants and People of Color.

One woman said that she no longer fears for her boyfriend, who is an immigrant, as she did during the Trump administration. Another person said they were hopeful Biden and Harris would repeal some of Trump’s policies.

“I think the most important thing will be that all of the policies by Trump are now hopefully coming to an end. They’ve been so damaging,” said Sandra Williams, one of the people celebrating on Capitol Hill. “They’ve been terrorizing communities of color and I really hope that will stop with Biden and Harris, particularly having Harris in office.”

Another woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, felt particularly moved by the selection of the new vice president. 

“There’s a female that’s our vice president,” she said. “They’ll refer to her as ‘Madam Vice President’ and I think that’s super powerful.”

While midday dancing and car horn honking continued near Cal Anderson Park, the Monorail honked above several hundred Black Lives Matter protesters who marched from Westlake throughout downtown. Some waved signs reading, “Police are looting Black futures,” while the group chanted, “This is a racist system, shut it down!” among other things. 

Led by individuals with the Engage Team, the Every Day March, and the Black Action Coalition, BLM protesters on Saturday continued to repeat the Seattle protests’ five demands for racial justice: defunding the Seattle Police Department (SPD), investing divested money in the Black community, freeing any and all arrested protesters, no new youth jail, and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s resignation. 

Thus far, efforts on the part of the Seattle City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan have failed to meet the protesters’ demands to defund the SPD budget by 50% in 2020 and invest that money in the Black community. Instead, the City Council passed measures to get rid of 100 police positions and small cuts to SPD’s budget.

As of late October, the Seattle City Council was looking into cutting SPD’s 2021 budget by as much as 17%, a number considerably shy of the demanded 50%. In the meantime, Durkan has proposed to cut SPD’s budget by 12%, and pledged $100 million in city spending for BIPOC communities. But the funding source for the $100 million — tapping into the recent Jump Start tax increase passed by the City Council — has come under scrutiny.

Following speeches at Westlake Park earlier in the day, Saturday’s BLM march appeared to be a continuation of a long summer of protests. As they have in recent months, at Saturday’s march protest leaders pointed to Biden as an extension of a flawed system and not a move away from it.

“Nothing’s changed, nothing’s changed, we woke up this morning, and me as a Black man, I just see another white man in power,” said Ish, a leader with the Black Action Coalition. “We’re going to continue to be out here until we get what we deserve, which is really reparations, tangible equity.”

The BLM protest ended in front of City Hall in Downtown Seattle at roughly 3:30 p.m. The crowd that remained on Capitol Hill danced to Queen, Whitney Houston, and live music, briefly shedding their face masks to drink from champagne bottles and canned Rainiers. 

At 4:30 p.m. the chain of honking cars was broken by a trailer carrying the Marshall Law band, which was a fixture at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) earlier in the summer. As the weather grew increasingly cold, the band played live music for the crowds, “to remind [them] that Black lives matter,” one of the band members said.

The night aged with more dancing, a few arguments, a saturated pink-gold sunset, and protesters in black bloc attire briefly burning the American flag. 

At roughly 1 a.m., individuals on East Pike Street and 10th Avenue East, near where celebrations ran late into the night, reported hearing gunshots. A 31-year-old man was soon after transported to Harborview Medical Center where he later died.

It is unclear if the shooting had any connection to individuals celebrating the new presidency and, as of Sunday morning, the police did not have a suspect in custody, according to a Seattle Times article. The article was updated early Monday morning, identifying the victim as MarQuies Demone Patterson, a Black father of two.

Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist.

Featured image by Susan Fried.

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