by Ronnie Estoque
“Shaun Fuhr, he matters here!” rang the chants from Othello Park all the way up to Beacon Hill alongside a strong scent of burning sage as protesters affiliated with Morning March Seattle and the Black Action Coalition (BAC) led a march and rally to the Seattle Police Department South Precinct Sunday afternoon.
“We march for the following demands,” said Trae, a BAC organizer, during the march. “We want to hold police accountable, reallocate SPD’s budget, stop criminalizing youth, actually protect and serve everyone, and protect, not attack, our right to protest … we are marching for basic human rights.” A more detailed description of BAC’s demands can be found online here.
The protest centered around demanding police accountability for Seattle Police SWAT officer Noah Zech, who fatally shot South Seattle resident Shaun Fuhr in April of this year. Protesters also called out predatory developers that have displaced communities of color from the South End and the Central District.
As the group of protesters made their way peacefully up towards MLK Jr. Way, a resident at The Station at Othello Park apartments exploded a firework from their balcony, causing the march to halt momentarily in shock.
BAC organizer Katie criticized owners of new development close to the light rail station. “They [the landlords] raised the rent because it’s an amenity … it contributes to this no longer being the most diverse zip code in the nation,” she said while leading the group of protesters by the Othello Link station.
Eventually the protest stopped at the construction site of Helio Condominiums, which is a development owned by Century Communities. Organizers of the protest emphasized how gentrification of South Seattle and the Central District has pushed many of their Black families out of neighborhoods they have historically resided in.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the 98118 ZIP code was deemed the most diverse ZIP code in the country. Several speakers throughout the protest referred to this fact, sharing intimate stories about how many of their own Black family members have been displaced out of South Seattle and the Central District while the population of white people coming into those neighborhoods has increased drastically. In 2019, it was reported by The Seattle Times that white people have become the largest racial group in the South End, an area that was historically redlined. The Helio development site was formerly home to Young’s Market and other immigrant-owned establishments.
Jason Fuhr, father of Shaun Fuhr, currently resides in Federal Way after being displaced out of the South Seattle neighborhood. He also shared his frustrations with the SPD and their inaction following up on the internal investigation into the killing of his son.
“I have not talked to a detective yet, it’s been going on eight months,” Jason Fuhr said. “We’re beginning the process of filing to get another agency in here because they have violated everything … there’s no police accountability on that bill [HB 1064], there’s nothing that holds them accountable.”
Jason Fuhr also emphasized how his son was shot in the head, as opposed to a non-lethal part of his body.
After Shaun Fuhr’s death, officer Noah Zech was placed on administrative leave and investigations into the shooting were opened by the Seattle Police Department’s Force Investigation Team and the King County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year in May. They have yet to release their findings over half a year later. In July, the Emerald reported on a protest held at the intersection of Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue North calling for justice in the killing of Fuhr.
In May, NAACP Seattle King County issued a statement decrying Fuhr’s death and calling for a criminal homicide investigation, stating:
“From the SPD video it does not appear that the deadly force used by the officer was necessary. From the video it appears that at no time did Mr. Fuhr display a weapon at the police or any other person as he was being chased and no talk of a weapon by the officers is heard on the video audio while they are chasing him down.” An SPD body-worn camera video shows the encounter between Shaun Fuhr and the police.
The protest eventually continued down to the nearby South Precinct, where several organizers of the protest spoke to the group gathered.
“These people [SPD] believe with time people forgive, or just forget stuff … swept under the rug,” Jason Fuhr said from a megaphone as he stood in front of the South Precinct. “I look at my dresser and I look at my son, and I will never forget. I will never lay down, until I’m in the dirt. I won’t stop.”
Ronnie Estoque is a Seattle-based storyteller and aspiring documentarian. He is driven to uplift marginalized voices in the South Seattle community through his writing, photography, and videography. You can keep up with his work by following his Twitter account @RonnieEstoque.
Featured image by Ronnie Estoque.