(This article originally appeared on The C is for Crank and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Monday morning, city council president Lorena González and public safety committee chair Lisa Herbold said they were both briefed last week by police chief Carmen Best on what the chief had previously described as “credible threats” to the Seattle Police Department East Precinct in early June, and that the chief described the threats as generalized threats to government buildings in cities up and down the West Coast rather than a specific threat to bomb, burn down, or otherwise damage the East Precinct. Best cited the alleged threats in June as one of the reasons police needed to keep protesters away from the building using tear gas, pepper spray, and eventually physical barricades in the area that became known as the CHOP.
A man had been murdered by the police. A heartbreaking video of the killing had made it to the internet. Thousands watched as a policeman kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, while Mr. Floyd begged for his life in vain.
Like protesters across the country, Seattle took a stand against police brutality only to experience more police brutality firsthand. Even non-protesters were harmed by the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) negligence. On Capitol Hill, tear gas entered people’s homes and businesses, and the police did not care.
SPD voluntarily abandoned Capitol Hill’s East Precinct, and the neighborhood tone changed to one of collaboration. In a city physically divided by wealth and class, people came together around a common goal: ending police violence against the Black community.
A few days ago, while walking home from the “CHOP” (also known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest) I stopped to talk to a neighbor, who in turn introduced me to her Boomer-age mom, who was visiting Seattle from a rural area of Washington State.
“You all gardening?” I asked, sucking air through the thick fabric of my face mask. “Actually … we just got back from the … CHOP. My mom wanted to see it,” my neighbor answered with the halting uncertainty many Seattleites use to describe this anarchic organism of a protest that has drawn fire — literally and figuratively — from everywhere.
I turned to the white, gray-haired woman in her plum-colored fleece and Costco sneakers — looking all the world like the star of the next “Karen” video on Twitter. I braced myself for what I assumed would be her pinched disdain for the grime, the chaos — the unfocused, raw wildness of these four blocks that just a few months ago symbolized ground zero for a gentrifying “new Seattle.” A neighborhood where million-dollar condos and cavernous breweries battled it out with the “old Seattle” of non-profit art spaces, low-lit gay bars, and church-basement AA meetings.
I was glad the lower half of my face was covered when I asked her politely, “What did you think of it?”
Ronnie Estoque is a freelance journalist currently working with the International Examiner and the South Seattle Emerald. 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.
What we are seeing today is not just about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and the horrific, continuous list of our murdered brothers and sisters — may they rest in power. This is about systemic injustice and systemic racism that has plagued this continent and our neighborhoods for 400 years.
These tragedies are constant reminders of the hate crimes, police brutality and systematic injustice the Black community faces far too frequently.
In Olympia, we’re thinking about our neighbors who have faced police brutality, negligence, and lost their lives due to an over-militarized and over-funded force: Yvonne McDonald, who died in mysterious circumstances; Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, who were shot at by Olympia police and then each sentenced to prison terms; and Jackie Salyers, a Puyallup tribal member fatally shot by police in 2016.