“When do we want it?”
The answer, of course: “Now.” An estimated 1,500+ strong crowd of marchers gathered at Garfield High School at noon Saturday for a protest against police brutality as part of ongoing actions in Seattle to bring attention to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police.
While organizers vowed that Saturday’s march would be peaceful, the promises didn’t mean participants aren’t angry about police violence and its impact on the Black community. “We have a right to be angry as we march in the streets today,” one speaker shouted as the crowd prepared to move out.
The march passed from Garfield through the Central District and First Hill to 5th Ave to protest in front of City Hall and SPD headquarters. The protest was expected to continue through the afternoon.
Police and protestors remained peaceful throughout the two hour march through central Seattle, which occasionally blocked traffic as demonstrators occupied major intersections to chant and tell stories of police brutality.
UPDATE (5:02 PM): At the end of the planned march to police headquarters, some 200 people continued to press on through downtown and up Capitol Hill in a march that grew increasingly tense. SPD reported one protestor jumped on an officer’s back as others threw rocks at officers. According to police, at least three people were arrested.
As it got dark around 5 PM, officers were giving orders for the remaining group to disperse. A small group of around 50 people were directed up Denny Way and onto Broadway, blocking traffic at major intersections.
Afam Ayika, who brought his toddler daughter along for the march, hoped the nationwide demonstrations would quickly bring an end to police brutality against African Americans. “I’m hopeful,” he said. “This is happening all over the country.” Hundreds of Garfield High students filled the ranks of protestors. A member of the Black Student Union, one of the primary organizers of the event, said the high school club was growing into a force to be reckoned within the city. The night before the protest, around 100 people gathered at the Expresso Open Mic for a special Ferguson/criminal justice focused session of poetry, spoken word, rap, and singing. The open mic, sponsored by the group Freshest Roots, is held monthly at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute at 17th and E Yesler. Organizer Edward Martinez said the open mic offers younger people an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings in a supportive space.