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Sawant says economic disparities underpin Capitol Hill hate crimes ahead of LGBTQ forum

10498060_10101874770097606_3032210991963063043_o-21-356x550How to make Capitol Hill feel safer for the neighborhood’s LGBTQ community, especially during peak nightlife hours, is a question that seems to elude any simple answers. Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant is hoping to hear some solutions at an open community forum the councilor and candidate to lead District 3 organized for Tuesday night at All Pilgrims Church.

The forum will be moderated by Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League, and is slated to include the following panel:

Zach Pullin – Acting President, Capitol Hill Community Council

Lils Fujikawa –Queer Network Program Coordinator, API Chaya

Raven E. Heavy Runner – Acting Co-Chair, Northwest Two-Spirit Society, MSW

Christie Santos-Livengood – UW Graduate Student, Master Public Health

Shaun Knittel – President & Founder, Social Outreach Seattle; Seattle Gay News Associate Editor

Marta Idowu – Seattle LGBT Commission Liaison, Seattle Office for Civil Rights

Sawant is not generally seen as a leader on council when it comes to public safety, but it’s likely to be a key issue in this year’s Council District 3 race. Statistics and anecdotal accounts point to an increase in bias crime incidents within the newly formed district, which includes Capitol Hill and the Central District. The political concern is definitely on the rise.

For Sawant, her bread-and-butter issues of economic inequality and affordable housing are crucial to preserving LGBTQ culture and safety on Capitol Hill.

“I want to make an appeal to everyone to connect these (crime) issues to larger economic issues,” she told CHS. “Underlying all of this is that people of color, LGBTQ people, working people are finding this city increasingly unlivable.”

Connections between gentrification and anti-gay violence were recently drawn by some artists who participated in the #caplhillpsa street art campaign. Others find the connection misses the mark.

Sean Knittel of Social Outreach Seattle says that, while gentrification may dilute the neighborhood’s gay culture, condo dwellers aren’t committing the bulk of crimes most concerning to the gay community. Instead, Knittel said more focus should be put on combating street gangs from other parts of the city.

Knittel gave CHS a preview of some of the solutions he plans to present on Tuesday, including a free nighttime shuttle to transport people around Pike/Pine and other citizen-lead initiatives. “I got news for the gay community — the cavalry is not coming,” Knittel said.

On City Hall’s side, Sawant said she was interested in looking at further sensitivity training for SPD and funding a LGBTQ community center on Capitol Hill.

No SPD officials were invited to take part in Tuesday’s forum — Sawant said she was told people would feel more comfortable speaking openly without an SPD presence. CHS reached East Precinct commander Captain Pierre Davis to get his input on the forum, but he referred us to the department’s media unit.

SPD spokesperson Patrick Michaud said the department generally supports citizen-lead safety efforts and pointed to SPD’s data-based SeaStat program as one initiative that’s helping the department hone in on hate crime activity.

Tuesday’s forum marks the latest turn towards District 3 specific issues for Sawant. Last year she started distributing a newsletter around Central Seattle and in a recent Seattle Times profile, she said she was firmly committed to the pothole and police issues at the neighborhood level.

It still remains to be seen how Sawant’s District 3 opponents, LGBTQ activist Rod Hearne and women’s rights activist Morgan Beach, will tackle the issue of hate crimes on Capitol Hill.

The Public Forum to Discuss Hate Crimes against the LGBTQ Community will take place on March 3rd at 7:00 PM in All Pilgrims Church at 500 Broadway E.

UPDATE: Here’s an example of one variety of malicious harassment all too common around Capitol Hill posted by SPD Tuesday afternoon:

Police tracked down and arrested a 52-year-man on Monday who threatened employees inside a Capitol Hill store and hurled epithets and slurs at staff and customers.

Witnesses told police said the intoxicated man hung out in the doorway of the store, located in 1500 block of 11th Avenue, shortly before noon and starting yelling homophobic slurs. Employees repeatedly asked him to leave, but the suspect remained and threatened to hurt the workers. He also made derogatory remarks to several Asian customers.

The suspect only left after a companion walked up and told him, “You don’t know what neighborhood you are in, but you don’t say those things here.”

Police interviewed store employees and then located a suspect nearby who fit the description. The man had changed clothes, but police found the clothing he’d worn at the store stuffed inside a cooler he’d been carrying. A manager at the store confirmed he was the right guy.

Officers booked the suspect into the King County Jail for investigation of malicious harassment.

According to arrest records, the suspect in the case is apparently relatively new to the Pacific Northwest but has been busted in California for being intoxicated in public. In one of those incidents, his home address is listed as “transient.”

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23 thoughts on “Sawant says economic disparities underpin Capitol Hill hate crimes ahead of LGBTQ forum

  1. I think it’s a stretch to claim, as Sawant apparently does, that gentrification is one of the root causes of anti-LGBT hate crime. As Sean Kittel points out, those who are moving into our neighborhood are not those who are committing the crimes. But, hey, a Socialist needs to blame everything on those who are further up the economic scale. Does Sawant actually care about crime on Capitol Hill, or is she just using this issue as a platform for her favorite issue (income inequality).

    • Sawant also said that LGBQT people are finding this city increasingly unlivable!

      Wtf! I can only speak as a representative of G segment of LGBQT, but I’m loving life in this city and find people here more liberal on sexual issues than ever before.

      If you want to talk about transportation or homelessness then, yes, we’ve lost ground. Take that on Ms. Sawant.

      • Livable for the shrinking percentage of LGBTQ who can afford it while the majority of working class queer families get pushed out. Gentrification can cause violence by changing the demographic composition of a neighborhood, removing the eyes on the street, as just one mechanism.

      • Maybe it’s just the circles I run in, but I know quite a few well to do gay couples. Just think how many working class homophobes can’t live on the hill now. Same difference, right?

      • Part of gentrification is the increasing density of housing on Capitol Hill….just look around, there are apartment buildings going up everywhere. This change results in more eyes on the street, not fewer, and this translates into less crime.

  2. Can’t say I really see the value of a forum about public safety that doesn’t include the cops. Especially if the problem is gang members from other parts of the city. Is it?? I’ve heard more complaining about hostile and intimidating comments from frat-boy types.

    And the shuttle idea is just depressing, and would be counterproductive if widely used.

    I wouldn’t say that gentrification is responsible for the hate crimes in any direct way. But I do think that the associated party scene creates an environment where people on the street are seen as easy marks. Which encourages criminals to come. And douchebros to unleash their inner bigot. And the gay bashings are just a depressing side effect.

  3. I think councilmember Sawant is just trying to outflank her council opponent who has a longer history of supporting the gay community. It is obvious to anyone on the hill that the majority of crime and especially violent crime is not caused by homophobic rich frat-boys. One of the panelists clearly states that the main issue is gangs hanging out and targeting victims. My personal observation is that mental illness issues also contribute to the unsafe feel of some parts of Capitol Hill.

  4. Shuttles? That is a horrible idea…it doesn’t do anything to address the core issue. We have the right to live in a safe community, and a shuttle does nothing to fix that problem (it literally bypasses it).

  5. Ugh. Sawant is such a douche. Thankfully she’s just using her position as a stepping stone and we won’t have to deal with her for much longer. She should worry more about the people she represents instead of the agenda that she is constantly pushing.

  6. Sawant is a self promoter who likely is just passing through our community. I’ve already spoken with entities ranging from community members to UW higher ups who have tried to meet with her about various things and it didn’t happen. Good luck with this one if you elect her to the council again. As for safety for the LGBQT community, the root of the issue is probably a combination of gangs (who are there to sell drugs and do whatever else), the massive proliferation of bars that inevitably draws a percentage of drunk homophobes, a small percentage of new residents who may be vocally homophobic, and some of the drifters from other places who are not friendly to the LGBQT community. Any solution is indeed going to involve the police, prosecutors, the community, and neighbors watching out for each other. I don’t know if income inequality factors into this, and soon only people of a high income will be the ones able to afford the Hill anyway.

  7. I agree with some of the sentiments above. Mental illness, gangs, and more drunk people have a lot to do with this problem. Also, Seattle encourages homeless people to relocate here and many of them end up on Capitol Hill. I realize compassion is needed but it would be naive to think that in increased homeless population doesn’t come with a lot of problems.

    Economic disparity? Can we please vote Sawant out already? She’s obnoxious.

    • I’m certainly not happy about the increased numbers of homeless on our streets, but I doubt they are the cause of much hardcore crime. However, they do cause a lot of problems…petty offenses such as drunkenness, panhandling, camping on public (and private) spaces, littering, pissing and defecating, etc. I think these things, in combination, cast a pall over parts of Capitol Hill, decrease our “quality of life”, and of course they are not good for business (just look at all the vacancies along Broadway, which are due in part to the antisocial activities of the homeless.

    • How does Seattle “encourage homeless to relocate here”? Genuinely curious. I was speaking w/a friend from Hawaii, and he says the same thing about his state (that the homeless are encouraged to relocate there).

      • I think the argument is say Seattle provides 3 meals a day and a free apartment with cable TV (I know this is not the case, this is to show this way of thinking), then many homeless people would want to come live here as other cities don’t offer this level of support.

        The reality is that homelessness is a national issue, local jurisdictions are powerless to combat it. It does show a good heart of make an effort, that is true.

      • I agree that homelessness is a national issue. I also think that the burden should be spread out equally. And yes, it’s a burden. I’m all for supporting local families in need. But if you live in the area and talk to these people, the vast majority are from other places and were homeless before moving here. There’s a reason for that and it’s not affordable rent. Digressing off of the topic though and I apologize for that.

      • Seattle actually DOES provide 3 free meals a day….in the form of numerous feeding programs run by nonprofits and churches.

        As far as what attracts homeless people from elsewhere to Seattle, I think that one factor might be pot legalization. Someone in Kansas City, say, hears about this and thinks that ” Seattle must be an accepting, liberal place for me to move to.”

  8. I think it is odd that we learn about this event after it has happened so the people in attendance are a select audience.

    I think it is odd that this meeting was held in a church. The news if full of opinions and results from the churches stance on LGBTQ issues. This hate is not natural; it is learned and taught in many churches and other religions.

    I think the majority of religious teachings are anti LGBTQ and like Chris Rock says “If you are a black Christian you have a real short memory” I think this applies to other minority victims of the church as well.

    I think perhaps meeting like this should at least take place in a more appropriate setting?

    I think that maybe we should start by eliminating the loopholes that allow the churches to break the laws, laws allowing and attracting people like this to move here and live on church property. Seattle is now known as “FREEattle” to these people!

    I think most people who live on the hill moved here to get away from the people who are outbidding them for a place to live. Until more housing is provided or an announcement is made of the official new location of a self-imposed hate free zone, Capitol Hill will continue to become less of what it once was known for and that is very sad because places like what capitol hill once was should flourish.

    Je suis Abhijit Roy!

    • If you are a politician and “organize” a public meeting on comparatively short notice without greatly widespread advertising its easier to get people there who aren’t going to ask you any hard questions or call you on your one issue agenda and inaccessibility.

    • Your criticism of anti-LGBTQ stances on the party of some churches is valid, but it does not apply to Pilgrim’s, which has a long history of being very supportive of gay people.

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