How 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.
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.”