With thousands of people set to hit the streets Saturday for the 2018 Seattle Women’s March, an experience at this week’s MLK Day march provides an example for what to do if you see something that doesn’t seem right. See something? Say something — even if the first person you tell doesn’t seem to want to hear about it.
Jacob Washington and his girlfriend Talaya Mackey, students at Seattle Central and president and vice president respectively of the school’s Black Student Union were at the MLK rally event Monday at Westlake Park when Jacob noticed something that wasn’t sitting right.
Washington noticed an uplifted, small, rectangular paving slab as they crossed Westlake Park. Thinking back to his experiences and training from his three years in the army and two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a combat engineer, Washington wanted to play it safe. Thinking it was probably nothing, but knowing the march was set to arrive at Westlake any moment, Washington and Mackey tell CHS they decided to alert police as soon as possible.
After walking the block around Westlake looking for SPD, Washington was about to call 911 when he spotted a patrol car. According to Washington, the officer told him that he “didn’t deal with sidewalks” and that they needed to call another number, to a different department, that cleans sidewalks and puts out cones.
“What do you want me to do, should I pull on it, jump on it or what,” the officer asked Washington.
Trying to diffuse the situation and show that they’re “on the same team,” Washington joked that’s what he would have done in Afghanistan. When the officer stopped and got out of his car, things escalated into an argument between the two men with Mackey left trying to play peacemaker. When it was done, the officer commanded the two to leave the area where the MLK rally was to take place.
“It was a waste of 30 to 40 minutes,” Mackey said.
SPD spokesperson Patrick Michaud tells CHS that if marchers do see something that concerns them they should do what Washington and Mackey tried.
“You’ll see lots of cops out there, you can always approach one of them, they’d be more than happy to help you out as long as they aren’t busy doing something else,” he said. “If you don’t spot an officer right away, we ask that you call 911 and we can get someone out there.”
Michaud confirmed that OPA is investigating the MLK march incident.
“As far, as people being comfortable reporting things, absolutely, please just do. It’s the most expedient way to get something taken care of when it comes to something like that, especially on a march” Michaud said. “It might take an officer a little longer to get there if you call 911. If you see someone out there like an officer that you feel comfortable reporting it to, they can get there much faster. ”
Washington tells CHS he’ll probably call next time instead of flagging an officer down, despite the reassurances provided by SPD. “On our part, as civilians, we executed exactly what we were supposed to execute, him, as a law enforcement officer, when he was supposed to make us feel safer, or at least take our concerns seriously, he failed to do so,” Washington said. “When we walked away, we weren’t sure if it was going to be investigated further. Nothing about it seemed like he was in compliance with what ‘See Something, Say Something,’ would imply.”
As for that suspicious paver, Washington said word eventually must have gotten through to someone. An officer eventually showed up to check it out. It was harmless, apparently.