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Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson reopen after CHOP leaving artists and activists wondering what Black Lives Matter promises will be kept

(Image: CHS)

As the physical clean-up of E Pine and Cal Anderson is completed, activists and the communities that formed around the Capitol Hill protest zone have growing doubts about the commitment of Mayor Jenny Durkan and her city department leaders to Black Lives Matter promises big and small made in the wake of the Seattle Police raid and sweep that cleared the area of the occupied protest last week.

An off-the-mark preservation effort Sunday to protect the massive Black Lives Matter mural that stretches along E PIne south of Cal Anderson at the heart of the month-long protest and occupation is a sign, the artists behind it say, of their concerns that the city wants to simply wash away Seattle’s BLM goals even as activists continue to march — and risk their lives — for the cause.

“What happened today is putting a very bad impression on how these things will go,” Takiyah Ward of TDUB CUSTOMS, who said she was speaking as one representative for the 13 artists who worked on the mural, tells CHS.

Sunday morning, Lawrence Pitre, an artist and head of the nonprofit business organization the Central Area Chamber of Commerce, began what he called a citizen-led preservation effort to seal the painted pavement and protect the street-wide BLACK LIVES MATTER letters.


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“We’re here to preserve the artwork for 13 artists that created this,” Pitre told CHS. “This is an immaculate piece of mural that was created and our job is just trying to help them out. And so we’re here to preserve it.”

 

Ward said she and other artists were unable to stop the effort they said was rushed and slap-dash and would possibly damage the paint by using an improper sealant and not adequately cleaning and touching up the paint before preservation.

“We were in talks with the city about preservation,” Ward said. “That was never supposed to be happen.”

Cal Anderson’s clean-up also continued Sunday

Pitre said the plan is for his small, community-led crew to come back, make adjustments, and then seal the work again.

“I don’t any other way to do it,” Pitre said. “Other than the fact the city sometimes doesn’t move as fast as we like them to. So the community took it upon itself to work with the 13 artists that created this, to let them know, first of all, we apologize.”

“But secondly, let them know, we just want to preserve what they’ve done,” Pitre continued. “This is the greatest gift that that we’ve gotten so far here in the community.”

CHS has reached out the Seattle Department of Transportation but has not heard back on Sunday’s effort. Last week, SDOT workers placed plastic speed bumps and posts to block-off the painted pavement and create an island for the work in the middle of E Pine’s traffic.

Preserving the mural that has become one of the symbols of the month of protest in Seattle is one of several initiatives Mayor Durkan has promised around the East Precinct in talks with occupation camp leaders and in public speeches, and media conferences. The mayor has also promised an effort to create a new community facility and meeting place inside the East Precinct building, a proposal for maintaining community garden space inside the park, and the preservation of some of the protest art and graffiti in the area including the Black Lives Matter paint job the campers gave the Cal Anderson bathrooms.

The roster of art and community assets is a far cry from the most significant BLM goals, of course. The mayor has so far swatted away #defundSPD demands that call for a 50% cut to the police department’s budget as impossible but has answered some demands with her direction to the City Attorney not to prosecute misdemeanor cases from the protests. Activists and community groups continue to apply pressure on other goals that have crystalized in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Saturday, the King County Equity Now Coalition led an Independence Day rally at 23rd and Union for the goals including demands for a roster of Central Area properties to be put into control of Black-led organizations for social and community development.

Monday afternoon, the City Council is set to approve a new tax on big businesses that could raise around $200 million a year to help Seattle recover from the coronavirus and fund social and community initiatives.

Wednesday, meanwhile, will bring a critical debate over COVID-19 crisis-driven changes to the city budget including what could be major cuts to SPD.

Durkan promised Seattle Parks would consider maintaining community gardens in Cal Anderson. But officials have said neighbors and local businesses will need to step up to do the watering

For Ward and the artists of the E Pine Black Lives Matter letters, it is difficult to trust a city and a collection of officials and community leaders that can’t coordinate the preservation of their movement’s signature artistic effort.

“This is a huge mistake on a lot of people’s parts,” Ward said.

Meanwhile, the streets and sidewalks around the East Precinct save for areas like the fenced and blocked corner of 12th and Pine are mostly fully open again and Cal Anderson Monday was busy with people and neighbors taking their dogs out for a morning walk.

UPDATE 2:50 PM: SDOT has issued a statement on the Sunday preservation effort. “SDOT had previously notified some of the artists that we did not plan to apply weather sealant to the mural due to concerns that this would bind to the pigments in the paint and potentially cause the paint to fade faster,” it reads. “This was largely due to concerns that sealant would accelerate the wear due to cars driving on the mural, which has been addressed by our changes to the street design.” The statement. says it was not able “to immediately dispatch crews” on Sunday and “the individuals added sealant without City involvement.”

For the past few weeks, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and Seattle Department of Transportation have been engaging community, businesses, residents, artists, and protest leaders to develop a plan to preserve the public art around Cal Anderson Park and Pine Street. We have worked with several individuals who were on site daily during the protests and who had been designated as responsible for decisions related to art produced on site. This included contacting several individuals who helped coordinate the artists who painted the Black Lives Matter street mural on Pine Street. Our overall goal has been to work with the artists to preserve and/or provide temporary storage of the artwork while the artists determine the long-term future of the artwork on their own.

SDOT has committed to finding the best way to preserve the Black Lives Matter street mural and has been working directly with the artists to create a preservation plan. We remain committed to the long-term preservation of this mural, and quickly worked last week to install posts to keep vehicles from driving on the mural when the street was reopened to traffic. We have also installed a new 4-way stop sign at 10th Ave E and E Pine St to help eastbound drivers transition onto the block with the mural at a slower speed.

SDOT had previously notified some of the artists that we did not plan to apply weather sealant to the mural due to concerns that this would bind to the pigments in the paint and potentially cause the paint to fade faster. This was largely due to concerns that sealant would accelerate the wear due to cars driving on the mural, which has been addressed by our changes to the street design. This Sunday SDOT dispatch received a phone call notifying us that some individuals on site were attempting to apply weather sealant to the mural. SDOT was not available to immediately dispatch crews and the individuals added sealant without City involvement.

UPDATE x2: Another outcome of the work to preserve the mural is a new stop sign and crosswalk on E Pine. The new stop brings traffic to a stop at 11th Ave and adds a second crosswalk connecting Pike/Pine to Cal Anderson. Meanwhile, Metro announced that its #11 bus has been routed off E Pine between Broadway and 15th. You’ll now find the 11 on E John.


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19 thoughts on “Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson reopen after CHOP leaving artists and activists wondering what Black Lives Matter promises will be kept

  1. I live across the street from Cal Anderson and a few steps away from this mural. the person quoted is from a Central District organization. The mural isn’t in the Central District it’s on Capitol Hill. How many of these artists and activists who are demanding the mural be preserved actually live in the neighborhood where it is? Us residents should make the final call. It’s bizarre how many community activist complain about gentrification and colonial ization and then go to a neighborhood they don’t live, graffiti all over, then tell the residents that is going to stay there with no input from the residence except for the few who happened to be black. If that’s not racism nothing is. The sheer arrogance of the activist community is galling. I hope the city doesn’t meet any of their demands.

    • Sorry you don’t care about murals very much, Shelly! Next time folks decide to do something in Capitol Hill they had better check with ya! – THIS IS Shelly’s Hill

    • I own a home across the street from Cal Anderson Park, too.

      This mural is iconic and now historic.

      Plus, the city taking the performative act of preserving it would provide an illusion of allyship, without having to do anything that’s actually hard.

      Heck, they can also name it “Black Lives Matters Blvd” or whatever, and pretend that they’re uber-progressive and liberal.

    • I like the mural.

      It is beautiful, IMO, and furthermore it memorializes a moment in history. Hopefully a transformative one.

      If this neighborhood has rainbow crosswalks, and the central district pan Africa crosswalks (which also started out illicitly), why not leave as much street art from this time as possible.

  2. I hope the city will also repair the mural on the RIchmark Label building that was destroyed by graffiti during CHOP. It too was created by several different artists and matters to many of us who live in this community.

  3. Really? You’re upset because the BLM street mural might be preserved? Seems like a small concession, which under the circumstances is literally the least we can do. The clueless pettiness you express is pretty telling. As a Capitol Hill native I implore you to go back to from whence you came.

    Re the Richmark Label mural. It should absolutely be restored, perhaps as part of the same effort.

    • Exactly.

      The City should have never responded to excessive force protest with excessive force. Then make a fake ban. Then leave the area because they are seemingly only able to put their knee on your neck or abandon the area.

      For that Shelly I would say all those inconvenienced by the City’s malpractice should be compensated. Bike was stolen. New bike. Couldn’t get into your condo/apt. 500 per night. Richmark’s business disruption and mural should be compensated. Same with the other businesses. But the art/event/principal was only near you but it was for all of Seattle and at some points for the world.

  4. I find it sad the mural of the cows that had been painted in honor of the huge one on the building on the northwestern corner of 19th and Madison is gone.

  5. Cal is only sort of open. Was just having a picnic there and got kicked out a bit after seven. Apparently it is “well signed” according to the police, although not from anything I saw.

  6. I support the preservation of the Black Lives Matter mural, because it is actual art, as opposed to most graffiti which is just ugly scribbles and gang tags. And it will serve to remind people of the BLM movement for years to come.

    As for the “community garden,” Seattle already has a robust program of p-patches, including several on Capitol Hill, so I think it should go. I suspect it would be neglected and under-used over the long run if it stays.

    I also support the dismissal of misdemeanor charges against some of the protesters, but others who committed more serious crimes (property damage, arson, etc.) should be prosecuted.

  7. What’s going to happen when the road has to be repaired or repaved?
    I guess they should close this road to all traffic and forbid utility companies any access. What else can you do, it’s paint on asphalt and it is fragile. maybe they can lift up the whole layer like an ancient fresco and preserve it in a museum somewhere. Otherwise it is doomed out in the elements!

  8. I waited until I thoroughly researched the artists’ reasoning for being upset about this act of preservation before I commented on my confusion. I have read each of their posts, interviews, quotes, and explanations about what happened, why they felt upset, how they found out, how they feel now, and their communications with city officials about the matter in the aftermath. I still can’t justify how some of their statements can coexist with their other statements logically. “The most important thing is that the message is preserved,” but it’s messed up that someone tried to preserve that message without asking first — which means preservation isn’t the first and foremost matter of importance. There’s anger about someone preserving it “just because they like the art and don’t care about the message behind it” but at the same time, they were already working to preserving the art so it would be seen forever – not necessarily only by people who care about the message as much as they do the pretty/enjoyable artwork, surely? Then the explanations started making more sense — it was a matter of preserving the artwork before they had cleaned the dirt off of it as they were intending to do and thus preserving it in a state less than pristine or proudly intended to look, But that wasn’t the logic behind their outrage initially. And so much of the reasoning isn’t compatible or logically sound in and of itself. To the best of my understanding – and correct me if I’m wrong – this artwork was done without permission from the people who owned the property, correct? And someone did something to your property without your permission first, and that’s the problem……

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