What Seattle’s mayoral candidates had to say about the Chauvin verdict and police reform

The conviction of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder loomed large as mayoral candidates made their elevator pitch to local Democrats Tuesday evening.

Over the past several months, leaders from across Seattle have thrown their hats into the ring to replace Mayor Jenny Durkan, who announced in December she would not seek reelection after one term in office.

Five of the top mayoral candidates met virtually with dozens of 43rd District Democrats to make their two-minute arguments on why they are the right choice to lead the city.

Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, announced her campaign in January with a proposal to create a new Public Safety Department “with community-based mental health workers and neighborhood liaisons.” She said speaking hours after the Chauvin verdict was handed down was “heavy.”

“I’m certainly happy that the legal system worked today, but this is not justice,” Echohawk said. “My heart is hurting and breaking right now for George Floyd’s family, for other families who have been impacted by the brutality of the police departments around the country.”

She added she was running for mayor to bring “transformational and generational change” to the city and focused on the failure to address the homelessness crisis, work she has been on the frontline of with her organization.

Seattle City Council President Lorena González opened saying the Chauvin conviction was “welcome news, but not the panacea of justice for Black Americans,” adding “this is just the beginning.” Continue reading

Guilty verdict in cop killing of George Floyd that sparked Seattle’s year of Black Lives Matter protest and CHOP — UPDATE

A Seattle protester holds a portrait of George Floyd in the days following his May 25th, 2020 killing

E Pine’s BLM mural Tuesday afternoon (Image: CHS)

The demands for justice that sparked a year of protests across the country including the formation of CHOP and clashes with Seattle Police here on Capitol Hill are still far from being met but the cop who killed George Floyd has been convicted of murder.

A jury of his peers Tuesday convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter for killing the 46-year-old Floyd last May, a police killing that set off a wave of protests that have continued into 2021.

The verdict marks an unusual conviction in the prosecution of law enforcement personnel and a victory for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison who said Tuesday that much more beyond the Floyd case still must change to address inequity in the justice system. “This has to end,” Ellison said of deadly police violence. “We need true justice. That’s not one case. That’s social transformation that says no one is beneath the law and no one is above it.” Continue reading

Nikkita4Nine: A leading voice from Seattle’s Black Lives Matter and #defundSPD protests, Nikkita Oliver will run for Seattle City Council

Nikkita Oliver is making a 2021 run for Seattle’s City Hall but this time the target isn’t the mayor’s office.

Pay homage to the Duwamish, Suquamish, and the tribes upon whose lands and waterways we traverse. I cannot claim this land, but here I find home. So I pay real rent. The rising tide may lift all boats, but we ain’t all got boats to catch the ride. So we fight not to get swept away by the riptides. We’ve been repairing reparations, native sovereignty and black liberation together, all the oppressed peoples, we change the situation. Letting go of all that weighs us down that we might fly beyond prisons and police. No more loved ones living on the streets, stopping all the sweeps. People over profit becomes our beliefs. Everyone’s essential, good food, clean water is always in reach. Health is wealth and everyone deserves it. When we sow better then better is what we reap. And we will write the story, how the I became we, we became free, and how it came to be this Emerald City by the sea.

(Image: Nikkita4Nine)

In a spoken word announcement, the poet, teacher, lawyer, and community activist added their voice Wednesday morning to the race for the Seattle City Council opting to do battle for the Position 9 citywide seat.

The “Nikkita4Nine” campaign is launching “with a mutual aid event in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, involving the coordinated delivery of sleeping bags, food, and other essential supplies to residents most impacted by the overlapping crises facing Seattle,” the Seattle Medium reports.

The Oliver campaign will focus on police divestment, investments in youth and families, and expanding racial and economic justice and is planning community listening posts “to come together to develop an evolving community platform that identifies the priorities and solutions of communities living and/or working in Seattle.” Continue reading

As trial begins in cop killing of George Floyd, Black Trans Lives Matter march crosses Capitol Hill

With reporting and photos by Renee Raketty

2021 has brought quieter weeks of protest and marches on Capitol Hill but activists were on the street this weekend to remind that Black Trans Lives Matter.

“I don’t care if you’re transgender, female or male. You’re disrespected, period,” one organizer told the Sunday group of marchers. “They see what they see because it is more important to them than who is in front of them — contributing to the patriarchy — than respecting what the human in front of them knows what they are.”

A crowd of about 75 people gathered around the Bobby Morris Playfield to light candles and hear speeches from BIPOC organizers for the Sunday afternoon march and vigil. Some attendees also wrote messages or the names of transgender people whose lives were cut short by transphobic violence. Still others brought flowers to lay at the site in their memory. Continue reading

More allegations of abuse and civil rights violations added to Seattle Black Lives Matter protesters lawsuit

The roster of plaintiffs has ballooned to nearly 100 and the driver in the deadly crash that killed an activist during a protest on I-5 has been added as a defendant in the sprawling personal injury, wrongful death, and civil rights lawsuit brought by protesters against Seattle and Olympia.

The lawsuit now names 55 parties including the estate of Summer Taylor, the Capitol Hill activist hit and killed by a speeding driver as Washington State Patrol closed I-5 during the July protest, plus another 40 anonymous “Doe” defendants.

“The BLM/George Floyd protests continue to this day, and have resulted in additional injuries not just to these Plaintiffs but countless others, including other individuals represented by the undersigned counsel,” the legal team for the plaintiffs writes. Continue reading

After a year of protest, Seattle ready for next steps as Black Brilliance Research Project report sets path for new participatory budget effort

A scene from the third day of Seattle’s 2020 BLM protests

From the Black Brilliance Research Project report

Months of Black Lives Matter rallies, marches, protests, and the occupied takeover of the blocks around Cal Anderson and Capitol Hill’s East Precinct have pushed Seattle to shift 20% of its police budget into a $30 million participatory budgeting process hoped to spur new spending on social programs, community health, and economic investment.

Friday, a team of more than 100 researchers, community organizers, and activists will deliver their findings to the Seattle City Council that will underpin the effort. The Black Brilliance Research Project’s 1,045-page report is only the start of what officials hope will be a new way of making decisions for the city’s communities.

“One of the things that I know from working in health and human services and and the needs of our community over these past 20 some odd years is that folks will come into our community they will have focus groups,” Latanya Horace of the Silent Task Force that contributed to the report said in a preview of the group’s findings earlier this week. “They will ask us what we — what they want to know about our communities. And they’ll take that information, go back and package it up and come out with a plan that does not include black folks doing the work for their own community.”

Tammy Morales, chair of the Community Economic Development Committee receiving the report, and the council’s representative for South Seattle, says the hope is for the city to scale up its early steps in participatory budgeting used on decisions around streets and parks and find a way to apply a similar approach to the bigger challenges — and opportunities — of social justice.

“This is a shift away from the city driving so much of this and letting the community do that,” Morales said. “These are communities that are typically left out. People who are disproportionately impacted should have a say. This is about shifting access to power and resources. The community is saying, ‘Let us decide the strategies.'”

For the researchers who worked on the massive, painstaking report and overcame a mid-stream reorganization of how the project was managed, Friday’s presentation is, alone, worthy of celebration given the months behind them and the challenges ahead.

“That research project ended up becoming the world’s largest black and brown community-led research in the world in the world,” Shaun Glaze said during the preview presentation this week. “That happened during a pandemic,” Glaze said with amazement. “Here. In Seattle.”

The report submitted Friday will set the framework for how the shift to helping communities “decide the strategies” happens in Seattle. Based on hundreds of hours of research and community surveys, the report provides outlines for the types of issues Seattle’s communities want to have more control over — and how that control needs to be shaped to make sure it works and fully includes Black, Indigenous and People of Color participants. Continue reading

Black Brilliance Research Project, born from Seattle’s Black Lives Matter protests, moving on without King County Equity Now — UPDATE

One of the most concrete outcomes at Seattle City Hall of the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests is showing cracks and fissures. Monday afternoon, people working on the Black Brilliance Research Project said they have chosen to “part ways” with King County Equity Now, a coalition of Black-led organizations including the Central District’s Africatown that formed during the protests and rallies of 2020 and grew into a new nonprofit to end the year.

“We know that our liberation is intertwined, and we will continue to build alongside all people invested in Black liberation,” the announcement reads. “However, we do not have confidence in KCEN leadership’s current capacity and ability to bring this research project to the finish line in a way that meets the needs of our researchers and community and serves the best interests of the project’s vision and responsibility moving forward.”

Monday’s announcement is signed by Shaun Glaze and LéTania Severe, who have led Black Brilliance Research, and four other groups — Black Trans Prayer Book Researchers, Bridging Cultural Gaps Researchers, Sacred Community Connections Researchers, and The Silent Task Force Researchers — working on the project to document alternatives to policing and increased investment in social and community programs.

It comes as the city, King County Equity Now, and the research project have faced questions about the City Council’s legislative process to award the $3 million contract and a state audit exploring the transaction involving the city, King County Equity Now, and financial sponsor the Freedom Project.

The push for the project and the money to fund the research was part of the City Council’s 2020 budget rebalancing battle with Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. That fight survived a Durkan veto with help from KCEN and Decriminalize Seattle’s pressure to maintain the community investment. Continue reading

A call for more Black teachers and counselors not cops as Black Lives Matter at School Week starts Black History Month in Seattle

Seattle’s Black History Month is beginning with a Black Lives Matter at School Week and a “week of action” calling for more Black educators and ethnic studies in the city’s classrooms.

In Seattle’s public schools, this is the fourth year officials have recognized the Black Lives Matter movement and made curriculum resources available to teachers to bring the discussion more fully into their classes — even as the pandemic has moved instruction online in 2021.

“The events of the past year have brought even more urgency and importance to this yearly week of action,” an announcement of the week focusing on social justice and education from Seattle Public Schools reads. “The killing of unarmed Black men and women, including LGBTQIA+ persons of color, by police has left young people and our communities searching for answers to incredibly complicated issues of race, justice, and fairness. Our public education system and educators play an important role in disrupting legacies of racism.”

Organizers of Black Lives Matter At School including Seattle educator and activist Jesse Hagopian, meanwhile, are calling on Seattle Schools and education officials across the country to commit to four goals: Continue reading

With boxes of local goods supporting Black-led organizing, Cooks for Black Lives Matter mixes food with social justice

(Image: Cooks for Black Lives Matter)

By Gabrielle Locke

A project is bringing together Seattle area chefs, bakers and farmers to produce monthly CSA-style boxes and raise funds for social justice and equity.

The Cooks for Black Lives Matter’s project has raised thousands for King County Equity Now and is ready to continue its growth in 2021, organizers say.

Jude Watson and Max Goldstein founded Cooks for BLM in May of 2020. They met each other while working on the Hill at Stateside and found themselves laid off just as Black Lives Matter demonstrations began to grow in May.

Watson grew up on Capitol Hill and, before working as a chef, they helped organize queer youth space. Watson is currently a deli lead at Salumi. Goldstein is patiently waiting to be rehired at Stateside, when they open back up.

“As a white person one of the ways that I can support organizations that are led by people of color is fundraising,” Watson said. While working together, Goldstein and Watson realized they had a common goal, to use food donation as a way to raise money for organization led by people of color. Continue reading

More violations — but no discipline, yet — over tear gas canisters and dispersal orders in latest findings in Seattle Police ‘Demonstration Complaints’

The department’s oversight officials have determined that Seattle Police officers violated policies in a handful of complaints over incidents during the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests including SPD actions on Capitol Hill.

The latest release of findings comes as the Office of Police Accountability continues to work its way through thousands of complaints lodged over police use of force and crowd control weapons including blast balls and tear gas during the summer protests. Continue reading