As one community leader and business owner from Minneapolis said, “I don’t condone destruction, but I understand it.” We must not lose sight of the reason that thousands of people are taking to the streets across the county. A militarized response only fuels unrest, distrust, and endangers unarmed community members who have a right to be in the streets. Abundant and excessive force only brings greater anger and further ensures that the voices of the oppressed are silenced yet again. Protests take many forms, and after centuries of oppression and senseless killings, it is no wonder there is anger and outrage here and across the country. As we see people take to the streets, we cannot allow ourselves to buy into the “good” protestor or “bad” protestor narrative. A diversity of tactics is necessary when in the face of blatant violence and oppression. Now is not the time for business as usual, and we cannot allow ourselves to fall into respectability politics, we cannot demonize people taking to the streets. History has taught us that change only comes when those living in the margins rise up and fight back.
I do want to highlight the solidarity among protesters that was also in full display--from folks handing out masks and food to helping each other up hills while the police march behind them without pause. Our community members showed up for each other and took care of one another. They are showing us that true public safety happens at the interpersonal level.
As a non-Black Latina, I recognize that now is the time for me to use my societal and institutional privilege to call out anti-Blackness in its many forms. The historical disinvestment in Black communities paralleled with the over-investment in policing and prisons has set folks up for failure. We know what contributes to healthy and strong communities - economic investment, affordable and culturally responsive housing, good community centers, big parks, good union jobs with a living wage, good schools, and self-determination.
Professor Cornell West made the connection between what we are seeing locally in cities across the country and longstanding white supremacy coupled with the failure of our predatory capitalist economy to meet people’s basic needs. You can listen to his analysis here. It is our duty to ensure people can thrive, and our budgetary decisions are one powerful tool in the tool box to right these historic wrongs. I look forward to doing that this coming fall during the City budget process. It’s time to better align our city’s investments with our community’s needs to create a more just budget that advances racial equity and improves the well-being of all members of our community. We can invest in the next generation and give those who’ve experienced trauma the support they need to recover and succeed by funding Community-Based Restorative Justice programming for youth and adults, and Restorative Youth Housing. We can invest in non-coercive mental health and treatment services to reverse the decades-long underinvestment in these life-saving interventions. We can break the cycle of mass incarceration by funding reentry support for formerly incarcerated and systems-impacted communities. We can better equip our first responders to respond to 911 calls with more funding for Fire Fighters, Medic One vans, and mental health personnel. I look forward to working with you on these and other ideas to right historic wrongs--in housing, in our economy, policing and in our investments--in the coming months.
Tomorrow, June 3rd, at 12pm, there will be a special remote meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee about the response of the Seattle Police Department to demonstrations over the weekend. The City Council will hear from a community panel of representatives with firsthand witness accounts of police response to demonstrations beginning May 30th; Chief of Seattle Police Department Carmen Best and Chief of Seattle Fire Department Harold Scoggins will report on the departments’ response and timeline of events; and panelists from The Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Inspector General will present on Seattle’s Civilian-led Police Accountability Framework. I encourage you to tune in here to follow the conversation if you’re able, and you can sign up to give public comment here.