Youths led the MLK march down Jefferson, chanting, Justice, not jail! as they approached the countys youth detention center.
Youths led the MLK march down Jefferson, chanting, "Justice, not jail!" as they approached the county's youth detention center. Ansel Herz

Thousands of people marched from the Central District to downtown Seattle today as a part of a peaceful protest in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A Seattle Police Department spokesperson said there were no arrests.

The day started with a press conference held by anti-police-brutality activists, including teacher Jesse Hagopian and photographer Jay Trinidad. Of the dozen or so Black Lives Matter activists at the press conference, only one said she'd been invited to the department's recent meeting to review how it polices protests.

"You may have seen our police chief at the State of the Union address being heralded as a great reformer," Hagopian said. "A liberal reformer who's going to come in and usher in an era of accountability. I will tell you my case is definitive proof that it's business as usual at the Seattle Police Department, brutalizing protesters who want to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King."

Mayor Ed Murray managed to say something awkward before the day's biggest march even began. During an 11 a.m. rally at Garfield High School, Murray asked who in the crowd would commit to "walk up to a police officer and say 'I want to talk about racism. Let's work together.'"

Some in the crowd applauded; others looked confused. Twitter was not pleased.

Marissa Johnson is one of two Black Lives Matter activists who interrupted Bernie Sanders last year. She was at this morning's protest with Hagopian, where she (speaking for herself and not necessarily all of the activists gathered with her) called the Department of Justice reform process a sham and called for the abolition of the SPD.

The majority of Murray's remarks focused on the work left to be done in Seattle and King County on civil rights, including the troubling trend that, even as most incomes increase, black households in Seattle are getting poorer.

"Let me be clear," Murray told the crowd. "In the city of Seattle, black lives matter."

Soon after, the crowd left Garfield, and the march swelled to several thousand people by the time it reached the federal building downtown. A smaller group (followed by a small group of Seattle Police officers) split off and protested outside Uncle Ike's Pot Shop at 23rd and Union with a focus on gentrification.

Capitol Hill Seattle reports there were no arrests at that action.

Along the way, we spoke with some of the marchers about why they were there and what they thought about the current state of civil rights and police brutality in Seattle. Check back on Slog soon for those.

Ansel Herz contributed reporting to this story.