Another day, another horrific hate crime in Seattle. Staff at the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation in Rainier Vista came upon evidence of a burglary and racist vandalism today. The center, which operates out of the UMOJA Peace Center, runs educational and arts programs for African-American students as well as women's and immigrants groups. It is temporarily suspending all activity.
Some equipment was stolen, but more alarming were the messages left scrawled on whiteboards, including swastikas, "N****r babies/Vote Trump," and "Kell [sic] Wyking"—a death threat directed to Wyking Garrett, a respected community activist who runs the center. The center shared photos of the graffiti and the damage on Facebook.
"Seattle will not tolerate this kind of hate," Mayor Ed Murray said on Twitter. "We are ready to support Africatown Center as they work to recover, and know they'll be back stronger than ever."
Reached by phone, Africatown Development Coordinator Yalonda Allen said she's not sure when the attack took place and it's unclear how the vandals got inside. She and other staff are still assessing the damage.
"For me personally," she said, "it makes me feel even more vigilant in the fight for racial justice."
The threat against Garrett, Allen continued, makes her "angry and a little fearful, when you talk about killing someone that I care about... It makes me wonder how safe are we when we're doing our work here... You named somebody and threatened their life. We don't take that lightly." And she's worried about the safety of the children who attend the center's programs.
Allen said the vandals may have been "emboldened by a culture that's allowing hate speech in mainstream media."
"Horrible things also bring beautiful things out of people," she added. "In a tragedy, people do step up. That's what I love about this city."
More information as we get it. The center is appealing for community support. "There will be a meeting tomorrow (Sunday) at 4pm for those who are interested in helping."
UPDATE 6:09 p.m.: The SPD says on its website it suspects an East African male of commiting the crime. The police have arrested him.