Arcade Fire played a loud and wide-ranging show at KeyArena last night. I danced my ass off. After the concert, I watched drunk guys stumbling out singing the part of “Wake Up” that stadiums play at sports games. Also after the show, I followed some concertgoers to Barboza for an after-party billed as a “Disco Town Hall.”
Throughout this tour, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Will Butler (brother of frontman Win) has been inviting local activists to share the stage with him to talk social justice. In Austin, they raised the issue of sick leave. In Miami, immigration and DACA. Seattle’s Disco Town Hall focused on Initiative 940, the petition drive to loosen Washington State’s restrictive law on prosecuting police officers who use deadly force.
“The nation doesn’t run the Seattle police department. You guys run the Seattle police department. You guys run the Washington State police,” Butler told the crowd before introducing the evening’s panelists: City council candidate Teresa Mosqueda, former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver, and De-escalate Washington outreach director Sophia Nicholson-Keener.
Pushed by a group called De-Escalate Washington, I-940 would remove the impossibly high bar of proving “malice” to charge officers for fatally shooting or otherwise killing people. The initiative also mandates mental health and de-escalation training statewide, a cause that took on extra urgency in this summer after the recent police killings of Charleena Lyles, Tommy Le, and Giovonn Joseph-McDade.
In response to a question from Butler about whether Washington has seen any efforts like I-940 before, Mosqueda raised last year’s successful drive for increasing the statewide minimum wage to $13.50. She also said the power in the police accountability initiative is “rooted in the experience of the families that are affected.”
Oliver said she comes to the initiative from her position as a police and prison abolitionist. She stressed that drives like the one pushed by De-Escalate Washington have impacts beyond the laws they seek to change. “For me, a win with I-940 is not just changing the law around training, it’s not just around making it possible to actually have prosecution happen when it needs to,” she said. “It is about getting an initiative in place that shows a commitment to changing the culture around police and prisons.”
Initiative 940 has 150,000 signatures of the 340,000 it needs by December, according to campaign director Riall Johnson. Volunteers collected about 2,000 at the concert last night.