Over the weekend, Susanna Keilman, a failed Republican state legislative candidate from Pierce County, organized a rally at Fourth Avenue and Lenora, the site where Cordell Goosby allegedly shot Eina and Sung Kwon last week.

Eina, who was eight months pregnant, died from her injuries. Doctors delivered the baby girl at Harborview, but she died, too. Sung survived the shooting to the extent that anyone can survive the death of a partner and an expected child.

Goosby, who cops say “appeared to be in some form of crisis whether genuine or knowingly performed,” faces murder and attempted murder charges that could put him behind bars for decades. At a press conference Friday, Chief Adrian Diaz said the Seattle Police Department was “very well aware of some of the mental health issues [Goosby] experienced.”

I share the anger expressed by the demonstrators at Keilman’s march to "UNITE FOR SAFETY." Seattleites should not excuse or tolerate violence and suffering on our streets.

Though these particular advocates did not protest in response to the alleged murder of Elijah Lewis, who was shot and killed in front of his nine-year-old nephew in a road rage incident earlier this year; though they didn’t protest in response to a police officer hitting and killing Jaahnavi Kandula with his cruiser as she walked across a crosswalk in January; though they didn’t protest in response to any of the shootings of anyone not seen as “innocent” in their eyes; though they didn’t protest in response to the 1,000 overdose deaths last year; I believe advocates would be right to march downtown every day until leaders in Seattle, Olympia, and Washington D.C. actually do something to stop death that Keilman rightly called “preventable,” according to a credulous bit of reporting on the rally in the Seattle Times.

But it matters what those advocates advocate for. And, judging from the reporting on the demonstration, it’s pretty clear that Keilman held a right-wing rally in drag as a Seattle protest, effectively using this tragedy to promote punitive, ineffective responses to public health problems, all while wrongly blaming the current city council for this death.

A Thinly Veiled March of Conservatives

As DivestSPD pointed out on Twitter, UNITE FOR SAFETY started out life as the “MARCH TO TAKE BACK THE CITY,” according to a flyer circling around Reddit that originally misspelled Eina’s name and included language about “women who have been robbed, assaulted, and raped” serving as the “handwriting on the wall” for this incident. The language of vengeful reclamation echos Donald Trump’s revanchist speeches, the spelling error is actually just sad, and the gendered fear-mongering regurgitates old-fashioned GOP critiques of crime-infested cities while ignoring the probable/potential underlying cause of the killing—inadequately treated mental illness and the wide availability of guns.

Keilman, who lives in DuPont, WA, wasn’t the only far-flung Republican on Seattle streets last Saturday. B-roll of the demo from KING 5 shows far-right Republican State House Rep. Jim Walsh marching right along with the crowd, a long way from his home in Aberdeen. He announced his bid to lead the state GOP party two weeks ago. Conservative commenter Brandi Kruse, who doesn’t live in Seattle, also joined the march in plain clothes while apparently reporting on it.

But conservatives from all parties showed up as well. In the video, you can see District 7 city council candidate Bob Kettle, a self-described “pragmatic progressive” who voted for Joe Biden in 2020, shuffling along and holding up a pre-printed sign that reads, “SAFETY NOW #safetyisinclusive.” Kettle is running to the right of Council Member Andrew Lewis, as is Olga Sagan, the Piroshky Piroshky owner who won’t tell us if she voted for Donald Trump in 2020.

In the great tradition of Republicans appropriating and corrupting leftist terminology in an attempt to drain it of power (cf: “woke” and “my body, my choice” in reference to vaccines), some of the other pre-printed signs read, “PEACE,” “WOMEN AGAINST VIOLENCE,” “STOP ASIAN HATE!”

Of course, organizers slipped in a couple more standard conservative messages that read, “SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT” and “PROTECT SMALL BUSINESS,” too.

To get a few examples of concerned locals on the march, a Seattle Times reporter interviewed a real estate broker and the president of a real estate company with an office on nearby Western Avenue. Between the two of them, they’ve donated to the right-wing Recall Sawant campaign, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, a few of the more conservative Seattle City Council candidates, and Republican Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison.

Speaking of Davison, in her interview with the Times, Keilman echoed a falsehood the City Attorney distributed in a press release to explain why she thought Kwon’s death was preventable, saying, “It was preventable because of policies recently passed that have now legalized crime. If crime and drugs were still illegal, this would have been preventable.”

Leaving aside the whole “legalizing crime” tautology, drug possession remains illegal in Washington, unfortunately. And Lewis says he’ll vote to give the Republican City Attorney the power to prosecute low-level public drug use and possession after a task force draws up some plans for diversion programs and a municipal drug court, which should happen here in a few weeks.

Actual Solutions

I mention all of this not to denigrate or dismiss any genuine feelings of sadness these marchers harbor in response to this tragic killing but rather to highlight the specific political project of the demonstration and the shallow, self-serving nature of its messaging.

Unlike Keilman, I won’t pretend to know what I don’t know about this case. I don’t know if Goosby was on drugs when he allegedly pulled the trigger. I don’t know who stole the gun he allegedly used from Lakewood, WA. I don’t know how that gun allegedly wound up in his hands. I don’t know his mental health history, though it doesn’t seem like his experience with the criminal legal system in Indiana or Illinois put him on the right path.

But I do know that the vast majority of demonstrators at the rally did not advocate for evidence-based solutions to the myriad issues raised by this killing. And I do know that the pre-printed, all-caps signs perfectly align with the groups Republicans need to win over to gain more support for their failing, fractured party.

“PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS,” whatever that means, would not have stopped this tragedy. But most small business owners vote Republican.

“WOMEN AGAINST VIOLENCE” is a wild sign to wave from the party that killed Roe v. Wade, fought against women’s liberation for decades, and still supports a presidential candidate who faces more than two dozen accusations of sexual assault. But Republicans do need to improve their numbers with suburban women.

“SUPPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT,” another empty phrase, also would not have “prevented” this killing because cops do not prevent crime—they respond to crime. Moreover, increasing their budget and staffing does not seem to correlate with improved clearance rates for the violent cases they do respond to.

“STOP ASIAN HATE!” is particularly rich given Republican opposition to the anti-Asian hate crimes bill. But GOP strategists are now pushing Republicans to do more outreach to Asian Americans, focusing specifically on affirmative action and “rising crime and social instability.” Recently, Republicans showed up to support a protest against a shelter expansion in SODO near the Chinatown-International District, and Washington Asians 4 Equality started up in 2018 to oppose the effort to repeal WA’s ban on affirmative action.

These slogans and Keilman’s call to crackdown on drug possession only serves to scare you into the arms of the police state, hook you on the cold comfort of consumer capitalism, and trick you into believing that Seattle’s progressive experiment has failed—despite the fact that such an experiment has yet to begin.

Progressives have never held a majority in city politics—or in state and federal politics, for that matter. If they did, then Seattle would have safe consumption sites to reduce drug overdose deaths, a functioning drug treatment and recovery system, AT LEAST more mental health care beds than we had in the 1990s, police alternatives to respond to low-level calls so cops can focus on solving violent crimes, scaled up violence-interrupter programs to squash disputes before they escalate, robust victim compensation funds to help make people whole, stricter gun control laws, a guaranteed basic income, enough housing for the poor and the middle-class, rent controls, a fully funded education system, and health care for all.

Those are the real, practical solutions to public safety. Do all that stuff—or even just some of it—and you’ll see crime drop dramatically. But as long as Republicans and conservative Democrats keep standing in the way of progress, as long as they keep insisting on pursuing failed approaches to crime as the way forward, then we’ll keep falling back into this cycle of violence.