What use is all that book learnin' if you can't take your school-debt-saddled, climate-change-spooked, America-changing, righteously radicalized self to the streets? Here are a few groups you might find yourself marching behind as you get acquainted with Seattle's activist scenes.
Black Lives Matter Seattle
November 22 is the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann. Rice's death, like the deaths of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, and countless others killed at the hands of police officers, motivated a growing number of Seattle activists to take to the streets over the last year and demand attention to black lives and the systems that destroy them. One of the most exciting—and yes, least accountable—things about a leaderless movement is that anyone looking at the right hashtags can join a march.
Kayaktivists made international headlines the last time Shell showed up in Seattle with an Arctic drilling rig. (If you just showed up here yourself, that was in May—and then the rig left for the Arctic in June.) Slate called the local activists' response—like the day in May when hundreds and hundreds of people piled into a colorful, floating mass of kayaks, canoes, and dinghies that surrounded the 317-foot-tall Polar Pioneer in Elliott Bay—the "perfect symbol of climate activism." So is the rig coming back? Very likely YES. Part of Shell's fleet will also probably be staying in Seattle around the same time that international leaders meet in Paris for the United Nations climate talks this winter, a prime opportunity for Seattle's "Shell No!" coalition to draw attention to its "keep it in the ground" case for supply-side climate action. Being locked in a tandem kayak is also a wonderful (and sometimes jarring) way to get to know a person, as fellow reporter Heidi Groover and I discovered over several hours of that massive protest back in May. New frands!
Bill Gates doesn't think divesting his and Melinda's charitable foundation from the $1.4 billion (as of 2013) it invested in fossil fuels is a way to address climate change. Or at least that's what Gates said back in June, as reported by the Financial Times. Former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn and a coalition of local environmental groups disagree. Now they've pledged to ramp up the pressure on the Gates Foundation by escalating local actions until Gates responds.
If you care about structural racism and the school-to-prison pipeline, odds are you'll end up marching behind activists involved with the movement to abolish youth detention in Seattle—groups like Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC Seattle), Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR Seattle), the Seattle King County NAACP, and European Dissent. For months, they protested replacing the dilapidated King County Juvenile Detention Center with a new $210 million building that includes a youth jail. They didn't succeed in stopping the new juvie—which local political leaders call a necessary improvement to a dangerously decayed structure—but on September 16, their efforts culminated in a city council resolution that aims to eventually eliminate "use of detention for youth" from the city entirely.
Stand with Duwamish
Seattle is named after a leader of a tribe that still remains unrecognized by the federal government. Yep. The Duwamish Tribe lived on the banks of the Duwamish River for thousands of years until white settlers came along, burned down Duwamish longhouses, passed an ordinance removing Native Americans from the city of Seattle, and fought against the establishment of a reservation supposedly guaranteed in the Treaty of Point Elliott—an 1855 treaty that Chief Sealth, or Si'ahl, signed himself. Duwamish chairwoman Cecile Hansen, the great-great-grandniece of the chief, has spent the last 40 years fighting for federal recognition, a designation that would finally allow the tribe to assert its sovereign rights, as well as gain access to all sorts of federal health, education, and anti-poverty programs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs denied the Duwamish recognition again—for a whole host of extremely fucked-up, archaic reasons—this past summer, but that didn't stop Hansen from marching right up to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell's West Seattle home and asking the federal official for a meeting. You can show support for the Duwamish, and more of Seattle's diverse Native community, at this year's Abolish Columbus Day/Indigenous People's Day march on October 11.
Park My Viaduct
Racism, environmental exploitation, predatory capitalism, colonialism—yes, yes, these are all forces worth confronting. But maybe that's not for you, young radical. Perhaps you are so antiestablishment that you need a real outsider cause to sink your teeth into. Get this: Did you know that there is a whole group of people in Seattle lobbying to keep part of our decrepit, dangerous elevated highway (we call it "the viaduct") standing down there on the waterfront and turn it into... a park?! The folks behind the Park My Viaduct initiative think that the city ought to scrap its multimillion-dollar plan to reconstruct the waterfront after the viaduct—one of Seattle's greatest earthquake risks—gets torn down. Instead, these agitators would rather preserve part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct as a tiered and pleasantly grassy promenade. Revolution!