Ed note: Last week, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant said Seattle Police should block U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers attempting to detain and deport people in Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray called that idea "irresponsible and dangerous." Below, Sawant responds.
I welcome the statements from Mayor Murray and city council members in support of Seattle’s sanctuary city status. But statements alone are simply not enough. What concrete steps will local politicians take to help build the movement against Trump?
History will not look kindly at politicians who claimed there wasn’t much more they could do than utter platitudes. It is dangerous and irresponsible for elected officials to not shake off business-as-usual, and fully utilize their position in solidarity with the historic movement of the 99 percent against Trump, xenophobia, bigotry, Islamophobia, and racism.
During the peaceful direct action in solidarity with Muslim immigrants and refugees at SeaTac airport on January 28, Sound Transit Light Rail and at least two bus lines were shut down to prevent activists from joining the action. Six trainloads were redirected away from the airport between 6:27 pm and 7 pm, according to the Seattle Times. Police from many jurisdictions, including the Seattle Police Department (SPD), were deployed against the peaceful action. Inside the airport, I personally witnessed police shoving bicycles on the peaceful protesters, using pepper spray, and arresting dozens. How does allowing a transit shutdown and using the SPD against peaceful anti-Trump protesters align with Seattle being a sanctuary city?
The most immediate threat of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids cannot be defeated on a case-by-case basis. While legal resources are absolutely critical, Trump will only be emboldened if he is not pushed back by a sustained mass movement of peaceful civil disobedience against ICE seizures, detentions, and deportations.
In order to truly help the movement, the mayor should declare publicly that SPD will not be used against peaceful anti-Trump protests anywhere. The next time there is a non-violent civil disobedience action outside Seattle, like at the airport, the mayor should refuse to deploy SPD to aid in the repression of peaceful protesters. Furthermore, when there is an ICE raid on our immigrant sisters and brothers, the mayor should use the city’s emergency response system, social media, and other media to immediately urge Seattleites to come join peaceful direct actions, such as sit-ins, to prevent ICE from carrying out their seizure. He could use city resources to provide transit to the scene of the ICE raid so thousands could rapidly get there. He could order SPD to direct traffic to facilitate the transit of protesters, rather than clear a path through protesters for ICE to round up immigrants.
Less than a month into his administration, Trump’s egregious anti-immigrant measures have already sent chills through our community. What Trump can get away with is not a fait accompli, however. The civil disobedience and shutdown of multiple airports delivered a stinging defeat to Trump and his attempted Muslim ban. We need to continue building our movement towards large-scale non-violent civil disobedience and strike actions.
Join me and thousands of activists on the streets on International Working Women’s Day, March 8, and let's get organized for a massive strike action on International Workers’ and Immigrants’ Rights Day, May 1. Solidarity!
Kshama Sawant is a member of the Seattle City Council.