TKTK
Rebecca Saldana, the director of the nonprofit Puget Sound Sage, says: "Their leadership matters, and their leadership is the way for the future of our city." City of Seattle

Sponsored
The Music Always Matters
No matter what, KEXP is here to help with music and community. Join us at 90.3 FM and KEXP.ORG.

For Seattle's Black Lives Matter organizers, it's not enough that the #BlocktheBunker campaign pressured city leaders until they sent a proposal for an expensive new police station back to the drawing board.

In alignment with the national leaders of the movement, their goal is for the city to divest from all police and prisons and to invest instead in education, healthcare, and affordable housing.

The national Black Lives Matter policy platform, jointly developed by more than 25 racial justice groups, calls for an "Invest-divest" approach:

We demand investments in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging, and harming of Black people. We want investments in Black communities, determined by Black communities, and divestment from exploitative forces including prisons, fossil fuels, police, surveillance and exploitative corporations.

On the local level, here's what that looks like, according to Block the Bunker, whose members denounced the criminal justice system as an institution during a press conference hosted last Friday by Council Member Kshama Sawant:

Not only will we stop the building of the bunker, we will also stop the building of the new youth jail, whose permits still need the approval of the city of Seattle in order to be built. Police have never worked in favor of communities of color. We will oppose the mayor’s proposal to fund 200 new police officers. All of this will be blocked.

When they refer to the "new youth jail," they're talking about King County's plan—approved in 2012 by 55 percent of voters but now being challenged by a lawsuit—to replace its Youth Detention Center on First Hill with a $210 million Children and Family Justice Center.

The new facility will have 100 fewer jail beds than the current facility (initially, the plan was for 58 fewer beds; that reduction was increased after earlier protests). In addition to refurbished courtrooms, the new building will also have childcare facilities for families that need to attend hearings, a center to connect families and juveniles with community services, and "more space for youth and family programs." (Back in 2014, we ran dueling guest editorials on Slog about this plan. Here's "We Believe Seattle Doesn't Need a Juvenile Detention Center at All," and here's "Racial Disparity Is Real, and so Is the Need for a New Youth Justice Center.")

Council Members Sawant and Mike O'Brien, who opposed the North precinct project, also oppose the project to build a new youth detention center.

"Police are a patriarchal gang that exist to protect the racist, classist power structure," said Yin Yu, a local organizer with Women of Color Speak Out. "We don't need more police. We need more funding for the Rainier Beach restorative justice project."

(Mayor Ed Murray has called for hiring 200 more officers, a plan that's endorsed by a number of neighborhood groups and supported by a recent study. "We need more officers on the street engaged in proactive policing to protect our neighborhoods," the mayor told The Seattle Times in April.)

Said another activist: "To support the bunker, to support new police officers, and to support the new youth jail is anti-black. We are a revolutionary movement. We will not stop."

Rashad Barber, the activist who publicly grilled the mayor about the North precinct one day before Murray gave in and put the project on hold, said: "We want people to join a campaign to divest from false solutions and invest in real solutions from the community."

For her part, Sawant, in response to skeptical questioning about her position from KIRO 7's Essex Porter, said recently: "I understand there are legitimate concerns around public safety. The best way to promote public safety is to promote economic and racial and social equality. When you have expanding inequality, you have an unsafe city."

Today, at 4 p.m. at City Hall, the Block the Bunker activists will be holding a rally at which:

Groups, speakers, and performers will address what a future without cops and jails might look like and about how the current system props up racist, classist, imperialist power structures and is counter-effective by almost every measure to safety, rehabilitation, or justice. It will be a revolutionary celebration!