Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal and Governor Jay Inslee, joined by other elected officials and community organizers, declared Washington a hate-free state today during a press conference at Seattle Center. The move comes just under one month before President-elect Donald Trump, whose election inspired a national uptick in hate incidents, is inaugurated.
"Here in Washington State, we refuse to succumb to fear-based politics," said Jayapal. "We know using fear to advance an agenda is an old and practiced tactic."
She continued: "We come together today to say we will fight injustice and policies rooted in racism and will condemn hateful rhetoric. ... Together we say we respect women, we value Muslims, we value Black lives, we stand with LGBTQ community members, and with immigrants, refugees and people of all faiths. We value those of all abilities and workers and we will fight for dreamers of all kinds, immigrant and Native born."
Gov. Inslee encouraged the audience to stand up in the face of injustice because "the electoral college has not taken away our right to speak out against hate." Additionally, the governor maintained that it is not state law enforcement officers' jobs to detain, arrest, or report undocumented residents, who are at risk of deportation under the Trump administration.
That threat has shaken Seattle's Latinx community, Casa Latina executive director Marcos Martinez told The Stranger. Undocumented workers who visit Casa Latina's advocacy and jobs center have told him that they feel "like the country voted that they didn't want them [here]," Martinez said. Despite this, he said he's is optimistic that having a declared hate-free state will give immigrants of all statuses an additional measure of protection from detainment and deportation.
"But we still have to have teeth behind this," he said. "I don't want to be negative, but this can't just be a symbolic gesture."
Washington politicians have started taking some important steps. In November, Rep. Suzan DelBene, who represents the first congressional district, proposed an anti-religious registry bill in response to anti-Muslim legislation supported by Trump's cabinet.
But there's further work politicians need to do to protect immigrant residents and members of marginalized communities, said Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project.
His suggestions including implementing policies to prevent local resources from going toward immigration enforcement and creating a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation. In doing so, Washington would follow in the steps of officials from Los Angeles, Calif., who recently established a $10 million legal aid fund.
For Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, this also comes down to creating school curricula to address bullying and its effects on young students.
"They have to [learn] tolerance sometimes because they sometimes come from homes that are not tolerant," he said. "Our kids don’t come in [to school] with the expectation of creating conflict and hate. They expect a great education and having a great time doing it."
A group of activists protesting the proposed construction of a new youth detention center interrupted King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray during the press conference. Activists, many of who were people of color, called on Constantine and Murray to use their power to oppose granting a master use permit to begin construction on a proposed replacement facility, which would have "112 [beds], about half the capacity of the current complex," The Seattle Times reports.
OneAmerica executive director Rich Stolz, the final speaker at the press conference, acknowledged the protesters' message and said that eliminating the new youth jail is just one way of taking concrete action to eliminate hate in Washington.
"It has a particular resonance today because our criminal justice system is the tool used by the federal government to incarcerate civilians and undocumented immigrants," he said. "This is a time for us to really stand up and work with each other.
We know that there are 27 youth in the jails. New jail would have 140 beds, says activist. Asks public to call Murray & Constantine pic.twitter.com/lMbYAlFFju
— Ana Sofia Knauf (@asknauf) December 19, 2016
"It's really essential for the county exec and the mayor step in and make the decision not to grant those permits. This is the easiest place to stop right now, " said community activist, lawyer, and poet Nikkita Oliver.
To get Constantine and Murray on board, Oliver suggested King County residents to call the officials' offices to demand they stop construction on the new youth jail. If they still move forward will construction, it will be up to voters to vote them out of office. Building a new youth detention center works directly against Inslee's and Jayapal's mission to make Washington a hate-free state, said Oliver.
"It’s acknowledging and looking at who is most likely to be incarcerated and seeing that those are the same populations of people we say we’re trying to protect from state violence," she said.