In a press conference on Wednesday board members from Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County (BLMSKC) issued five demands to public officials in response to the various protests against police brutality that have filled the city over the last several days.
They want Seattle to rescind its motion to prematurely end federal oversight over the police department, which has received nearly 12,000 complaints of alleged officer misconduct over last weekend alone, though 11,000 of those complaints reportedly refer to a single incident of a cop allegedly pepper spraying a kid.
Furthermore, as city, state, and federal lawmakers consider their budgets, BLMSKC demands they "decrease funding for police and instead increase funding for health and social services." As Seattle looks down the barrel of a $300 million deficit this year, the city plans to spend over $400 million on the department, which is about one quarter of the general fund and well over half of the spending on public safety.
BLMSKC also calls for Mayor Jenny Durkan immediately to end the curfew, which is in place until Saturday. They say the curfew "emboldens police to use force even when unnecessary," creating "a feedback loop, where each day’s protests are driven by animosity created from police violence from the previous day’s protest" and distracting from the overall goal of addressing systemic issues in policing. To break the cycle, BLMSKC wants the city to establish a "de-escalation team."
In the near-term, they demand that protest cops turn on their body cameras for the duration of the demonstration and keep their badge number visible.
After meeting with two organizers, identified by Capitol Hill Seattle Blog as David Lewis and Rashyla Levitt, Durkan told a crowd of protesters gathered outside the Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday that she'd look into the badge thing and the body cam thing.
BLMSKC also cleared up some apparent public confusion about their role in organizing any of the protests, which arose after Durkan's meeting with Lewis and Levitt.
Ebony Miranda, chair of BLMSKC, said the group has had "no role in any of the protests that have occurred in the greater Seattle area." Rather, they've "cautioned our communities to not participate in protests due to COVID-19," which has hit black Americans three times harder than white Americans. They also said they've had "no communications with any hosts or organizations who have been putting on demonstrations."
They have, however, created a bail fund for the "immediate release of people protesting the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Manuel Ellis," which has raised a quarter of a million dollars in the last week, according to BLMSKC treasurer Livio De La Cruz.
All that said, Miranda added, "It is also important to understand that Black Lives Matter is for everyone. Anyone can take action on behalf of BLM as a cause."
BLMSKC emeritus chair Sakara Remmu emphasized the fact that the group is "not excessively a protest-driven organization." Members work daily to push policy at all levels of government, and participate in many other forms of direct action. Protests are "a tool" that raises awareness about racial injustices, Remmu said. "We’re beyond attention and awareness, we need lasting, sustained change," she added.
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