After a long, substantive, and extremely damp rally at the Bobby Morris Playfield on Tuesday, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant led a march with other movement leaders downtown and then straight through the doors of City Hall for a rally.
A crowd of maybe 1,000 streamed into the building, chanting "Black Lives Matter" and calling for Mayor Jenny Durkan's resignation: "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Jenny Durkan's got to go!"
A spokesperson for the Seattle's Joint Information Center said the "City—including the Seattle Fire Department-–was monitoring and working to keep all the demonstrations safe and peaceful."
After everyone settled down, Sawant said the city council’s upcoming budget discussions, which begin tomorrow, present a good opportunity for the city to meet some demands, including “defund SPD, and tax Amazon.”
The mic passed to various people—mostly Black people—to say their piece. One man had the crowd sing “You about to lose your job!” which he dedicated to Mayor Durkan and SPD. Another demonstrator played his guitar. But one Black audience member on the mic called out Sawant for using BLM as a political tool. “Please stop taking advantage of us,” she said to cheers. “I wanna do all these things too, but can we talk about Black Lives Matter for one second?”
Coming after a tense exchange between the council member and CHAZ members about the relative benefits of abolishing police or cutting their budget the night before, the moment represented yet another instance of Sawant encountering frustrated Black protesters who see her push to “Tax Amazon” and her call for the Mayor's resignation as irrelevant to their demands. If Durkan resigns, protesters said yesterday, they'll just replace her with another politician who won't listen to them. And if they could take a police station, why couldn't they take the whole city? (I'm paraphrasing.)
After an hour of occupying City Hall, the crowd filed outside and headed up the extremely steep Cherry Street back to the CHAZ, pausing along the way for moments of silence to remember the victims of police brutality along the way.
At the #DefundSPD rally preceding the march, Sawant made her case for building and expanding the movement that won the East Precinct. She called for the station, now within the domain of the CHAZ, to be turned into a community center for restorative justice. Echoing the demands of the crowd that had booed Durkan off the steps of City Hall last week, she demanded a 50% cut to SPD's budget and a reinvestment of those funds into “socially constructive initiatives.” Her use of “at least” seemed like a nod to the conversation the night before. She also highlighted promised legislation to ban police from deploying chemical agents and other less-lethal weapons as "crowd control."
Africatown Community Land Trust President K. Wyking Garrett, who'd spoken at the We Want to Live March on Sunday, reasserted the demands of King County Equity Now, a movement to "maximize" several pieces of public land for Black communities. “It’s okay to take a knee, but you have to pay the fee,” he said.
Nikkita Oliver, who orchestrated an iconic moment in Seattle history last week when she issued a set of demands to Mayor Durkan on the steps of City Hall, encouraged protesters to "keep up the fight," following in the footsteps of the Freedom Summer organizers in 1964.
A protester who had been on the bullhorn at the frontlines on 11th and Pine for the last several days underlined that message, calling for unity and encouraging the crowd to keep marching.
Meanwhile, over at the teach-in on 12th, people took turns at the mic variously telling stories and proposing actions. One woman suggested using CHAZ as a hub for organizing pop-up protests in predominately “white-ass neighborhoods.”
"That's just my opinion. If you don't agree, we can agree to disagree," she said.