The Ballard Bridge closed down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds this morning. More than 20 cars heading northbound and southbound parked on the bridge and blocked traffic from passing. Protesters then jumped out of the cars and unfurled a big, blue banner with white writing that read, "DAN STRAUSS YOU ARE GUILTY TOO." They hung the banner over the side of the bridge for all of Ballard to see.
This was the work of the Seattle Every Day Morning March. Born out of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), the youth-led protest's goal is to disrupt daily life, to garner attention from elected officials and from the city as a whole, and to get people to understand their positions. The Morning March's demands have remained the same all summer: abolish the police, invest in Black communities, end the youth jail, recall Mayor Jenny Durkan, and free all protesters.
The location for today's action was significant given the fact that the Ballard Bridge serves as a major point of connection between Councilmember Dan Strauss's district and the rest of Seattle. The demonstration also came on the heels of Durkan's veto of the city council's 2020 rebalanced budget. That proposal shaved off $3 million from SPD's remaining budget. While that number was a far cry from the 50% defunding protesters asked for—and the majority of council members said they would support—it laid the groundwork for future action in future budgets, organizers said.
Protesters focused mainly on Strauss during the demonstration. According to march organizer Elisha, 23, Strauss is "backing away" from commitments he made to defund the police and is "clearly regretting" votes he made to support the movement.
It's a false narrative to say that scaling up community-based programs will not and cannot work because they are not ready to step in today. The worst thing we can do is give organizations the responsibility of responding without the time they need to scale up and be successful. pic.twitter.com/4rpK0PYHkm
— Councilmember Dan Strauss (@CMDanStrauss) July 13, 2020
Strauss indicated his support of defunding SPD by 50% back in July, but he did not vote accordingly when it came time to make the decision. The only council member who stuck to the 50% number was Kshama Sawant. Strauss also reneged on a vote to cap the police chief's salary the day before the chief announced her resignation.
"We're here to remind council members that they work for us," Elisha said, "Like, 'Hey, do you remember what your job is? You're supposed to listen to us.'"
Over the last few months, the Morning Marchers have marched through neighborhoods, blocked freeway entrances, and generally filled up space. Last week, they shut down the State Route 99 Tunnel. Organizers said they plan their major shutdowns on Wednesdays to avoid weekend stays in jail in the event of arrests.
The group of more than 50 met Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill. Most were young, though I saw a father and his two daughters as well as some older women participating. Elisha led a morning yoga routine, breakfast was served, and then people filed into waiting cars. I hopped into a minivan with Elisha and organizers Blueberry, 29, and Lisbeth De La Cruz, 21. Wendy drove. She had daisies embroidered on her jeans.
We stopped at La Palma in Interbay to regroup. Cars lined up on a slope of a driveway. I sat in the second car from the front. Radios clicked on. Wendy followed the car in front of her and slowly, at an angle, eased herself into traffic. Another car followed suit. Our blockade stopped oncoming traffic while the rest of the cars pulled from the driveway onto the road in front of us. Surprisingly, no one honked.
Then, we drove toward the bridge. Radio chatter was flying. "Check your side." "Block those on-coming lanes so no one can join us." "Who's that truck?! That's not our truck! You're going to have to be aggressive here." "Make sure someone blocks that entrance."
We drove onto the bridge and met with the blockade coming from the other direction. At that point, the only people on the bridge were protesters and one extremely peeved truck driver who got mixed up in the blockade.
Stalled drivers honked. Car doors flew open and protesters stepped out. They jumped and cheered, and some clambered up on top of the bridge while others worked to hang the Dan Strauss banner. De La Cruz addressed the crowd. Blueberry led the crowd in a new protest song she'd written. A police boat circled beneath the bridge. Strauss was somewhere on recess from city council until Sept. 8.
And then, after 8 minutes and 46 seconds—the amount of time a police officer pinned his knee on George Floyd's neck—the protest was over. Everyone jumped back in their cars and sped off. Elisha, De La Cruz, and Blueberry whooped and hollered. "We killed it," Blueberry said.
Speaking into the radio, Wendy asked which route people planned to take back to Capitol Hill.
"Fremont Bridge," a femme voice replied. "I hear there's bad traffic on the Ballard Bridge."
"I wonder who did that," Elisha said.