Neil Fox has worked as a defense attorney for over 30 years.
Neil Fox has worked as a defense attorney for over 30 years. Doug Ogle

As the date of the December recall campaign against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant comes closer, I am writing this to urge everyone to vote “no.” This cynical campaign is designed to weaken the progressive movement at a critical time — a time when the threat of fascism is expanding and we need to unite to fight off right-wing extremism.

I moved to Seattle from Illinois in 1985. I am a District 3 resident. My children went to Seattle schools. I am a criminal defense lawyer, and I’ve worked in downtown Seattle for the last 36 years.

Between the time I moved here until 2014, when Kshama Sawant became a Councilmember, Seattle’s government was filled with politicians beholden to powerful corporate interests. These politicians ignored the growing income disparities in our city. They threw money at the police without requiring accountability. They wasted our money passing ridiculous laws (like the so-called “drug traffic loitering” or a law against sitting on sidewalks). They thought that jailing the poor, the houseless, and those with mental health problems were “solutions.”

Kshama Sawant is different. She is not a professional politician seeking to advance her political career. A dedicated activist and teacher, she has fought hard for all of her constituents, not just those with lots of money. In the past seven years, she has fought to raise the minimum wage, to make large corporations based in Seattle pay their fair share of taxes, to help small businesses who are being displaced by large developers, and to fight for tenants’ rights and rent control. She has been on the front line of struggle against racism and police violence.

When Trump was elected, Sawant was there with us when we poured into the streets in protest. When Jewish dissidents and Palestinian activists put on a program at City Hall criticizing Israeli “Pinkwashing,” Sawant was there to support them. Unlike prior politicians at City Hall, Sawant has been accessible to ordinary people.

Because of her effectiveness and her dedication to the struggle for justice, powerful interests have unceasingly attacked her. They have vilified her in the press and on social media with hateful stereotypes — for instance, with variations on the sexist trope that she is “too loud.” Yet, Sawant has responded to these attacks with grace, not letting hateful voices hijack the pressing struggles for social and economic justice.

Now reactionary forces are promoting a recall initiative on December 7. In my opinion, the grounds for this well-funded campaign are spurious. Mainly, the legal basis for the recall are allegations that Sawant used her position as council member to lead protests in support of Black Lives Matter. When Mayor Durkan’s right-wing police force used tear gas, blast balls, clubs, pepper spray and even bicycles to attack people protesting against the murder of George Floyd, the recall campaign alleges that Sawant supported protests at City Hall and against Mayor Durkan. This should clue us in as to the purpose behind the recall — to silence a critic of the power structure.

The bigger question that we should be asking, though, is why many of our other elected representatives were missing in action during the Summer of 2020, and why they, too, did not put their bodies on the line? We should be asking why those shrill voices now attacking Sawant for supporting peaceful protests are silent when the subject of police violence comes up.

If we care about our City, and if we want an alternative to the dead-end of excessive poverty and excessive wealth, vote “Recall No” on the Recall of Kshama Sawant. If she is gone, we all will lose a powerful advocate against our country’s drift toward fascism.