A dozen organizations will lead a march and rally on September 16 at 2:00 p.m. to protest the recent killing of Native American carver John T. Williams. He was shot in late August by Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk after being stopped with a legal carving knife and a wood board.
Seeking policy reforms and increased accountability at the SPD, marchers will meet at the intersection of Boren Avenue and Howell Street—where Williams, who reportedly had serious hearing impairments, was shot from a distance of 9 to 10 feet—and proceed to City Hall for a rally. A lineup of speakers is pending.
The groups also plan to testify at a hearing of the city council on Wednesday. Here's more info.
Jay Westwind Wolf Hollingsworth, one of the organizers, says the coalition wants new procedures and training at the SPD. "The first the three decisions from this officer were the wrong ones," he says. "We ask why he confronted John T. Williams to begin with, because it seems there was no probable cause for a crime; the officer didn't call backup before he confronted him; and he did not make sure Williams knew he was there—some witnesses who saw the event say he didn't make eye contact."
The groups are also trying to raise money to pay of the debt of Williams's funeral costs, and they will have a donation blanket in front of City Hall at the rally.
A movement erupted in the days following Wiliams's death in late August. While city leaders have called for little more than further investigations—see our piece in this week's paper "The Buck Stops With Nobody"—many say that is not enough. "The inquest process in King County rarely leads to any form of justice whatsoever," says James Bible, chapter president of the NAACP. However, the Seattle Police Department did say yesterday they are in the early steps of seeking an outside law-enforcement agency to review the case.
Pamela Masterman-Stearns, head of a Native American union of city employees union, says, "The only way we can change police behavior and attitudes is by changing SPD policies around policing and training."
So far, the groups involved include the Chief Seattle Club, King County Democrats, United Indians of All Tribes, the Native American caucus with the Washington State Democrats, NAACP, CANOES (a labor union of Native American city employees), and others. The ACLU has signed on as a sponsor.