Story by Tracy Record
Photos/video by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
One of the students who organized this afternoon’s massive protest in the West Seattle Junction told the crowd they weren’t sure anyone would show up.
Someone did. Four digits worth of someones.
(Aerial photo courtesy Paul Weatherman)
And they showed up early. Groups marched from Admiral and Morgan Junction, and by the time they arrived, a crowd was already filling Walk-All-Ways at California/Alaska, chanting and cheering. A cheer went up as the Admiral marchers arrived, hundreds strong:
Though there were speakers and even live music – with the roof of Easy Street Records proprietor Matt Vaughan‘s iconic black van turned into a stage – some of the most powerful moments were in the early going, as the crowd chanted – and filled the street with their prone bodies.
The most powerful speaker was the youngest – Louisa Boren STEM K-8 student Erica – with an impassioned poetry reading:
Earlier, the first speaker was entrepreneur Donald Watts, who spoke of family members – including his dad, Seattle SuperSonics legend Slick Watts, and his grandma in Mississippi, who he said would not believe today’s amazing turnout, so he took a photo to show her. He said it’s time for change, and he vowed that he would too, saying he had failed to speak out in the past when he was a target of racism, but would never let it go unchallenged again. “Figure out where your role is, to make a difference, put it in your heart, put it in action.”
Rain fell as Watts spoke; then the sun returned as he concluded, and the weather remained favorable for the rest of the event. Other speakers included Chris Porter, a longtime local activist and health-care professional. His theme: “Enough is enough,” as he called out a list of inequities.
He said he wants a world where “when my son leaves the house, I don’t have to hold my breath.” But, to remind everyone of what happened as George Floyd died in Minneapolis less than 2 weeks ago, he asked protesters to be silent and try holding their breath for 2 minutes – just a quarter of the time Mr. Floyd spent held down by a police officer. After half a minute or so, from scattered pockets of the crowd, people called out: “I can’t breathe … I can’t breathe.”
Another speaker drew some chants of dissent from around the crowd – King County Executive Dow Constantine, the only elected official to take the mic:
He spoke of reform, and led a round of “Say Their Names,” but voices could be heard yelling “No Youth Jail” – Constantine has been long criticized by activists opposed to the county’s new $200+ million juvenile-justice facility, which includes detention.
Another rebuke to the system: A short time later, as Ayron Jones played the Star-Spangled Banner on his guitar, the thousand-plus protesters dropped to their knees:
Before long, after more than two hours had elapsed since the early start, the protest ended – still peaceful, no confrontations (police were present at the perimeters, mostly to keep traffic away from the people-filled streets), as had been the case with the half-dozen smaller West Seattle demonstrations we have covered this past week.
So – what now?
Everyone will have to answer that in their own way, to back up their words with deeds. As for protests – so far we’ve heard of one more in West Seattle, a student-organized protest at WSHS at noon Monday.
P.S. Words of thanks from today’s organizers are here.