An Account of the Protest for Defunding SPD in Solidarity Against Racist State Oppression (7/25/2020)
By Brendan M.
I arrived at Seattle Central College with a friend at around 1:30. There looked to be a few thousand people slowly gathering across the college lawn. There were speakers, mostly younger BIPOC, who organized this protest in solidarity with the Portland protestors, especially those who were detained and arrested by federal troops in unmarked vans. A woman was showing folks how to defend ourselves by linking arms… Though the sun was starting to beat down, most people were covered in black/protections from being identified… Clearly the mood was militant, and people were ready to engage with the cops and Feds, ready to risk our personal safety to stand up against state repression, ready to risk our bodies to stand up against systemic racism and over-funded police budgets.
But once we started marching from Seattle Central down Broadway, there were no cops to be seen. Some suspected that they were expecting us to march down to the Courthouse- which is federal property, meaning the Federal SWAT would have “legit” jurisdiction to arrest people. But the organizers were smart, and didn’t lead us all the way downtown. We got down to Yesler and turned east, stopping at the King County youth jail, which Dow Constantine said he will close by 2025 (why not NOW???)
At this point some people lit a fire in a construction site that was next to the jail, and it grew to a formidable size, filling the sky with billowing smoke. Despite its formidable appearance, however, it was carefully contained, meant to catch attention rather than damaging anything outside of the vacant construction site. The organizers called us to move quickly back north up 12th Ave, to get away as the fire department and police would be showing up soon. As we marched back up 12th, it was extremely encouraging to shout this chant that very clearly spelled out the demands:
“Defund SPD how much? 50% at least!
Where should that money go? To black communities!
#3 Who should go free? All the protestors!
Don’t forget #4: No New Youth Jail!
What do we want for #5? Jenny Durkan to resign!”
I also saw a clipboard being passed around endorsing the upcoming People’s Budget from our socialist City council-member Kshama Sawant’s office, which most of the marchers around me were clamoring to sign.
There were some people who smashed windows in Starbucks and some other businesses on the way up, but the organizers made it a point to demand that people not set fire to the buildings as there were people living above the businesses. I thought the organizers helped manage the crowd well, allowing people to express their anger against corporations like Starbucks that have contributed to gentrification and not helped to re-invest in black communities that they have displaced.
By the time we returned to Capitol Hill and Cal Anderson Park (around 4:30 pm) heavily armed officers in riot gear started to file out of the East Precinct. We gathered in the field and watched as a barricade started to form, in a similar way that it was before CHOP. The march organizers told people to disperse, change their clothes, and go home- the march was over. But soon after they made that call, the flash bang grenades and tear gas started to go off.
My friend and I moved up to 11th and Pine, where a smaller crowd was flanking the police line, separate from the bulk of the protesters next to Rancho Bravo. We saw a dark armored SWAT vehicle, as well as several lines of cops in riot gear. It was hard to tell what happened first, but it sure seemed that the police started using gas and grenades before they were even seriously provoked. After that had happened, some brave protesters started throwing water bottles, and using umbrellas to hold the line. Some even were able to grab the grenades and try to toss them back.
But, needless to say, the cops escalated quickly, and began throwing grenades directly at people in the crowd (including myself). I also heard them shooting rubber bullets. At this point, I got injured by a flash bang grenade that hit me in the leg, and had to step away. It had been less than an hour, and the police (and Feds) had once again turned Cap Hill into a war zone.
Brendan M, Seattle Schools Substitute Music teacher
(Featured Photo: A blast ball grenade thrown by police lands near demonstrators during protests in Seattle on July 25, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Police and demonstrators clash as protests continue in the city following reports that federal agents may have been sent to the city. David Ryder/Getty Images/AFP)