Sketched June 5 and 8, 2020

Masked to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 transmission, these Seattle-area residents agreed to pose for impromptu portraits at recent demonstrations against police brutality in the Central District and on Capitol Hill. Although their signs caught my eye first, it was the opportunity to listen to their viewpoints that made my sketching time even more meaningful.

“‘SILENCE = VIOLENCE’ means white people need to speak up to defend the Black community,” said Ryan Parks, who, for the first time, was joining the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. “As a white person, my complacency has led to this.”

“One of the biggest white privilege things is not realizing that you have it,” Parks said. “Recognition is the first step.”

Sanaa, another first-time protester I met on Capitol Hill, wore a sign that read “EQUALITY HURTS NO ONE.” She said she was doing her part to denounce racial discrimination by advocating for equality as a second-generation American whose parents emigrated from Mexico.

A counterpoint to the argument that a few bad cops, not police departments, are the real problem, inspired Bailey H. to craft a sign with this message: “IT’S NOT ‘A FEW BAD APPLES.’ THE ORCHARD IS ROTTEN.” “The way we police in America is fundamentally unfair and wrong,” said Bailey, who would like to see Seattle defund its police department.

Kevin, a college student with Filipino roots, held the most elaborate sign I saw. Hundreds of names of Black Americans killed or injured by law enforcement were written in different Sharpie colors around the big initials of the Black Lives Matter movement. “As a non-Black person of color, we want to stand in solidarity with our Black comrades and do what we can to show our support.”

Carmen Berrysmith, a Black woman from the Rainier Beach neighborhood, chose a message of unity for her cardboard sign, which read “UNITED WE ARE STRONG.”

“Building community is the biggest thing,” Berrysmith said. “You need to come stand with us because we have already been fighting this fight for so long.”