On Saturday, Bernie Sanders scheduled speech in Seattle was interrupted. Seattle Times readers have their say about the topics of race and civil discourse.
A scheduled speech by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle on Saturday was disrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters. They sought to turn attention instead to Sunday’s anniversary of the shooting by a white police officer of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo. The protesters would not let Sanders take the microphone, prompting rally organizers to end the event.
Throughout the weekend and Monday, readers have been writing letters to the editor and sending them in to The Times, and more than 2,000 comments have been submitted on the original news story. Below are a selection of readers’ letters on this topic.
Change requires audacious acts
Historically speaking, major status-quo-shifting change comes about through brave people taking part in civil disobedience. Fearless people force the attention of others. The women who spoke at the rally in Seattle Saturday were brave, passionate, articulate, powerful and inspiring. I felt the raw-hurt-turned-anger that they shared with us.
Yes, the words “white supremacists” stung. Being called “racist” moved the crowd in an audible gasp. I think Black Lives Matter (BLM) Seattle achieved its goal: We are listening and talking now.
Some I know say they were insulted by what the BLM protestors got up and said. I am insulted by the fact that police kill black Americans. I am offended that charges are rarely filed against police officers and that convictions are even rarer. I am outraged and embarrassed that this is happening in my own country and that we white Americans can so easily disregard repeated instances of injustice toward people of color just because we are part of the power majority in this country.
I support Bernie Sanders for president and I am an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement because there needs to be a drastic change in this country. I am proud of what both groups have been courageous enough to get up and consistently speak aloud. We need to listen and continue the conversation.
Alix Clarke, Vashon Island
A rude robbery of a sympathetic crowd
On Saturday, two extremely rude and selfish young people with the audacity of stagecoach bandits robbing the audience bullied their way onto the Westlake stage where Bernie Sanders was just beginning to speak (who had been patiently waiting for hours). They threatened to shut the event down if they weren’t given the microphone, spouted off one negative thing after another about our city, and called the audience racists for booing them.
If they had been listening at all to the previous speeches, they would have known that the speakers and audience already overwhelmingly supported their cause. Sanders has always been a vigorous advocate for social justice and Black Lives Matter. The BLM leadership owes a heartfelt apology for the disruption created by this renegade element to all who were present yesterday — and especially to Bernie Sanders who never had the chance to give his speech.
What we all saw was absolutely disgraceful and infuriating.
Jeff Nomura, Seattle
Interruption raises a new issue for Sanders
Bernie Sanders has just learned what being a national candidate means. So far he’s been a one-issue candidate, but there’s a lot more going on than is at the front of his platform.
His relevance to the American political spectrum is to pull it leftward, to recenter the middle. He and Elizabeth Warren are doing a great job. But he just received what he’s been giving — a pull in a new direction — and he needs it.
No democrat should be able to win without the African-American vote. I praise the Black Lives Matter protesters because, well, black lives matter. This incident might actually make him viable as a national candidate, not one catering to the special interest that is the white middle and working class.
Kate Sampsell-Willmann, Poulsbo
Protest takes focus off real issues of poverty
When Black Lives Matter activists shouted Bernie Sanders off the Westlake stage, they silenced the best hope we Americans have for improving black lives. That hope rests in decreasing poverty.
Venting frustration in civil-rights marches feels good and makes great headlines, but actually diverts energy and focus from the more cogent and possibly solvable issue: finding rational ways to diminish income inequality and the polarizing poverty it induces.
I believe the Black Lives Matter movement would be better served finding common cause with leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who seek to redress the economic inequality that threatens America’s future.
Mike Boyd, Seattle
Why didn’t police and organizers stop protesters?
I couldn’t understand why Seattle Times reporters didn’t bother to ask the event organizers directly why they didn’t want Seattle police to step in, and remove or arrest those who were disrupting the event so that the thousands who came to hear Bernie Sanders speak had the opportunity.
Event organizers must’ve worked hard to plan and execute this event — allowing protesters to disrupt the event was wrong. Seattle police asked event organizers if they could help the organizers in removing the protesters, but event organizers declined police help, muting Sanders and disappointing many who came to hear Sanders speak.
One of the most important messages I gleaned from this story is that Black Lives Matter protesters can protest and shut down events in Seattle without consequences. Black lives do matter. No, wait, all human lives matte.
When a handful of people have the ability to disrupt a public event thousands attended without removal or consequence, law and order doesn’t really matter either.
Douglas Grabski, Bellevue