“Basically, we need to make sure that the laws are constitutional in regard to prosecuting police. And that black lives actually do matter,” organizer Mohawk Kuzma said of the gathering’s message.
Marchers protesting racism and the fatal shootings of blacks by police took to Seattle streets Thursday for a peaceful demonstration in which crowd members pushed the message: Not all officers are bad.
That tone contrasted sharply with a protest two weeks ago, soon after the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, that was relatively more tense toward officers and drew a crowd of more than 1,000. That gathering was coincidentally the same night a gunman killed five police officers in Dallas.
On Thursday, Black Lives Matter protesters in Seattle at one point applauded the police for protecting them during the hours-long march.
The gathering began at Westlake Park with a few dozen people and eventually grew to a crowd of about 200, marching throughout downtown and Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Heavy traffic surrounded their route, sometimes spanning blocks. As of 10 p.m., the crowd remained large at Fifth Avenue and Union Street.
At one point, a protester said to a nearby police officer: “We don’t hate you, we love you, we need you.” Another used the group’s microphone to discourage hate toward every officer — or else, she said, “we’ll be as bad as them.”
This is how the demonstration unfolded:
Update, 9:40 p.m.:
The group is marching through Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Update, 9 p.m.:
The demonstration is topping off its third hour, with still about 200 people marching. The group is now heading eastbound on East Pine Street from Broadway, according to the city’s department of transportation.
“It’s important to understand how violence is not inherent to what we believe and who we are as black people, but sadly we’re in a society where violence is the solution that we’re given from day-t0-day,” said Dimitri Groce, 27, who was born and raised in Seattle.
Waving a massive flag made by his father, he said he participated in the protest to share his dad’s story.
“The fact that he’s a military man, and still has no support, has no structure, has struggled all his life,” Groce said, ” That just, I think, resembles the experience of what it is to be black in Seattle — when you sacrifice so much and you get nothing back.”
When asked if the protest to fight racism in Seattle has been successful, Groce said: “There’s a lot more to go.”
Update, 8:10 p.m.:
One protester, Sammy Vaughn, 35, of Kirkland, took to the microphone to insist that not all police officers are bad.
“I’ve experienced bad cops, as well as I’ve experienced good cops, and I don’t want us to get confused that because one bad person does something, that all of them are bad,” he said in an interview. He said he joined the demonstration Thursday to help ensure the safety of his wife, who was “coming out regardless.”
One man in the crowd said to a police officer: “We don’t hate you, we love you, we need you.”
Update, 8:05 p.m.:
Update, 7:30 p.m.:
Protesters are now stopped at Sixth Avenue and Pike Street after circling up near an entrance to Interstate 5. The size of the group has grown to about 200 people.
Update, 7 p.m.:
The group has started the march and is now heading down Pine Street, while chanting, “Whose lives matter? Black lives matter.”
Update, 6:30 p.m.:
After a quick speech at Westlake Park, the group has moved to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street. There, protesters have formed a circle and blocked all lanes, causing a traffic jam that spans blocks.
Update, 6 p.m.:
An estimated group of between 70 to 80 people have gathered at Westlake Park for the march.
One person passing by apparently does not agree with the group’s demonstration. “Get a job!” he yelled to protesters.
Original post, 4:30 p.m.:
A group angered over fatal police shootings of blacks and racism is expected to gather in downtown Seattle Thursday for an hours-long march, the second such protest this month.
“In turbulent times, we need to find solutions,” organizer Mohawk Kuzma said of the gathering’s message. “Basically, we need to make sure that the laws are constitutional in regard to prosecuting police. And that black lives actually do matter.”
Hundreds of people have said via Facebook they will attend Thursday’s demonstration, which will begin at Westlake Park at 6 p.m.. “People must gather and make a very visible and loud demonstration and do what it takes to get justice for” blacks killed at the hands of police, the event’s page says.
Protesters last took to Seattle streets on July 7 after the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, coincidentally the same night a gunman opened fire and killed five police officers in Dallas. The Seattle march, which attracted more than 1,000 people, shut down downtown streets for hours, though remained relatively peaceful. Scores of people in cities across the country were protesting at the same time, too.
Black Lives Matter organizers quickly repudiated violence against police after the officers’ deaths in Dallas, but also said they understand the frustration that led to the shootings, The Associated Press reported. Less than two weeks later, a former Marine shot and killed three Baton Rouge officers and wounded three others.
In Seattle, the Black Lives Matter movement gained heavy momentum most recently after the death of Che Taylor, a black man who was fatally shot by white officers in the Wedgwood neighborhood of town in February. His family has called for a federal investigation of the shooting, and supporters are also pushing an initiative that would change state law to make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill in the line of duty.
For deep conversations on race and racism, look to The Seattle Times video project “Under Our Skin,” which, in part, grew from furor over police shootings and the rise of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The installation features 18 people from Western Washington explaining what terms like “racism,” “microaggression” and “white privilege” mean to them. This weekend, journalists involved in the project will be at the Rainier Beach Arts & Music (BAAM) Fest, inviting the public to give feedback on the discussions.
Seattle Times staff reporter Vernal Coleman and information from the archives contributed to this report.