The recent shootings of two black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana resonated in Seattle, where some say they deal with racism and fear every day.
Gabriel Brooks, a 65-year-old military veteran and retired teacher, said he cried when he watched the videos of two officer-involved shootings this week.
“What I saw were black men who were not resisting, who were doing what they were told, when they were shot and killed,” said Brooks. “It is racial. There is no justice for us. They took off the chains, but it doesn’t matter how we dress or present ourselves, we are still treated like animals, worse than dogs and cats, on the basis of our skin color. It’s devastating.”
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Brooks and his friends and acquaintances were gathered, as they often are, at a Central District Starbucks on Thursday morning where, he said, the shootings of Philando Castile, 32, outside of St. Paul, Minn., and 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., were the topic of the day.
Dennis Jimerson said he grew up in Seattle knowing there were good cops as well as bad, but, “It’s awful, and I think it’s getting worse. I think there are a lot of prejudiced police on the force covering their Ku Klux Klan-ness with uniforms. I think America is headed in the wrong direction.”
On a night when nearly a dozen police officers were shot at a Dallas protest and protests rippled across the nation, more than 1,000 people marched peacefully through downtown Seattle on Thursday night in a gathering that decried the recent deaths and called for greater police accountability. Some marchers chanted “Same story every time, being black is not a crime,” and some held signs, such as one that read “Stop police terrorism.”
The march began as a rally at Westlake Park, and the group grew by the minute, eventually taking to the streets and shutting them down well into the evening as Seattle police monitored. As of 8 p.m., no arrests were reported.
André Taylor, brother of Che Andrè Taylor, whom Seattle police fatally shot earlier this year, addressed the crowd at the rally.
“My brother just got murdered four months ago,” he said. “You think you’re in pain? I’m in pain, too.”
In light of Dallas, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said she directed officers to work in pairs as much as possible.
Mayor Ed Murray said at a news conference that he believes both men who died this week would still be alive had they been white. He noted the greatest challenge faced by the city — and the nation — is racism.
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In an interview earlier in the day, Queenie Bradford of Seattle, whose cousin, former pro football player Demetrius DuBose, was fatally shot by San Diego police in 1999, said police shootings of black men are so common now that “It’s starting to be the norm.”
“I know some good police, but it’s gotten to where the people that should be protecting us are killing us,” she said. “I warn my son about the police and tell him what situations he can be in and what he needs to run from.”
Bradford is not the only mother who was reinforcing warnings about police to children of color this week.
Sheley Secrest, an attorney and former president of the Seattle King County NAACP, sent out a warning to her son on social media that became among Seattle’s top-read tweets.
Among other things, Secrest urged her son to “Keep your hands visible the entire time. Don’t reach for your phone; don’t reach for your wallet; don’t turn down the radio.”
Greg Beavers of Seattle said about the Louisiana shooting, “There is no way that man could have done any harm to the police. They got out of the car, rushed him, pinned him, had their knees on him and then shot him. What’s the justification for shooting him?”
Brooks, who taught math in the Seattle and Kent school districts and currently teaches part-time at Seattle Vocational Institute, said he has experienced overt and subtle racism all his life.
When he was at a casino recently, the cashier scolded him about being in the wrong line when he wasn’t. She didn’t lecture the three white people in front of him, he said.
A new teacher at a school in Kent once asked him if he was the custodian though he was wearing a shirt and tie.
Even at the Starbucks where he goes daily, a barista called police one day after a man who verbally attacked him wrongly announced Brooks had a gun.
He said he remains upset that time he should have spent talking with his son about investments and how to plan for the future was taken up by discussions about how to stay safe.
But even so, the two most recent shootings hit hard, he said.
Before he left the house Thursday, he said, he asked his wife to check that his car’s lights and signals were in order.
“If I get pulled over, I could be the next victim. You never know when a routine traffic stop can turn into death,” he said.