Before Manuel Ellis was killed by Tacoma police on March 3, he had gifted his sister Monet Carter-Mixon the pit bull puppy that has now become part of her family.
She guards over the dog born from a stigmatized breed, protecting him from people who she believes unfairly fear him. She compares the stigma her dog faces to that faced by her brother, an unarmed Black man who died after an officer placed him in a chokehold.
Just as she advocates for her dog, Carter-Mixon is also working to help ensure other families don’t lose their loved ones to law enforcement use of force.
More than eight months after Ellis’ killing, his family and advocates of police accountability introduced The Manuel Ellis Washington Anti-Discrimination Act on Wednesday. The act, also known as Initiative 1300, aims to address discrimination within a variety of topics, including COVID-19 vaccines and police use of force.
A key portion of the initiative is centered on discriminatory use of deadly force by law enforcement, including chokeholds.
It would add to Washington’s declaration of civil rights law that people have “the right to be protected from police and other law enforcement officers’ or departments’ discriminatory, non selfdefense use of deadly force, including but not limited to the chokehold, carotid hold, or any other methods of physical restraint used against unarmed victims which could result in serious bodily injury or death.”
Additionally, the act seeks to protect underrepresented people by prohibiting discrimination in COVID-19 testing and tracing, and states that free COVID-19 vaccines must be made readily available to marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
A petition for the initiative will need 300,000 signatures sent to Secretary of State Kim Wyman by Dec. 26 in order to be sent to the legislature for a possible vote. If the legislature does not act on the initiative, it will be sent to the ballot for voters to decide.
The initiative has already received support from politicians, said Ellis’ family attorney James Bible, including from attorney and former state legislator Jesse Wineberry, who co-authored the act.
Police departments throughout the nation, including in Seattle and Federal Way, banned the use of potentially fatal chokeholds following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
While Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell vowed to ban chokeholds in June, the department has largely been silent about the issue, said Bible.
“Chokeholds are an archaic means of controlling another human being that is totally unnecessary,” said Bible, who has been involved in previous litigation on the fatal use of chokeholds in Federal Way.
“What we absolutely don’t want to see is unarmed people taken to the ground with arms around their necks and their lives expired on street corners,” said Bible, who stood behind Carter-Mixon and Ellis’ brother Matthew Ellis in a Des Moines office.
Ellis’ last memory of his brother was watching video of him being tased and a knee placed on his neck as he said the final words, “I can’t breathe.”
“This family is so brave in saying that we want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure that other families don’t experience the same kind of harm,” said Bible.