Black Lives Matter Seattle – King County is calling for a statewide general strike and silent march on Friday, June 12, the group announced Saturday.
“We’re calling on everyone in Washington state who is able to be there. If you can’t march in Seattle, organize one in your community,” board member Ebony Miranda said in a video news conference, asking people to participate despite the COVID-19 crisis.
“Anti-blackness is a greater threat to our survival, and racism in itself is its own pandemic. It’s killing us. We’re fighting to survive and thrive.”
The local Black Lives Matter group previously had cautioned protesters about COVID-19 risks.
More details on the June 12 actions are yet to come, according to the group, which met Saturday with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to discuss police-reform demands as protests continued over police killings of Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
Marlon Brown, another board member, said the group had begun to establish some common ground with Durkan on certain demands. He said the mayor made several commitments, though Durkan’s office said the discussions were less than clear-cut and other officials would need to be involved in various decisions.
The Black Lives Matter group demanded that Durkan reduce the Seattle Police Department’s budget for military-style weapons and equipment by $100 million and invest that money in other needs, such as street outreach, crisis intervention, mental-health diversion and housing. The mayor agreed to divest funds and to reinvest them in community needs, Brown said.
But Durkan is not committing to cutting $100 million from the police department and redirecting that much money elsewhere, said Stephanie Formas, the mayor’s chief of staff, in a subsequent interview. The police department doesn’t spend $100 million annually on military-style weapons and equipment, Formas said.
Durkan believes some department funds will need to be cut this year, as City Hall seeks to close a budget gap created by the pandemic, Formas said.
The mayor agrees in principle that Seattle should redirect some funds from military-style policing to outreach, intervention and diversion programs, Formas said, noting certain such programs already are housed within the police department.
Lastly, Durkan believes $100 million will not be sufficient to meet all community needs, according to Formas.
The mayor proposes Seattle budgets, which are altered by the City Council. King County oversees public-health programs.
Brown said Durkan committed to requiring police deployed to demonstrations to keep their body cameras on throughout their shifts, with more details to come. Formas said the mayor intends to “fast-track” that policy work. Durkan also agreed to form a Seattle commission of Black leaders, Brown said.
Brown said more discussion was forthcoming over additional issues. The Black Lives Matter group is calling on City Hall to end homeless encampment sweeps, drop a legal challenge against King County’s new inquest process for fatal police shootings, and mandate community oversight of police-union contract bargaining.