A Black Lives Matter demonstration and a march to demand that Donald Trump give up his tax returns are planned for downtown. Meet the organizers and see what to expect.
In Seattle we do like our protest marches.
The city issued 49 “free speech” events permits in 2016, averaging nearly one a week, ranging from “Homeless Rally and March” to “Seattle Dyke March.”
These days, if you can make a Facebook event about one, they’ll come. Hopefully.
Downtown on Saturday will offer two protests with similar themes. The weather is cooperating, with a partly-cloudy forecast that shows a little sunshine poking through.
1. Tax March Seattle: “Donald Trump, release your tax returns.” Its page now lists 3,100 as “going” and 7,700 as “interested.” Symbol: A giant inflatable chicken with Trumpish blond hair, called “Chicken Don.”
2. Black Lives Matter March on Seattle 2.0: “We are in a tax system that does not value people of color and black people … We also DEMAND Donald J. Trump to release his tax return …” Its page lists 18,000 as “going” and 37,000 as “interested.” Symbol: Black beanies that participants are urged to wear to show “you shouldn’t discriminate against clothing or people’s color.”
You can make a full Saturday of protesting.
The Tax March is timed to begin at the Federal Building at Second Avenue and Marion Street at 11 in the morning and end at 1 p.m. at Seattle Center.
Then you can just make your way to Westlake Park, where Black Lives Matter will have a “dance party” beginning at 1, followed by rally and the finale — a march at 3 to the Federal Courthouse at Seventh Avenue and Stewart Street.
As with other recent protests, many of those behind them are not from traditional political camps.
They’re in their 20s and early 30s, and their activism begins with grass-roots social media.
Cody Herring, 26, a Microsoft engineer, is one of those behind Tax March Seattle.
“I don’t have much, if any, activism background,” he says.
Now he’s sending out a news release about President Donald Trump and “American Kleptocracy.”
Herring, who lives in the Judkins Park area, says his interest in activism was piqued when he was having a pancake breakfast for friends at his home Jan. 21.
That was the day of the historic Women’s March that drew tens of thousands in Seattle, and which began at the park.
“We invited random people to come in and have pancakes,” Herring says. “It was the first day I felt hopeful since Nov. 8.”
That was the day that Americans elected Trump as president.
Herring says he was inspired by a tweet from comedian Patton Oswalt, known for his epic Trump takedowns.
This time, Oswalt was making a serious statement: “Dear #WomensMarch organizers: please organize a #TrumpTaxesMarch for April 15th. I am happy to help. We all are.”
So up went Tax March Seattle on Facebook.
As with marches these days that become nationwide, the one in Seattle started locally and then joined others. Some 170 cities are now listed as having marches. In this state, there also will be protests in Anacortes, Olympia, Richland and Spokane.
The Black Lives Matter march has a more recognizable name listed at its spokesman.
He is Mohawk Kuzma, 26, who in December 2014 became something of an unofficial spokesman for a loosely connected group of Seattle protesters after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Kuzma actually had begun working with some of the Tax March people to have one march, but things fell apart between them as happens in emotionally charged grass-roots dealings.
So he put up his own Facebook page.
If Kuzma’s name seems unusual, well, here is the story behind it.
His real name is Miles Partman.
From 2011 until 2015, he says, he had a Mohawk hairstyle and so that became his nickname.
As for Kuzma, he says, he went online and used a random-name generator and there it popped up.
“I liked the sound of it,” he says.
Others involved in the march don’t have the local notoriety of Kuzma.
One such person is Jessica Owens, 32, who manages The Weaving Works in the Roosevelt District.
She has contacts with a wide number of knitters and crocheters in the area who helped with the “pussy hat” project that was a symbol in the Women’s March.
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Now they were looking for another project and there it was — black beanies for the Black Lives Matter march.
So up went a Facebook group called the BLF206 March On Seattle 2.0 Yarn Army (the BLF stands for Black Liberation Front).
It includes a link to a simple pattern for “a super simple garter stitch hat that a first time knitter can make.”
It turns out that a beanie’s shape is more complex to knit than that of a pussy hat.
The group didn’t have much notice but has managed to collect 100 knitted hats.
Owens posted to her army of knitters, “Thank you to everyone has dropped off hats! Keep them coming … It’s been wonderful to see all of your wonderful work and thoughtfulness.”
Meanwhile, both groups say they really don’t know how many protesters will show.
It’s one thing to click “going” on Facebook, and another to actually trek to downtown.
But you can dream that your posting will actually motivate the masses.
Says Cody Herring, “We’re hoping it’ll be like the Women’s March. Two-hundred-thousand. That’d be cool.”