A number of Western Washington tribal leaders and Native organizations issued statements Monday decrying “intimidation acts,” including late-night noise and street graffiti, outside Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez’s house by some protesters who want the Police Department defunded.
Some people also have protested at Councilmember Alex Pedersen’s house and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s house, chanting and writing out messages. Councilmember Lisa Herbold spoke with demonstrators outside her house last Friday night, as Councilmember Tammy Morales did Sunday night.
Pedersen and Juarez have said they support cuts to the Police Department’s budget. They have not, unlike their seven colleagues, committed to a goal of cutting 50%. Defunding advocates, invoking the Black Lives Matter movement, say the department’s funds should be redirected to community solutions that don’t involve cops with guns who disproportionately use force against Black people, Indigenous people and other people of color.
The council has been discussing cuts to the Police Department’s remaining 2020 budget as part of a mid-year effort to address COVID-19 budget impacts.
Many other Black Lives Matter and police defunding protests and marches, with more participants, have made their way through neighborhoods without targeting homes.
“We have this moment to harness real change,” Juarez said in a statement earlier this month, describing the policing system as “poisoned.”
“I support reallocating the SPD budget and investing in communities that have lived with the ravages and inhumanity of racism … To reorganize, reduce and reallocate such funds and duties, we need a plan, not a percentage.”
Messages written on Pedersen’s windows in Ravenna have included, “Don’t be racist trash” and “F**k you.” Messages written on the street at Durkan’s house have included “Guillotine Jenny” and “Resign Bitch,” according to the mayor’s office. Durkan’s address is protected under a state confidentiality program due to threats related to her time as a U.S. attorney.
At Juarez’s house in Lake City, people have used a bullhorn and spray painted the street with messages such as “corporate bootlicker.”
Juarez is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and worked as a public defender, King County Superior Court judge, financial adviser and attorney before becoming the first Native American person elected to the Seattle City Council.
“The Suquamish Tribe supports (Juarez) and her right, as an elected official, to do her job without verbal harassment and vandalism at her home,” Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, said in a news release.
In the release, elected leaders from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Nisqually Tribe and Lummi Nation made similar statements.
“The Lummi Nation supports the right to protest peacefully and acknowledges that civil rights are sometimes only reaffirmed by demanding change. However, we believe that the tactics waged against (Juarez) are unwarranted acts of violence against a single individual, and we are calling for the protection of her and her family,” Chairman Lawrence Solomon said.
“The violence being used to silence (Juarez) is inexcusable and needs to stop immediately,” Esther Lucero, chief executive at the Seattle Indian Health Board, said in a news release that also included statements by leaders from the Chief Seattle Club, Urban Indian Health Institute and United Indians of All Tribes Foundation.
Juarez has worked to address violence against Native women, and now “it is our turn to stand up for her,” Lucero said, describing Juarez’s stance as “an Indigenous and responsible action … necessary for public safety.”
Morales said Monday morning she had been visited at her Lakewood home by about 100 protesters Sunday night despite her support for cutting the Police Department’s budget by 50%.
“It was a late night for me, as it was my turn to be visited by the demonstrators who are making the rounds,” Morales said during a remote council meeting.
“They came late and they stayed later. I will say that I did have a brief conversation with a few of the members of the crowd … in front of my home, and I appreciated the opportunity to listen to what they had to say.”
Morales said she exchanged phone numbers with the protesters and mentioned that her daughter went outside to show support for the cause.
“I know that hasn’t been the experience for everyone,” she said about her colleagues, before talking about the reasons why people are protesting, including police brutality that she said continued over this past weekend.
Herbold was visited last Friday night by the same “Every Day” protest march, she said.
In an email last week, North Seattle resident Tsukina Blessing said she attended a daytime march at Juarez’s house partly because it has been more difficult to interact with council members during the pandemic.
Blessing said protesters were reminded to stay off Juarez’s lawn and leave no trace other than a letter; other actions happened at night.
Gabe Galanda, a Native American attorney, and the Neighborhood for Smart Streets political action committee, have lobbied Council President M. Lorena González to speak out about protesters targeting the homes of officials.
In a statement last week, González said: “Demonstrations are a protest tool, but using that tool to create an environment by which people and their family members feel unsafe in their own homes is not something I can support.”
During Monday’s briefing, González and other council members said they regularly receive misogynistic and racist messages and threats via email and voicemail from conservative critics. Now, language “being used by some protesters is misogynistic … it is the words whore, and bitch,” González said. No matter who does that, “It’s all bad,” she said.
“For colleagues” who have felt threatened in recent weeks, “I stand with you,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda added.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant spoke at a protest outside Durkan’s home on June 28. When Durkan asked the council to investigate Sawant, partly for that reason, González declined.
On Monday, Sawant said the June 28 demonstration was carried out appropriately and was organized by people whose relatives have been killed by police officers, as well as by the Democratic Socialists of America.
Sawant hasn’t been involved in subsequent actions at homes and disagrees “with some of the tactics,” which could empower right-wingers, she said.
“Using graffiti, especially that is sexist or racist, is not acceptable and is not effective to building the movement,” Sawant said.
Councilmember Andrew Lewis said constituents “should be able to express their views bluntly,” but said he believes lines have been crossed.
“I think some remarks,” if spray painted by a more conservative group, “would be broadly condemned by the progressive community,” he said.