Local Democratic lawmakers spoke in Seattle on Monday at an event declaring Washington would continue to be a “hate-free state.” But activists, protesting a proposed youth jail in Seattle, disrupted the event.
Spurred by the election results and vandalism of an Eastside mosque, Democratic lawmakers from around the region came together Monday to decry discrimination and declare Washington a “hate free state,” but King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray were shouted down by activists protesting a proposed new youth courthouse and jail in the city.
Over the weekend, a sign in front of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound was vandalized for the second time in a month, and civil-rights groups have reported a rise in hate crimes since the November election.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington would continue to accept and welcome Syrian refugees and continue to stand up for the rights of DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Under Washington state law, the malicious harassment — or hate crime — statute provides protections for people attacked over race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or mental, physical or sensory handicap.
Here’s an explanation of what "bias crime" actually means.
He said he had met with an elementary-school principal in White Center who said she had students who were afraid to come to school, fearing their parents would be deported while they were gone.
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“The Electoral College has not taken away our right and ability to speak against hate in the state of Washington,” Inslee said to a crowd of several hundred at Seattle Center. “To the president-elect: Keep your hands off Huskies and Cougars and Vikings and Eagles; we’re standing up for those DREAMers right here in the state of Washington.”
Congresswoman-elect Pramila Jayapal, who organized the event, hearkened back to a similar one 15 years ago when, in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Washington officials banded together to denounce anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“President-elect Donald Trump has given license to hate and discriminate and legislate against numerous communities through his campaign rhetoric and now through some of his intended Cabinet appointees,” Jayapal said.
Without mentioning names, she accused some Cabinet nominees of having anti-Muslim and white-supremacist views.
Speaking after Inslee, Constantine was shouted down by dozens of protesters who held signs saying “Defund Hate No New Youth Jail,” and chanted “Constantine don’t jail our teens.”
He ceded the stage and said he would talk with the protesters privately.
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, referred to Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, as “basically an avowed racist.” Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in the 1980safter allegations of racist remarks.
“I know a lot of people, after the election, said, ‘Well, he’s the elected president. We need to figure out where we can work with him,’ but, no,” Smith said, to big applause.
Smith, while saying he would fight against Trump, also told the crowd that the country has become “like two different universes,” as divided as it has been since the Civil War.
“When we embrace tolerance, when we embrace diversity, part of that is recognizing that not everybody who voted for Trump is a bad person or a racist, and we need to do our part to reach out to those people,” he said. “We should not shout down everybody who disagrees with us; we have to embrace that conversation.”
The next speaker, Mayor Murray, was shouted down.
He finished his speech, talking over the protesters, who chanted, “Hate-free state means cage-free kids.”
After briefly meeting with protesters, and after Jayapal pleaded for him to be allowed to speak, Constantine returned to the stage and gave brief remarks, talking about the legacy of slavery in America.
“This nation is still living with the results of that racial division that allowed slavery to flourish,” Constantine said.
He then was shouted down by chants of “prisons are slavery,” cut short his speech and soon left the stage.
U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene and Derek Kilmer and incoming state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal also spoke.
In 2012, King County voters agreed to authorize the new youth jail, by about 55 to 45 percent.
In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted 8-1 to approve a zoning change to allow the new facility. The Metropolitan King County Council followed suit with a 7-0 vote to build the jail, over heavy protest.
In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted 8-1 to approve a zoning change to allow the new youth jail. The Metropolitan King County Council followed suit with a 7-0 vote to build the jail, over heavy protest.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to invest millions of dollars in police and prisons when we need to be investing in the futures of our youth,” said Bana Abera, a member of the community group End the Prison Industrial Complex — Seattle, who spoke from the stage after the event.
She noted that African Americans represent about 10 percent of King County’s youth population but 50 percent of inmates in the county’s current youth jail.
“There’s a direct correlation between this jail and making this a hate-free zone,” Abera said. “There’s no separating it.”