Last night was the fourth in a series of Seattle protests against institutional racism that were sparked by the police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, with as many as 200 marchers pitting civil disobedience tactics against lines of riot police.
The mostly-young, multi-racial crowd convened (as usual) at Westlake Park, at 6pm. Just before 7pm, they left the plaza and marched through downtown’s streets. What followed was another two-hour, slow-motion chase punctuated with 4.5 minute moments of silent kneeling (to symbolize the nearly 4.5 hours Brown’s corpse laid in the street), with armored bicycle cops and club-wielding riot police forming lines at intersections in an attempt to herd the direction of the march. At several points, marchers tried to pass police lines on the sidewalk, with no success. They eventually managed to reconvene at their point of origin by gradually dispersing and returning individually or in small groups.
One 22 year old man, Nahome Selassie Zekiros, was arrested by police for “pedestrian interference.” Organizers suggested that police specifically targeted Zekiros because he was a “leader” among protesters.
Near the end of the march, Omar Abdinasser, whose cab was blocked by the crowd by Westlake, emerged from his taxi and voiced his support for protesters, saying, “People need to get a defense from police.” (Marchers later put money into a hat to reimburse the driver for missed fares.) Other protesters connected the protests over Brown’s death and the issues of police racism it has come to signify—in Seattle and in cities across the country—to other Leftist causes, including Palestinian sovereignty and capitalism.
Still, the overall tone was soundly centered on institutional racism. As one protester put it: “It’s not just about Mike Brown…Will we still be here [protesting] 40 years from today?” Another held a sign saying, “Black lives matter? Prove it.” (The protesters aren’t the only ones with that demand: the UN Committee against Torture shamed the United States in a report released on Friday, partly for its policing and incarceration of “certain racial and ethnic groups.”)
The next protest will occur tonight, according to an announcement made by organizer Marissa Johnson at the end of the march. But we can’t tell you when or where, because we don’t know. Rather than posting time and place in advance, protesters found buddies with whom to exchange phone numbers; using this informal network to disseminate information, organizers hope to keep police from learning tonight’s night’s march’s location until the last minute. “Police, I hope you guys can figure out where we’re gonna be!” teased Johnson.
“The police have looked pretty ridiculous tonight,” she added, “dressed up to protect a mall that has not been damaged by any of us, ever.
“Tonight, police wanted to portray us as violent. But we’re not…we were relentless.”