Downtown business-as-usual vs. Black Lives Matter

Screenshot 2014-12-11 at 4.08.18 PM

Seattle police prepare to rout protesters.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, downtown Seattle business interests are not pleased with the ongoing disruption of business-as-usual by ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests; the latter have occurred on most nights for the past two and a half weeks. In their letter, the business interests—the Downtown Seattle Association, the Seattle Hotel Association, the Alliance for Pioneer Square, and Visit Seattle—ask the city to crack down even harder than it already has on these protests.

In response, Seattle’s Public Defender Association released their own letter which gently condemned the business interests’ letter’s priorities:

…it is appropriate and inevitable that normal life, including holiday shopping and celebrations, be interrupted from time to time when matters of urgent concern to some members of the public arise…

We searched yesterday’s letter in vain for any acknowledgement that the tens of thousands who have taken to the streets of American cities in the past few weeks are responding to a very real crisis regarding racial inequality in law enforcement practices. Black Lives Matter, and many now feel that that issue must intrude into “business as usual” to ensure that a critical mass of Americans understands that change in policing practices is urgently needed.

You can read the business interests’ letter here and the Public Defenders’ letter here.

In related news, my colleague Josh Kelety has a new post describing how city police and local news stations have used his reporting to go after protesters who interfered with an arrest on Saturday. It’s worth a read not only to keep abreast of the events on the ground (which Kelety rightly says have been spun hard by police and their lackeys in local TV news*), but also as an attempt to grapple with the age-old tension between the public’s right to know and the potential for reporting to cause harm. His experience illustrates the difficult position ethical journalists are in when they work in a social context of unevenly distributed power and government unaccountability.

*(I’d speculate that part of the reason TV stations are so sympathetic to the narrative of defensive police vs. aggressive protesters is that they know their audience: old people in the suburbs. As one protest organizer said to me the other day, no one she knows gets their news from traditional outlets; for young people, it’s all word-of-mouth on social media. So my guess is that TV reporters know better than to alienate their main demographic by giving them a narrative which conflicts with their biases.)

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