Protest march, Sawant take #defundSPD budget fight to Durkan’s doorstep | #students | #parents

Hundreds of Seattle Black Lives Matters activists and supporters marched through Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Northeast Seattle neighborhood Sunday night to push for a major cut to the Seattle Police Department’s budget and to take their demands to the mayor’s doorstep after weeks of protest in Seattle following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.

The decision by the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America and organizers including Socialist Alternative leader Kshama Sawant to target the mayor’s home and neighborhood struck a personal blow and also flouted Durkan’s efforts to conceal the location of her residence due to concerns about security after her years as a federal prosecutor.

From atop a stage set up in front of Durkan’s home in what she called the mayor’s “Richie Rich” neighborhood, Sawant lashed out at Durkan for not moving quickly enough on BLM demands.

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“We demand action now,” Sawant said. “Because the delaying tactic that is often used by big business type political establishment is far too common under capitalism. They tell the movement, we will get what we want later. Let’s have more studies, stakeholder groups, presentations by experts. Let’s do it right. Let’s not be hasty like those impetuous socialists.”

“This is how the establishment intends to tire a movement out,” she said.

Earlier, organizer and former city council candidate Shaun Scott broke down the political battle this week to deepen planned budget cuts to SPD.

“We’re at a point right now where when it comes to meeting that demand for defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50%, we know that we have about four votes — four votes from our current city council,” Scott said. “Council members Sawant, council members Mosqueda, Council members Gonzalez and Morales, have all committed to defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50%. They do deserve that round of applause.”

“So when we’re doing the math legislatively, we want to get to five votes, we need a majority,” Scott said. “And so we need to identify which council members we’re apply pressure to, which council members we’re going to be calling into, which council members we are going to be pressuring to makes sure that demand is met.”

The Seattle City Council’s budget committee is set to meet Wednesday to continue hashing out Durkan’s proposed cutbacks to most elements of city spending in the face of a major expected downturn in revenue for the city due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Durkan has proposed to cut the city’s police budget by about $20 million — a 5% reduction.

With gun violence and deadly shootings creating a major safety issue around the camp, the Capitol Hill protest zone continues to play a role in pushing for changes even as community groups and activists focus efforts away from the area of 12th and Pine. Sunday, Sawant said it was time for Durkan to negotiate with a broader consortium of BLM representatives — “not negotiations by a few establishment chosen leaders in back rooms.”

During the march to Durkan’s home, the crowds also marked the killing of Charleena Lyles in Northeast Seattle in 2017 and celebrated recent victories including the vote to expel the Seattle Police Officer Guild from the King County Labor Council, an early political blow in the union’s fight for its next contract.

In a statement, the mayor’s office said Durkan wasn’t home during the protest. “Instead of working to make true change, Councilmember Sawant continues to choose political stunts. Tonight she did so without regard for the safety of the Mayor and her family,” it reads. “The Mayor was not even home – she was working at City Hall.”

“Seattle can and should peacefully demonstrate but should not put families and children at risk,” the statement concluded, a reference to the mayor’s attempts to keep her address secret.

The demonstration’s approach has been taken before. In 2016, youth jail protesters targeted then Mayor Ed Murray’s North Capitol Hill home.

BLM leaders continue to call for a broad slate of funding changes and investments in the Black community. Africatown and the King County Equity Now effort are calling for officials to accept proposals from “Black-led, community-based organizations to maximize” the use of “underutilized public land for community benefit” at a roster of Central Seattle properties:

  • Decommissioned Fire Station 6 on 23rd and Yesler to become William Grose Center for Enterprise as designated in the City of Seattle Equitable Development Plan
  • Vacant Sound Transit lot on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. and S. Angeline St. to become Youth Achievement Center
  • Formally Black-owned Paramount Nursing Home recently acquired by Washington State to revert to Black-community ownership.
  • Seattle Housing Authority Operations Site (Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. & Dearborn) to become affordable housing.
  • Halt development at the King County Records Site project on 13th and Yesler to allow for equitable participation by a Black-led, community-based organization
  • Halt the corrupt Priority Development Area proposal for the Seattle Vocational Institute (“SVI”) put forward by the Washington State Department of Commerce to conduct and start a new RFP process that is truly open, transparent and accountable to the community in which SVI is located

The city says it is working to meet the first of those property demands by putting the 23rd and Yesler fire station property into Africatown’s hands.

The King County Equity Now initiatives announced Friday also added new layers to calls from the “#defundSPD” movement for a 50% reduction in the Seattle Police Department’s budget:

The SPD budget question sits at the center. Durkan’s office says that she has asked SPD to prepare models for what budget cuts up to 50% next year would mean for staffing. A 20% cut would equal a reduction of 406 full-time equivalents — 50% would mean more than a thousand cut, her office says.

There were no arrests and minimal police presence at Sunday night’s demonstration was reported.

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