The impossible task of rooting out anti-Black racism from the Seattle Police Department was always too large for any one person: Decrim & KCEN on Chief Best’s resignation

The Seattle Police Department has a long and storied history of anti-Black violence. Unfortunately, but rather predictably, this violence did not relent under Police Chief Carmen Best. Racism is built into the very structure of policing. The impossible task of rooting out anti-Black racism from the Seattle Police Department was always too large for any one person. 

Chief Best’s public resignation comes soon after the Seattle City Council’s first votes towards divesting from SPD and investing in a new paradigm that values all Black lives. Our goal has never been to oust Chief Best. Rather, we have organized to draw attention to the limits and false promises of individualized reforms for ending police violence. We know that only deep structural change – not the resignation and replacement of any single person – will protect Black lives and stop racist policing. This fight is about rethinking how we achieve public safety in this city for Black communities, and acknowledging that continuing to pour money into policing will not get us there. 

Our movement will remain centered on the lived experiences and conditions of Black communities. Accordingly, while Black representation in leadership positions is critical and necessary, it must be meaningfully connected to improving the lived experiences and conditions of the Black community. 

We know that anti-racism is not about diversifying the police and lifting up Black women or anyone else to head SPD. We celebrate the movement in defense of Black lives and we recommit to the work ahead to generate safety for all people in Seattle. The Seattle Police Department – and our city’s entire approach to achieving real public safety – requires wholesale structural change. Fortunately, there is a community-driven process under way to address this very issue. We encourage the Mayor and Council to endorse the overwhelmingly-supported BIPOC-led community process towards true public safety for all Seattle residents.

Dear Satterberg and O’Donnell: Regarding the Cruel and Unusual Punishment of Children of Color

A Public Letter to King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg & Judge O’Donnell 

Regarding the Cruel and Unusual Punishment of Children of Color (Auto-Declines)

Dear Mr. Satterberg and Judge O’Donnell,

We write to you as community members who are deeply concerned with the ways in which auto-decline prosecution disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) youth. We echo the demands and spirit of the No New Youth Jail movement advocated by community members and the legal community. Incarceration is not rehabilitative, it is cruel and harmful for anyone, much less for children and youth. In fact on Thursday August 6th, Judge O’Donnell will sentence James and Jerome Taafulisia, who were auto-declined at 16 and 17 years old respectively. Despite the lack of consideration of their youthfulness in the initial filing of charges in Superior Court, we hope the court’s sentencing can recognize the two as children at the time of offense. That they too, are victims and survivors of conditions they had no control over as children. 

The courageous protests led by Black communities nationwide against state sanctioned murder and violence has led to several declarations deploring the racism of the criminal legal system by elected officials. In Washington State, Supreme Court judges have recognized the injustice of the system they oversee. Most recently, King County Executive Dow Constantine has declared that he intends to pursue Zero Youth Detention and depopulate the youth jail by 2025, recognizing how it is rooted in “systems of oppression.” 

Lost in the current discussion, is the terrifying phenomenon of children and youth being sentenced as adults through a process called “auto-decline.” Washington courts have sentenced children of color as young as 13 years old to face lifetimes in prisons. At 16 years old, they are automatically referred to adult court to face exorbitant sentences. This form of sentencing emerges from the 1990s racist criminalization of Black and other youth of color as inherently criminal “superpredators.” Continuing in this spirit of dehumanizing children is completely contrary to the message and spirit of the recent declarations by politicians. 

In 2017,  Black youth make up 48% of the 16 and 17 year olds charged in King County adult courts. Statewide data also reveal alarming statistics, with non-Hispanic whites making up a disproportionate 26.2% of youth who are auto-declined while youth of color make up 68.5% of such cases. 

Brain science has revealed that children are categorically different from adults. Children’s frontal lobes that govern impulse control, judgment and decision making are still forming. To charge and sentence them as adults amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for youth. Furthermore, children who find themselves in such predicaments are often exposed to trauma, violence and poverty, among other systemic forms of oppression. Rather than prioritizing the healing and support of children and youth who have undergone insurmountable trauma in their youth, your office and the criminal legal system chooses instead to dehumanize and punish them to lifetimes of incarceration. The complicity of state institutions such as DCYF, CPS, DSHS and the foster care system cannot be erased from the contexts in which these children of color find themselves perpetuating harm.

There are community-led strategies targeted at youth who have caused harm. Culturally competent and compassionate approaches led by community organizations locally have proven successful and effective in holding children and youth accountable while upholding their humanity. 

James and Jerome Taafulisia are two youth of color who will be sentenced in King County Superior Court Judge O’Donnell’s courtroom on August 6th. These two youth were charged as adults for their involvement in the events that led to the deaths of James Tran and Jeanine Zapata in the area known as “the Jungle” in 2016. They were 16 years old and 17 years old respectively, and had been subject to neglect perpetuated by the state’s foster care and social services systems. In fact, they were houseless and living in the outskirts of the Jungle, as wards of the State when the tragedy unfolded.

Sentencing these children as adults is unjust, cruel and racist.  We call on your office to immediately cease auto-decline and sentencing children as a systemic practice. Charging children and sentencing them to incarceration is unjust as is, charging them as adults is further cruel and unusual punishment. 

We hold you, Dan Satterberg, the leadership and judiciary system of King County to do the work of undoing “systems of oppression” that the criminal legal systems have perpetuated. We call on you to rectify the violence done to Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities and cease with the racist and harmful practice of auto-declines that allows for the sentencing of our young community members as adults. 

CC:

King County Executive Dow Constantine 

King County Prosecutor’s Office Deputy Chief of Staff Carla Lee

King County Council Member Rod Dembowski

King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay

King County Council Member Kathy Lambert

King County Council Member Jeanne Kohl-Welles

King County Council Member Dave Upthegrove

King County Council Member Claudia Balducci

King County Council Member Pete bon Reichbauer

King County Council Member Joe McDermott

Signed,

 Asian Pacific Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG)

Creative Justice

COVID 19 Mutual Aid

Community Passageways

Decriminalize Seattle 

Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together (FIGHT)

Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP)

Progress Pushers

Unkitawa

Watch the Defund SPD Teach-In: Breaking Down the 4 Point Plan

Pinkish-orange background with black bold lettering saying "Defund SPD Community Teach In" on the left top of the image. Lower right corner has a pen illustration drawing a line.

If you missed our Defund SPD Teach-in, where we break down our 4-point plan for community reinvestment, check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/decrimseattle/videos/675117746376529/

To access the slides from today’s presentation directly, go here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-28va2Ags3OiQMNvCdPDccZfTZ1gYB46HV1dwT4gtzs/edit

If you’d like to provide input into the process for executing the four-point plan, fill out this survey.

Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now Statement on Durkan/Best July 13th Press Conference

The tide has definitively turned towards divesting from the Seattle Police Department and investing in real community health and safety. Our communities deserve better than failed, violent, militarized, and racist SPD practices. At this morning’s press conference,  Mayor Durkan relied on fear-mongering and outdated talking points to distract from the four-point plan Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now have presented, and that a majority of City Council members are supporting. 

To reiterate, we demand that immediate divestments from SPD’s remaining 2020 budget be reinvested in (1) development of a civilian-controlled 911 system, (2) scaling up community-based responses to crises that restore and build health and safety, (3) funding a community-led research process to develop a roadmap for life beyond policing, and (4) making investments in housing to support immediate survival needs. There is resounding support for these measures. The path forward requires significant investments that should be funded via significant police budget divestments from law enforcement practices we know cause harm and do not make our communities safer.  

For years, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community members and organizations have been working to push community-led alternatives to the life-threatening status quo. Now is not the time to distract from the urgent and clear demands from community. Even as the Mayor and the Chief of Police scramble to derail progress with their divisive rhetoric, we will continue to invest the time and energy in defense of Black lives to implement this four-point plan. We call on elected officials to do more than just listen to our BIPOC community. They must back our vision with action, investments, and support.  

7/3 Free Them All Rally – Political Education Resources

Collectively advancing our political education and showing up to rage and celebrate together in the streets is integral to victory in the fight against police brutality and for Black liberation.

We send deep gratitude to the cultural workers who energize us today and always. Cultural work and art is embedded and instrumental to every social movement in humxn hxstory. There are always attempts by the state to quell or suppress community artistry and cultural work, whether it be music, dance, or hxstorical narratives. 

In Trinidad, state sanctioned oppression literally took instruments away from citizens and as a result, improvisation and creativity of locals brought about Calypso music. Throughout Latinx Amerika the martial art of  Capoeira was disguised as dancing and used by Afrikans who were enslaved to train and keep their Afrikan cultural and spiritual connections. During the Khmer Rogue in Cambodia/Srok Khmer, the first main targets of the violence was directed at cultural workers, artists, musicians, educators and those who knew hxstory. 

This is why art is necessary in movement building. Art and artists tell the stories of hxstory in a way the media will not, in ways that we know is even more powerful. Arm yourselves with knowledge and culture. Hxstory only repeats itself because we aren’t listening. 

Until we share the streets again, read up, rest up, and keep fighting.

Safety + Security: Safety Tips for Protesters: https://www.instagram.com/p/CA0_Bl5JXRl/?igshid=1ew8ya8165gs6
Security Culture Basics: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBHHnkmpEAw/?igshid=1r21cn23srqnv

Grand Juries: FAQs: http://grandjuryresistance.org/files/GJ_FAQ.pdf
“What You Should Know about Grand Juries”” https://www.indybay.org/uploads/2008/10/03/grandjuries-infosheet.pdf
More info on the history of grand juries and stories of grand jury resistance: www.grandjuryresistance.org

Policing and Counter-Insurgency: “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants” https://www.sproutdistro.com/catalog/zines/security/misogynists-make-great-informants

“Slave Patrols and Civil Servants: A History of Policing in Two Modes: https://crimethinc.com/2017/03/15/slave-patrols-and-civil-servants-a-history-of-policing-in-two-modes

Excerpts from Malcom X speech on police brutality + Decrim Seattle statement on the “good protestor/bad protestor” narrative: https://www.instagram.com/p/CB_cJaoJS54/?igshid=5w5m3jwspddk

Abolition: Excerpts from “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police”: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBf0EwRp_Rh/?igshid=imlf7ymoxk36

“If You’re New to Abolition: Study Group Guide”: https://abolitionjournal.org/studyguide/

Cultural Work as Resistance: Art from the Black Panthers and statements by Emory Douglas, Jordan Casteel, and Fahamu Pecou: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/arts/fifty-years-later-black-panthers-art-still-resonates.html

Dear Pete Holmes and Dan Satterberg, #DropAllCharges

Today Decriminalize Seattle along with others sent this open letter to to City Attorney Pete Holmes and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to demand they drop all charges of those arrested in relation to the George Floyd protests. Read and share! Click here for the PDF version.

Dear Pete Holmes and Dan Satterberg,

We write to demand that both of your offices, the City Attorney’s Office and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, drop all charges and not file any additional charges subsequently against those targeted and arrested by the various police departments, including the Seattle Police Department, during the George Floyd protests starting from May 29th to the present. 

From May 29th to early weeks of June, the Seattle Police Department, with support from Renton, Bellevue, Burien, King County Sheriff’s Office and other departments across the county, engaged in reckless and dangerous retaliation against everyday people to repress protests.  As of early morning, July 2, 2020, the Seattle Police Department has arrested up to 65 protesters and used mace, rubber bullets and other violent means to push people out of CHOP, the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest at the East Precinct.  They denied press access, threatened to arrest reporters, knelt on the necks of protesters, and also continued the cowardly act of covering their badges while enacting such violence. This overt and public display of brutality is characteristic of police conduct since May 29th, aimed at repressing the #BlackLivesMatter uprising. 

We have recently learned that the arrested protesters are being interviewed by the FBI while they are held in police custody. Though they are presented as “informal” interviews, the coercive effect of these interviews cannot be underestimated, especially because they are presented at a time of extreme vulnerability and distress for the arrestees. Sending in the FBI to interview protesters has a chilling effect on free speech, and thus is a violation of the First Amendment rights. Such blatant collaboration between local law enforcement and Trump’s federal law enforcement further signals the depth of both your office’s hypocrisy in supporting protester’s right to free speech.

The rebellion in Seattle is a local manifestation of a nationwide uprising driven by outrage at the unceasing murder, violence, and oppression of Black People (relentlessly perpetrated, generation after generation, by the police). In King County, during the last ten years alone, police have killed, among others: John T. Williams, Charleena Lyles, Che Taylor, Demarius Butts, Oscar Perez Giron, Renee Davis, MiChance Dunlap Gittens, Tommy Lee, Shaun Fuhr and Marcello Castellano. 

Dan Satterberg: Your office has not charged a SINGLE officer for these killings.

Instead, both of your offices insist on driving a wedge between what is being framed as “good” and “peaceful” protesters, and what you claim are “violent” “non-peaceful” protesters.  Both of you have released public statements declaring support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement by dropping charges against what you perceive to be “peaceful” and “non-violent” protests while continuing to persecute other responses to state violence.

Your actions criminalize  the righteous rage of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities, by declaring some kinds of protests legitimate and legal. You then isolate other acts, predominantly damages on property, as illegal and dangerous. In the meantime, you provide cover for law enforcement, police terror, and state sanctioned violence. 

To add insult to injury, your offices are participating in the continued violence against BIPOC individuals and communities. On January 16, 2020 the Seattle City Attorney’s office filed a lawsuit against King County’s attempts to hold community reviews, otherwise known as inquest proceedings, around the deaths of community members like Damarius Butts, Isaiah Obet, and Charleena Lyles and any other individuals killed by police officers in King County. It wasn’t until June 9, 2020 after weeks of political protests against police violence, that the Seattle City Attorney’s office dismissed its lawsuit. However, by then other law enforcement agencies had joined Seattle’s lawsuit and now the challenge that Seattle started to the inquest process still continues.

Your offices are part of a broader system of racist repression toward BIPOC communities. Apart from your condonement of police murders in the City and County, your offices also play a role in preventing Inquests procedures from proceeding. 

In addition, queer and trans individuals have been known to be severely mistreated in the King County Jail. Trans, genderqueer and non binary individuals are incarcerated in solitary confinement simply for their gender expression and identity. 

The violence of the jail, the police and the criminal legal system that your offices oversee, is immensely more disruptive, dangerous and harmful to human life than the property damage that some protesters may have done in the last month. 

We demand that all charges be dropped against all protestors. Specifically, cases should also be closed to prevent future attempts to file them. Additionally, no new charges should be filed against the protesters. Instead, we ask you to show your real support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement by holding police accountable for violence against residents.

Signed,

Decriminalize Seattle
COVID 19 Mutual Aid
No New Youth Jail
& other community organizations and individual partners

Decriminalize Seattle March from Youth Jail to King County Jail Amplifies Call to Free All Protestors

WHAT: From the Youth Jail to King County Jail: #FreeThemAll March & Rally organized by Decriminalize Seattle / Defund SPD

WHEN: 11:30-3:30 

WHERE: March and Rally to begin at Youth Jail (1211 E Alder St, Seattle, WA 98122) and end outside King County Jail 

WHO: March is organized by the Decriminalize Seattle Coalition, which includes No New Youth Jail, Block the Bunker, WA-BLOC, Seattle Peoples Party, COVID-19 Mutual Aid, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, BAYAN, La Resistencia, PARISOL, CID Coalition, Asians for Black Lives, APICAG, Creative Justice, Seattle ACED, and Queer the Land.

—-

The Decriminalize Seattle Coalition, which is leading the campaign to Defund SPD, will lead a march on July 3rd from the controversial $242 million youth jail to the King County Jail to call on King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and City Attorney Pete Holmes to defend Black lives and drop all charges against protestors. The Coalition, whose demands are backed by over 40,000 individuals and more than 250 organizations, is also calling the city and county prosecutors to refuse to file any additional charges against people taking to the streets during the George Floyd uprisings that began on May 29th. 

The forced evacuation of the CHOP by the Seattle Police Department resulted in the arrest of over 65 people, with many more attacked with mace and rubber bullets despite a recent ban on the use of chemical weapons and projectiles by the SPD. The raid on CHOP was an extension of SPD’s brutal tactics against both houseless community members and protestors. This renewed call to drop all charges and free all protestors comes after over 200 arrests in just over a month of street-based protest demanding an end to police terror towards Black communities. 

During the last ten years local law enforcement have been responsible for many deaths, including the killing of John T. Williams, Charleena Lyles, Che Taylor, Demarius Butts, Oscar Perez Giron, Renee Davis, MiChance Dunlap Gittens, Tommy Le, Shaun Fuhr and Marcello Castellano. Decriminalize Seattle organizer Angélica Cházaro stated, “The uprising in Seattle is a local manifestation of nationwide outrage at police violence against Black lives. By prosecuting those who protest police violence, Holmes and Satterberg are defending the status quo, even as calls to disband SPD continue to pick up steam.” Following the march, speakers outside King County Jail will highlight the need to divest from police and jails, and call for investments in community-driven solutions to health and safety.  

For live updates, visit:

NNYJ FB @NoNewYouthJailSeattle

COVID-19 Mutual Aid IG @covid19mutualaid

#FreeThemAll | #DefundSPD | #DropTheCharges | #NoNewYouthJail | #CareNotCages

Participatory Budgeting Process for City of Seattle 2021 Budget

King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle announce today the creation of a participatory budgeting process for the 2021 budget cycle. Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget. The participatory budgeting process coordinated by our two coalitions will inform and help guide Seattle’s spending on the City’s “public safety” agencies, with a focus on the Seattle Police Department, Law Department (City Prosecutors), and Municipal Court, and on the community reinvestments that could generate real safety.  This announcement comes on the heels of Mayor Durkan offering a mere 5% cut in the Seattle Police Department’s budget during a time of severe budget shortfalls. 

The nation-wide uprising of the last few weeks in defense of Black lives has focused unprecedented public attention on the destructive role of policing and bloated police budgets. In Seattle, Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now have been spearheading the call to defund SPD by at least 50%, and calling for reinvestments into real community safety and well-being. Hundreds of community groups and tens of thousands of community members have signed on to these demands. The overwhelming support for defunding SPD makes it clear that people are tired of seeing essential needs like housing, health care, and child care unmet in their communities while hundreds of millions are spent on policing. The community-led participatory budgeting process announced today will help transform community demands into reality. 

The City government has proven unable, despite years of protest, to reduce the police budget meaningfully and an independent community-led process is needed. In order to truly reflect community needs around public safety, the design and implementation of the process to reduce the police budget must be held by community organizations, not under the Mayor’s control. The coalitions organizing the participatory budgeting process seek support and consultation with the City, but plan to maintain the process’s independence so that it can truly focus on community consensus for spending. 

More is spent on policing in Seattle than on the bottom 25 departments in the City budget combined, including city money dedicated to housing; education; city planning and community development; labor standards; economic development; arts and culture; sustainability and the environment; civil rights, immigrant and refugee affairs; concerns/complaints of employee harassment, discrimination, and retaliation; police accountability; and elections. Community-led participatory budgeting will directly challenge this state of affairs.

The defense of Black lives requires meaningful action from City officials. While every resident in Seattle has an investment in the budget, the community members most impacted by the legacy of over-investment in policing and disinvestment in their well-being must be centered in shaping the new vision for the city’s public safety dollars. We invite City officials to endorse and support this community-controlled and community-designed process. 

For updates on the participatory budgeting process, including opportunities for engagement, click here. Many cities around the US and around the world have used participatory budgeting to give residents the power to make decisions in how their cities spend revenues. King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle are being advised by the Participatory Budgeting Project, the leading North American organization on participatory budgeting, whose work you can see at participatorybudgeting.org

King County Equity Now (“KCEN”) is a coalition of accountable, Black-led, community-based organizations fighting to achieve equity across meaningful metrics—e.g., land ownership, wealth, mortality rates, etc. 

Decriminalize Seattle is a grassroots coalition building power in Seattle to invest in pro-community initiatives and divest from policing and the criminal legal system.