A neighborhood Facebook group rallied our community to participate in semi-weekly protests at a busy intersection, Wednesdays and Sundays at 5:30pm. So, today we tore up some boxes and made protest signs from the scraps. Toren, my 9-year old, seemed the most informed about the movement. He made one sign with the iconic raised fist. He wrote “Goerge Floyd” and added hearts and stars. He made a second sign that said “BLM = peace.” He’s got a lot going on in that adorable little (big) head of his.
We walked with some neighbors to the protest. Along the way, we passed another smaller gathering of BLM protesters at a different intersection. It’s kind of radical. Our protest spanned about four blocks with easily a hundred participants. Two hundred? I was never good at the count the jelly beans in the jar contest.
Coronavirus observation: I’d estimate 99% mask participation for protest attendees.
There were call and response chants:
“No Justice!” “No peace!”
“Say his name!” “George Floyd!”
“Say her name!” “Breonna Taylor!”
The deep sense of unity and resolve among the crowd was palpable and you couldn’t help but well with emotion. But just as I was overcome, I simultaneously had a tug of conscience to check myself. It felt good to be there, and the moment felt transcendent, but was I really making a meaningful contribution to the cause? Protesting became this weird exercise where I was truly meaning the words I was chanting and feeling all the feels, but I had to keep the self righteousness at bay. You know?
Anymore, when I feel weird or inadequate or shameful or guilty as it relates to Black Lives Matter, I think it’s good. It only makes me think more about why I’m having those emotions.
The other crazy part about this neighborhood gathering was seeing so many familiar foreheads! And realizing I don’t memorize eyebrows and hairlines in the same way I do whole faces. Faces that include mouths. It was hard to recognize people. And my social skills have suffered.
In addition to my conflicted emotions about the entire protest experience, I had this extra tension about being happy to see people I’ve missed, but not wanting to detract from the matter at hand. At one point, I found myself sitting on a brick ledge catching up with an old friend (mostly, I was complaining about my claustrophobic house and homeschooling insanity) and realized my Silence is Violence sign was upside down and backwards. Photo caption: “Protester phoning it in.” And this was after I’d beat myself up about feeling so overwhelmed with our neighborhood’s goodness.
At one point, a Black Metro bus driver pulled over his giant articulated bus, jumped out and marveled. Beaming and emotional, he said, “It’s happening,” as he took a selfie with a group of us.
The passion and stamina of my community, my Seattle, is inspiring. I am so proud to be a Seattleite.
This morning I woke to a text from my mom: “What’s the deal on Capitol Hill???”
Hmm. What is the deal on Capitol Hill? I wondered.
I guess I managed to avoid the news for a minute because last night protesters took over six square blocks near the recently vacated East Precinct in Capitol Hill. They designated this “cop free zone” as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ).
This is interesting, of course. Reminds me of Christiania in Copenhagen. But I gotta do some digging here. Just what is the end game? Who is leading the charge?
By the end of the day, occupiers painted BLACK LIVES MATTER along Pine Street. Amazing.
President Trump: “These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!”
Mayor Durkan: “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker.”
Governor Inslee: “Peaceful protests are fundamentally American, and I am hopeful there will be a peaceful resolution.”
See? So happy to live in this city and in this state.
Just before I go to bed, I receive another text from a concerned friend in California. “Is it just nuts up there? So crazy!”
Am I missing something about CHAZ? It seems a little weird, yes, but peaceful according to what I’m reading AND hearing from friends who’ve visited.
Oh! Fox News is running altered images of CHAZ in an effort to promote their domestic terrorism disinformation campaign. It’s unconscionable that they call themselves a news outlet.
“The image was actually a mashup of photos from different days, taken by different photographers — it was done by splicing a Getty Images photo of an armed man, who had been at the protest zone June 10, with other images from May 30 of smashed windows in downtown Seattle. Another altered image combined the gunman photo with yet another image, making it appear as though he was standing in front of a sign declaring “You are now entering Free Cap Hill.”
They took this image from Getty:
And pasted this guy right on top.
It’s like an elementary school prank. It’s crazy that this is the primary news source for half the country!
And this is the cherry on top: they accompanied this story of disgraced Seattle with a fiery photo of… Minneapolis! Seriously, this burning downtown is Minneapolis. Not Seattle. Even the Gigantea, my beloved high school newspaper (Business Editor ’92-’94, News Editor ’93-’94), never committed such an egregious violation of journalistic ethics.
Another urban hike today, this time to check out CHOP! We walked to the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, formerly known as CHAZ.
Truly, I went with reverence and an eagerness to listen and learn, but I’m not gonna lie… it’s a bit of a street fair scene. Lots of gawking and selfies. But the energy was peaceful and the level of organization was impressive. They have a donation drop off area where you can bring supplies like water, toiletries, food, and masks which they make available to anybody in need. You can also make cash donations.
The signs and graffiti are compelling in both content and artistic endeavor. There are scheduled speakers and what appear to be breakout groups. Each letter of the BLACK LIVES MATTER along Pine Street has now been decorated by (mostly) Black artists and local food vendors are back in biz and meeting the needs of hungry people with money.
One of the most moving moments for me was when we encountered a circle of 10 or 12 people holding up large tarps, concealing whatever was within. They were all very calm and unassuming. We thought maybe it was a street art installation in progress and would’ve walked right on by, but one of the volunteers asked my girlfriend to hold his tarp section for a moment while he tended to some other CHOP business and she caught a glimpse. It was a naked woman on the ground having a mental crisis. Another woman was kneeling beside her, comforting her. It was the most humane de-escalation I’ve ever heard of – it makes so much sense that a loving, community-minded, non-judgmental response to such an incident would bring a better outcome. At minimum, it would bring less trauma for all involved. It was really powerful for me.
I understand leaders representing this movement have emerged and are actively engaged with city government officials. Although we saw at least two alternative lists of demands posted within CHOP, apparently these are the official demands:
- Defund the Seattle Police Department
- Invest in the black community
- Release any protesters arrested during the recent George Floyd protests
And because this is a coronavirus diary, I’d be remiss to omit this image. These protesters have not forgotten about the pandemic.
It is with my tail between my legs that I tell you, dear reader, we are road tripping out of state today. It was a much considered decision, but in the end, we rationalized that we’ve been *pretty* good quarantiners and I can’t see the curve improving as states continue opening up. It felt like now was as good a time as any to visit family – maybe even safer than August! (I mean, if that’s not science-based, I don’t know what is.)
I’ve heard about how when you cross the Cascades into Eastern Washington it’s as if no pandemic ever existed: no masks, baseball tournaments are underway, they probably still shake hands. Well, it’s the same as you head south from Seattle. We stopped in Lake Oswego for lunch and we were the only nerds in Chipotle wearing masks, besides the employees. I could almost feel these maskless offenders smirk… actually, I could literally see them smirk.
A little further south we passed an outlet mall and the parking lot was packed. To the brim. Are we on a different planet?
I’m expecting more of the same as we head to California’s red belt.
Unrelated to anything, except that I just commented on the politics of my hometown, my son has a school assignment this week to watch a video about Pride month then walk around the neighborhood and count the rainbow flags. I made an effort to do this assignment yesterday before we left Seattle. He might be walking all day long if we had to do this exercise in Visalia.