As many Seattleites rushed to the stores to take advantage of Black Friday deals, a group of activists were preparing for a much different crowd. On November 27th, activists with the Black Lives Matter movement staged a protest in downtown Seattle. The event was attended by hundreds, consisting of marching and chanting various anti-racism slogans centered around racial profiling by police. For example, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go,” and “same story every time, being black is not a crime.” To emphasize the recent shootings of unarmed blacks by police, some protesters carried photos of black victims murdered by the police.
Protesters began congregating at Westlake park around 1 pm, marching through the downtown shopping district before returning to Westlake. The protest, not by coincidence, coincided with the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Westlake Center. This assisted the protesters in making as big an impact as possible, attracting lots of media coverage and some criticism from those there to see the tree lighting. As the festivities wound down, activists continued their protest by conducting a sit-in at Westlake Park.
Junior Juno Spafford participated in part of the protest. “I really try and show my support for issues as important as these,” she explained. Spafford continued by noting that even though the police presence was strong, protesters were loud and disruptive. “They had megaphones and signs and posters,” recounted Spafford, “You could hear it from a block away.”
In addition to the obvious goal of raising awareness of police violence and racism in general, The Seattle Times quoted protesters saying their intention was also to “disrupt commerce and make economic hardship for those in power.” Many were trying to call attention away from consumerism and redirect it towards important issues such as racism. Spafford noted that passers-by joined in with the crowd’s chants.
Some aspects of the protest were controversial, namely a particular feat during the tree-lighting ceremony. Just as the fireworks were going off and the tree was being lit, hundreds of protesters released balloons which were tied to posters reading “F**K THE POLICE.” This expression of anger seemed justified to many of the attendants, but others disapproved. Junior Mac Sonson explained that he was disappointed in that particular action. “They exhibited vulgar language at an event where minors were attending,” Sonson pointed out, “I personally get that they want to evoke equality but the execution of that just made me angry because they could have done it so much better.”
Despite this controversy, the demonstration was mostly peaceful and resulted in significantly less chaos than last year’s Black Friday protest, in which several people were arrested and the festivities were closed early. Spafford described, “It’s really amazing to see all different kinds of people coming together to be united and stand up for injustice.”
Featured Picture: Many protesters sent balloons out with anti-police messages at the Westlake Protest. Picture by Maxine Adams