Protest against police brutality gets nonviolent
by Casey Jaywork | Editor in Chief
An Oct. 22nd protest against police brutality began at SCCC and ended hours later, after a police-lined march around Capitol Hill. No one was physically harmed during the protest, though feelings did not fare so well: arguments between Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) activists, who follow personality-cultist Bob Avakian, and black-hooded (presumed) anarchists at times threatened to eclipse the division between police and protesters.
Organized by the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, the protest was refereed by activists from the RCP. During the first hour, the crowd listened to speeches by survivors of police violence as well as by RCP activists, who several times strayed from police violence into the importance of Bob Avakian.
One such survivor was Jolene Ward. Choking back tears, she related to the crowd the story of her former boyfriend’s death at the hands of police. Sgt. Prince Gavin, who was African-American and an Army combat medic, was killed by Tacoma police last year. According to Ward and others, Gavin was trying to alert the police that he was carrying a gun when they shot him in the chest . Ward, a nurse, said that police delayed medical treatment from reaching Gavin, who died minutes later.
Following the speeches, about a hundred protesters marched onto Broadway and made their way around the neighborhood for over an hour, chanting anti-police slogans. Throughout the march, at least 40 officers with a variety of vehicles from bicycles to a mini-bus flanked the protesters on all sides. After an hour of marching, the group stopped and ultimately dispersed under threat of arrest.
In August, The Stranger’s Dominic Holden was harassed by Seattle police (SPD) and King County deputies when he took a photo of a street-stop. A 2011 investigation of the SPD by the Justice Department found “a pattern or practice of constitutional violations regarding the use of force that result from structural problems, as well as serious concerns about biased policing.” In 2010 an SPD officer shot to death a homeless man carrying a woodcarving knife; because of the difficult standards of proof prosecutors face in bad-shooting cases, he was never charged with a crime. Some readers may be old enough to remember the infamous 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests, in which the ACLU found that SPD made “excessive use of chemical weapons and other force to control peaceful crowds.” The officer who commanded the SPD at the WTO is now the city’s chief.
Seattle is not unique. New York City has its infamous stop-and-frisk policy, which continues despite being found by a federal judge to be unconstitutional and a form of racial profiling. The New Orleans police have been infamously corrupt for decades, and were the subject of another Justice Department indictment in 2011. The LAPD, whose officers notoriously walked after being videotaped beating Rodney King, and which has 469 officers for every square mile of city, recently ended a decade of federal oversight designed to mitigate police corruption.
These abuses are all the more troubling given the current, half-century-old trend toward police militarization. SWAT teams, which were invented in the 1960s to counter uprisings by farm workers led by Caesar Chavez, gained public prominence after a 1970s shootout with the Black Panthers. With the inception of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, police militarization became widespread: paramilitary police raids ballooned from a few hundred per year in the 1970s, nationwide, to 40,000 annually today. They’re used in situations ranging from hostage standoffs to removing a baby deer from an animal shelter.