Letter for Release – June 11, 2020
An Open Letter from Seattle LGBTQ Organizational Leaders
As you know, June 1, 2020, marked the beginning of Pride month, a time to recognize the Stonewall uprising against police brutality and harassment that launched our modern LGBTQ movement. The actions at Stonewall, led by Black and Brown trans people like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, are the reason we can stand as LGBTQ leaders in Seattle. Because of them, you, an out lesbian, were elected mayor of a major city. And yet here we are, more than 50 years later, still fighting the same systems of anti-Black violence and lack of police accountability that spurred our movement. Nationally and here in Seattle, Black LGBTQ movement leaders have been clear that in order to create communities that value Black lives, we must defund the police and invest in communities and the community care systems that we already have in place. We are writing to you collectively in solidarity with this demand.
Over the past two weeks, several of us have called on you as individual organizations to act in accordance with this and other demands of the communities you serve. Today, we are writing to you collectively as LGBTQ leaders in Seattle in solidarity with multiple coalitions of anti-racist and BIPOC-led organizations that have made their demands clear:
- Defund Seattle Police Department (SPD) to shift resources into community-led solutions that center Black and Brown communities.
- Protect and expand City investments in Black and Brown communities.
- Commit to specific policies to ensure police accountability, including not prosecuting protesters.
We are not asking you to come up with solutions on your own. We are asking you to listen and act in accordance with the demands that have been clearly laid out by community for you. Black-led King County Equity Now provided a roadmap of specific investments for you the Mayor, Seattle City Council and King County Council to make, which must be paid for by a $180 million cut to SPD’s budget. Lavender Rights Project and the Washington Black Trans Task Force, and COVID-19 Mutual Aid Solidarity Network articulated clear guidance.
Your response has been to stand by SPD, even as they escalate violence day after day. Your response has been to ignore community voices asking that the SPD budget needs to be cut. Your response has been to use your sexual orientation as a way to insinuate deeper empathy for these calls for action than your actual actions suggest. Your response has been to promise to identify $100 million from somewhere else.
We know what that means: you are not listening. We know what that means: you want to move money from one set of essential services to another, while continuing to invest more and more resources in policing. The time has come to defund the police. Leaders in Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles are all recognizing this need for change in how we fund public safety. It is critical for Seattle to join these other cities, and make good on our promises and claims of being a progressive city that values and prioritizes Black people and communities.
Your refusal to be accountable for the decisions you have made and continue to make, and to respond to the communities demanding that funding be shifted from law enforcement to community-led solutions leaves us convinced that you are not listening. Not listening to the communities you serve or being transparent about what you are doing calls into question whether you are fit to continue to serve as Mayor. As fellow LGBTQ leaders, we have lost all confidence in your ability to lead our city. We demand an immediate change in direction, or we may be forced to join the calls of those who are asking for a change in City leadership.
Karter Booher, Executive Director, Ingersoll Gender Center
Debbie Carlsen, Executive Director, LGBTQ Allyship
Katie Carter, CEO, Pride Foundation
Taffy Johnson, Executive Director, U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle
Ann McGettigan, Executive Director, Seattle Counseling Service
Tobi Hill-Meyer and Elayne Wylie, Co-Executive Directors, Gender Justice League
Digna Saad, Executive Director, Entre Hermanos
Steven Sawyer, Executive Director, POCAAN
Jaelynn Scott, Interim Executive Director, Lavender Rights Project/WA Black Trans Task Force
Kenneth Smalley and Hannah Chapin, Co-Chairs, Out In Front on behalf of the Board of Directors
Jessica Stern, Executive Director, and Katie Hultquist, West Coast Director, OutRight Action International
Fred Swanson, Executive Director, Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center
Joshua A Wallace, CEO, Peer Washington