Letter for Release – June 3, 2020

LETTER TO MAYOR DURKAN

Mayor Durkan,

We are filled with anger and grief at the actions of your office and Seattle Police Department during the #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd protest in downtown Seattle on Saturday, May 30, 2020, and demand immediate accountability. With both protests and police violence continuing, we implore you to implement reforms today.

As you know, Monday marked the beginning of Pride month. Even with the incredible gains made for LGBTQ rights over the decades since the Stonewall rebellion, the systemic violence against Black and Brown people, and lack of police accountability that sparked our movement, remains.

Because of the fearless leadership of Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera at Stonewall, Gay City can exist to carry forward our mission- to cultivate access and connections to promote self-determination, liberation, and joy in LGBTQ communities. Because of them, you, an out lesbian, were elected mayor of a major city. And yet here we are, more than 50 years later, confronted by the same systems of racial violence and lack of police accountability as we begin Pride month.

We cannot ensure self-determination, liberation, and joy for our communities without directly addressing manifestations of systemic oppressions, like the many injustices committed by members of the Seattle Police Department this past weekend and into this week. As such, we have questions for you, your administration, and those that you have given the authority to make decisions that impact our communities.

Who approved tear gassing and pepper spraying protesters indiscriminately during a respiratory illness pandemic, including the pepper spraying of an 8-year-old child? Who ordered the flash bombs on peaceful protesters? Who is responsible for instructing officers to turn off their body cameras? Whose decision was it to implement a curfew with less than 15-minute notice, and no plan to allow the crowds to safely disperse? Who is responsible for shutting down public transportation so that people were trapped, including families and children? These actions served to instigate the violence and chaos, not to de-escalate any tensions or provide safety.

These questions are not rhetorical, as such, we expect an answer to each point. We want to know how you are identifying and screening out white supremacists when hiring Seattle Police Department officers? How are you continuing these screenings in regularly occurring reviews? How are you onboarding new officers, ensuring that they understand how to avoid using excessive force? How are you holding officers who abuse their power accountable? What structures are in place to ensure that ongoing independent investigations of misconduct lead to actionable and tangible support for those harmed?

We demand accountability. We demand a swift and thorough investigation into the conduct of the police and the decisions made by your office. We demand an independent investigation into the conduct of the Seattle Police Department during this protest and those following. Officers found to have participated in instigating violence or brutality should be fired. Those who covered their badge numbers or turned off their body cameras should be fired. Based on the actions on Saturday alone, we demand that you withdraw your support for lifting the Consent Decree.

It is inexcusable what transpired on Saturday night, and every night since. Officers filled Capitol Hill on Monday night with tear gas in response to peaceful protest. You stand critical of the President’s threat to deploy the military to our region, yet you stand behind a heavily militarized and brutal police force. Communities should be allowed to mourn and protest acts resulting from police violence without being re-traumatized by the police and met by even more brutality and violence.

As a means of implementing accountability moving forward and to address the harm committed by your administration and police department, we ask you to:

  1. Fund community-led solutions that center the health equity of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) LGBTQ communities in violence prevention.
  2. Take leadership from community leaders most impacted by police violence (BIPOC/LGBTQ/youth communities).
  3. Implement self-accountability structures/policies/metrics that are designed, and regularly reviewed by those most impacted by police violence (BIPOC/LGBTQ/youth communities).
  4. Adopt more restrictive use-of-force policies and lift universal qualified immunity for police officers.

When you were elected in 2017, you said, “It is a great opportunity to serve as your Mayor; but with the honor comes to a deep responsibility. Our challenges are real, but people across our City are ready to work together to tackle our shared challenges and seize the opportunities that will continue to make Seattle the great City we love. We are the place that invents the future — and there is no doubt in my mind that working together, we will continue to look out to the horizon and create that better future for the next generation.

We, your citizens have gathered peacefully in the streets as is our right, have been attacked by people that serve your administration, and now we ask you to tackle these challenges. Now is the time, to seize this opportunity, to make Seattle a great City today, and for the generations to come. We are showing up; we are ready to bring that vision to fruition. Now it is your turn to work with us to bring about that better future.

Respectfully,

Fred Swanson, Executive Director

On behalf of the Staff and Board of Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center

Sent via email to Jenny.Durkan@seattle.gov

Gay City

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